5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

The post 5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to take stunning macro photos…

…on a budget?

In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how you can capture amazing macro photos (without breaking the bank). You’ll discover 5 DIY macro photography hacks which you can use for consistently gorgeous images.

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Sound good?

Let’s dive right in, starting with:

1. Use a board for a stunning macro photography background

First things first:

In macro photography, the background matters almost as much as your main subject. Because the background is what makes your main subject stand out.

One of my favorite backgrounds is a solid, uniform color:

Dark black.

Black backgrounds allow you to capture somber, moodier macro photography. Like this:

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Now, achieving a natural black background in nature can be tough. Which is why this DIY hack is so valuable. Because you can use it to create a deep black background in all of your macro photos.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Go to your local hardware store and purchase a plywood board. I’d suggest something ultra-thin (because wood can get heavy, fast). I’d also go for a decent size: at least two feet on all sides.

Step 2: Purchase black paint and primer. I recommend getting a sample paint pot (one should be more than enough). These are cheap and work just fine. The primer is to prevent the wood from tainting the color.

Step 3: Add the primer and paint the board. I’d recommend two coats of black paint for that ultra-dark look.

Step 4: Let the board dry.

Now comes the fun part:

Actually taking the photos!

You should choose a main subject that’s fairly light (e.g., yellow and white flowers). Position your main subject so that it’s in the sun, with the black board in the shade, a foot or so behind it. You want to create as much contrast as possible between the board and your subject. That is, you want a light subject on a dark board.

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The goal is to lose absolutely all detail in the background. If you don’t fully achieve this in-camera, you can use an editing program to drop the blacks in your images.

You can still make this work with diffused (i.e., cloudy) light. But you’ll need to do a bit more work in post-processing to bring down the blacks.

Bottom line?

You can work some serious magic with just a board and some paint.

Try it yourself! And watch as you capture amazing macro images.

2. Use a lightbox for a stunning high-key, transparent look

Have you ever wanted to capture macro photos that look bright and high-key? Maybe even transparent?

With this DIY hack, you can!

All you need is a basic lightbox, often used by artists for tracing. You can purchase one for around 20 dollars on Amazon. While a bigger lightbox is generally better, anything A4 and above should work fine.

Once you have your lightbox, you’ll need to choose a main subject. Flowers with translucent petals work best. And the flatter the flower, the better.

You’ll want to work in a room that has only diffused ambient light. You want your flowers to have a soft, even look.

Then turn on the lightboard, and place your flowers on top of it.

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I recommend shooting parallel to the lightbox from above. While you can do everything handheld, I don’t recommend this, especially if your flowers are more three dimensional. Instead, mount your camera on a tripod and use a narrow aperture (i.e., f/8 and above) to ensure perfect sharpness.

Once you have your shots, you’ll probably need to do a bit of post-processing. I recommend increasing the whites, to give a slightly brighter, airier look.

3. Shoot with one flower in a vase for powerful compositions

There’s no doubt about it:

The way that flowers are positioned can make a macro shot look amazing…or terrible. If several flowers are overlapping, your photo may fall flat.

But if you can isolate a single flower

…that’s when things start to look really compelling.

Now, when you’re shooting in nature, you don’t have much control over this. You have to work with what you’ve got.

But if you use this DIY macro photography hack, you can capture a gorgeous set of macro flower photos.

Guaranteed.

Here’s how it works:

Go to your local grocery store, and purchase a bouquet of your favorite flowers. I like to work with tulips, but you can really use anything!

When you get home, check over the flowers for blemishes and other issues. Find the biggest, best-looking flowers of the bunch.

And then put them all in separate vases (or cups).

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

Note: You want the flowers to extend pretty far over the top of the vase, which is why I suggest you avoid taller vases.

The next time the light is good, take all the vases outside. Place them in front of a gorgeous background.

(I often use an orange sky at sunset.)

And then photograph all the flowers, individually. Because they’re in separate vases, they’ll all be perfectly isolated. And this will allow you to easily capture powerful compositions.

Try it.

You’ll love the final product.

5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget)

4. Detach your lens for an artistic macro look

If you’re bored of getting the same macro look over and over again, then this DIY macro photography hack is for you.

It’ll help you capture photos with brilliant light leaks, like this:

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If you’re familiar with the concept of freelensing, it’s like that, but with a twist.

Here’s how you do it:

Choose a backup camera body and a cheap camera lens in the 50mm range. (There’s a slight risk of exposing your camera sensor to dirt.)

Focus your lens to infinity.

Then turn off your camera, and detach the lens.

Next, turn the camera back on, and pull the lens just slightly away from the camera (it should still be detached!).

This will actually magnify your subject, while often giving you some amazingly artistic light leaks.

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And while the technique may require a bit of experimentation, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick, and you’ll capture some gorgeous macro photos.

5. Use fairy lights for amazing background bokeh

Here’s your final DIY macro photography hack (and it’s one of my favorites):

Use fairy lights for gorgeous macro backgrounds. They’ll get you photos like this:

DIY-macro-photography-hacks

To start, grab a set of fairy lights on Amazon (for around 10 dollars). I recommend a neutral or warmer color.

Go out to shoot around dusk, when the light is really starting to fade.

Find a nice subject, and position the fairy lights directly behind it. You can dangle them from surrounding vegetation, or you can hold them with your left hand.

Now, you don’t want to position the fairy lights too close, or else you’ll capture the wiring in your photos. Instead, you want them to show some nice bright light without being prominently featured.

You should also make sure to use a shallow aperture, in the area of f/2.8 to f/5.6. That way, the fairy lights will be fully blurred, creating some stunning bokeh.

The trick is an easy one, but it’ll get you amazing macro photos!

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DIY macro photography hacks for stunning macro images: Conclusion

You’ve now discovered five DIY macro photography hacks.

And you can use them for stunning macro photos all the time.

So go ahead and start. Make your black board. Grab yourself some fairy lights.

And take some amazing macro photos!

Do you have any DIY hacks of your own for beautiful macro shots? Share them in the comments!

 

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The post 5 DIY Macro Photography Hacks for Stunning Macro Photos (on a Budget) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Stunning Capture of Kingfisher Catching a Fish – Behind The Shot

The post Stunning Capture of Kingfisher Catching a Fish – Behind The Shot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Stunning-Capture-of-Kingfisher-Catching-a-Fish-janet-smith

Do you want to know how to photograph a Kingfisher catching a fish? Then read on!

About this stunning capture of Kingfisher catching a fish

Photographer: Janet Smith

Camera Settings: 80mm focal distance, auto ISO, f5.6, 1/1200th. Camera set to manual and continuous silent shooting.

Camera equipment: Canon 5D mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f2.8, Neweer remote trigger, Manfrotto tripod, and black bin bag as a rain cover.

Where and when was the shot taken?

Shropshire Photography hides, Market Drayton near Shropshire and Staffordshire borders, 6 July 2019, around 3:30 pm.

What is the background behind getting the shot?

This is my bucket list shot – a shot that I thought I’d never be able to take because I could not afford to buy a fast lens which I was told is required in this type of shot.

Then almost a year ago, Brendan Van Son gifted me his old Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens after learning I’ve wanted one but could not afford it. Having the lens opened up a whole new world for me. I saved and booked a hide day at Shropshire Photography Hides that got canceled three times because of bad weather and Minks decimating the Kingfisher nest and killing all the birds.

On the 6th of July, I finally managed to get to the hide. The day was overcast, drizzly, and windy. I set up the camera at water level and wrapped in a black bin bag to keep it dry. Then I set the camera to manual, f5.6, auto ISO and 1/1200th, set up the remote trigger and waited.

It took nearly six hours of waiting and shooting before I got this shot. I could not get the timing right, and this bird was super-fast. The light was also very low, and the drizzle persisted.

I ended up with more misses than hits, but it was well worth it. One thing I learned is patience and determination pays off. And maybe nicer weather would have helped as well.

What method or technique did you use to achieve the shot?

I prefocused on the area where the bird was likely to enter the water with the camera set on silent continuous shooting to minimize noise.

Describe any post-processing, including tools and techniques used

There was very minimal post-processing. I did a close crop to show more of the water movement and the bird. Also, I lightened-up the shadows +25 on the photoshop slider, pulled up the vibrance to +15, and exposure to +5.

What are your tips for others wanting to achieve a shot like this?

My tip is to be patient, ask for advice from seasoned bird photographers and observe the bird’s behavior. I learned that this bird would move three paces either left or right and bob it’s head down before diving. As soon as it does that, I pressed the remote and continue pressing until it was back on the branch.

You may also like:

 

Stunning-Capture-of-Kingfisher-Catching-a-Fish-janet-smith

The post Stunning Capture of Kingfisher Catching a Fish – Behind The Shot appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene

The post 3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

Regardless of the type of event I photograph, I ALWAYS photograph details. Why? Because details help tell the story of an event that nothing else can. Details aid the recollection of memories: words and conversations, scents and aromas, spoken and unspoken emotions. Details also help cement these memories in our brains.

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Newborns grow so fast and often parents are exhausted beyond belief. Photographing details helps them remember the sweet moments, especially of those first days. The first tuft of hair, the tiniest fingers, milk spots, windy smiles, hospital tags, first baby hats, and mittens. Captured in details, these moments can be cherished more often and for much longer.

Wedding days go in a total haze for many a couple. All the weeks and hours they have put into planning the decorations and color scheme down to the minutest detail and they don’t even have a moment to fully appreciate them on the wedding day. I carve out time to capture hundreds of detail photos during a wedding. They are just as important as all the other photojournalistic and documentary captures of people and events unfolding on the day.

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You don’t need to have an expensive kit to take some good, solid photos. All the photos in this article were intentional snapshots taken during a day trip with me as a tourist. No flashes, just a camera, a 60mm fixed lens and an observant eye looking for details.

Here are 3 tips I find helpful when photographing details:

1. Storytelling

Photographs are no doubt one of the most visually exciting ways to tell a story, so tell it well using photographs of details.

Let’s consider the five elements of a story to help us communicate it effectively: setting, characters, plot, conflict, resolution.

Below is a series of photographs I shot with intent to tell a simple short story (real captures and not staged) with the above elements in mind.

Setting

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Conflict

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Characters and Plot

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Resolution

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This is just a simplistic way of showing you how a story can be captured beautifully in details. The setting is in Copenhagen on a soaking wet and cold day. It had been heavily raining for a good while. Droplets have collected on the bridge adorned with love locks. It’s summer (as seen on the date in the newspaper), and the map is sodden. Somewhere nice and cozy to dry off and relax would be welcome. A girl wrapped in a thick blanket browses the menu. Hot cocoas put a big smile on the children’s faces. It’s a happy summer once again.

2. Composition

a. Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is probably the most well-known and popular composition techniques. It is also my favourite and the easiest that comes to me. The frame is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically. Where the sections intersect are the strongest points where your main image or interest in the image should be placed.

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This is illustrated above left where the yellow building occupies two-thirds of the space and one third on the left is the overcast sky. In the above right image, the two buildings intersect on a third of the frame. The point of the small tower is positioned about a third from the bottom of the image and a third from the left.

Plain snapshots like these look stronger with this rule of thirds composition.

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Can you see how these two images above use the rule of thirds composition?

b. Symmetry/centred

Another favorite of mine is symmetry; where the main point of interest in the image is placed at the center of the frame. A central composition accentuates the importance of the subject and emphasizes its superiority.

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The image above shows the fish at the center and two symmetrical areas on either side of it. More symmetry – the tables and chairs and the windows on either side – strengthens this image further. You can feel the solidity of the structure because of the centered composition.

c. Fill the Frame

As with the above, filling the frame strengthens composition and makes the viewer focus intensely on the subject without unnecessary distractions. The viewer can explore details that otherwise would be lost had the image not filled the frame and cropped distractions. Filling the frame is an effective way of highlighting a point of interest and telling its story from much closer.

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d. Depth and foreground interest

Photographs are two dimensional in nature. Many images only show the subject and background. Including foreground adds a third dimension to the space. It increases its depth and makes the viewer feel as if they are on the outside looking in. I use this technique for anything and everything: portraits, objects, or action.

A foreground interest also invites the viewer to explore other elements in the image and look deeper into the other areas of the frame, not just first thing that meets their eye. Because you are inviting the viewer’s eye to move around the image, you make your image more dynamic.

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3. Angles

Change your point of view

We see virtually everything at eye level. We often walk around with our faces looking forward not upwards, downwards or sideways. So whenever we change our point of view into a bird’s eye view or worm’s eye view or perspective, we find ourselves seeing new interesting things in common and familiar objects. It’s something I always try to remind myself when shooting: look up, look down, look right, and look left.

In the image below, you can see I’ve also combined this bird’s eye view with the symmetrical composition and the rule of thirds.

dps-3-tips-capturing-details-lily-sawyer-photo

Perspective and leading lines

Something as mundane as a bird on a bench can be captured with a touch more interest by moving a few steps sideways and photographing it from a perspective viewpoint. Doing this is making use of the line of the bench to lead the viewer’s eye to the bird – the focal point of the image.

I didn’t want to get too close lest I scared it away. It caught my eye because I thought it was a crow. Then I noticed it was wearing some white feathers like a cardigan on its black body. Look out for leading lines, whether they be straight like benches, rails and fences, or curvy like windy paths, a stream of water or patterned tiles on pavements.

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Conclusion

I find photographing details exciting, mentally challenging, and thoroughly enjoyable. It keeps me on my toes, especially when I try to tell a story. I feel a sense of achievement when I’m happy with the results. I hope you try it sometime if you haven’t yet.

If you have any tips for photographing details, do share them in the comments below.

 

photographing-details-in-a-scene

The post 3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

How to Choose the Right Computer for Photo Editing

The post How to Choose the Right Computer for Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

How to Choose the Right Computer for Photo Editing

Buying a new computer can be a minefield. There are so many models to choose from with wildly varying budgets. How do you get the best performance for your budget? Where should you invest your cash (and where can you save)?

This article is straight forward, jargon-free advice on what to think about when buying a computer for photo editing. If you are looking for an in-depth analysis, you are in the wrong place. If you are looking to upgrade your current computer, but are unsure of how to spend your cash wisely, then this article will be a great starting point.

Mac vs. PC

I didn’t want to open this up with something that can descend into arguments. Instead, I thought I’d start with the one topic that everyone can agree on (or not) – Mac vs. PC. Seriously though, I thought it best to get this out of the way first. I’m a Mac guy. I have been for years. I am heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, and it works best for me.

However, I will put it on record (and be held to it from this day forward), there is very little difference between Mac and PC. Software in the modern world is platform agnostic and very few programs are Mac-only or PC-only. The price difference is not always as large as people make out, and you will generally be invested in one platform or the other already.

I know there is the old argument that most creatives use Macs over PC, but this is outdated and not strictly true. My personal theory is that Mac products tend to look better (thanks to Johnny Ive) and creative people tend to like to surround themselves with beautiful objects. If you go into a high-end design office, Macs tend to fit with the aesthetic better, hence why we see more Macs in these situations.

Both platforms have their quirks. Both are capable of great results. With a similar spec and finish, there will be a similar price involved.

I am sure there will be some discussion in the comments about this, but I really want to leave this argument here. It is boring, and nobody will ever win. We are on the Internet, after all.

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Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, the monitor stand costs more than most monitors. But if these are things you are worried about, this machine (the Mac Pro) is not for you.

Monitor first

Before you begin to look for a computer, invest in a monitor – and for goodness sake, calibrate it. As photographers, we concern ourselves with the best image quality we can achieve. If you are editing the image on a screen with a limited color range and that is way too bright, you will tend to be disappointed when you print your images. They simply will not match what you see on the screen. When looking for a new computer, it is easy get carried away in what processor to go for, or whether we should invest in a larger hard drive. But, surprisingly, a monitor can be, in many cases, an afterthought. It shouldn’t be.

When looking to buy a monitor, you should really aim for one with a wide color gamut and if you can afford it, go for an IPS panel.

Lastly, in terms of resolution, a 4K screen is great but comes with a higher price tag. My advice is color over resolution. 4k is nice, but it is not anywhere near as important as color consistency. I edit on a 2560 x 1440 monitor as when I was looking I could not get the consistency of color I wanted within budget in a 4K screen. I have never wished for more resolution yet.

Image: A high-quality monitor, correctly calibrated, will have the biggest impact on your images.

A high-quality monitor, correctly calibrated, will have the biggest impact on your images.

Laptop or Desktop

This is something that depends on your situation. Modern laptops are hugely powerful. The main thing that holds them back is the graphics card. However, with the rise of the external graphics card, this is starting to be negated.

Obviously, the benefit of a laptop is portability. Traveling with your laptop is great as you can edit whilst out and about. You can also get the images off your memory cards (always back them up before you format the card though). For me, as a wedding photographer, being able to import images into the computer whilst I get a break saves me time when I get home. I can also create a preview for the couple on the day of the wedding. This is something that is not possible with a standard PC or iMac. Also, when shooting multi-day music festivals, most outlets require a same-day turnaround of images. In this situation, a laptop is essential.

With modern laptops, the ability to have it transform into your desktop machine has never been easier. I have a 2018 13” MacBook Pro which, with the use of a dock, simply requires me to plug in one cable to connect it to my monitor and external hard drives and charge it. I have a fully-functioning desktop in seconds.

However, this portability comes at a financial cost. You will always pay more for a laptop than a similar specification desktop PC. If you have no need for the mobility advantages of a laptop, you can get a desktop with similar specs for less money.

What you should buy depends on your requirements and your budget. If your budget is small, I would always recommend a desktop PC, as you will get more bang for your buck.

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Desktop or laptop? It depends on your needs.

Processor

The processor is the brain of your system. When looking at a computer for photo editing, the processor is where you need to be looking to max out as much as your budget can afford. The key thing to look for in processors is the cores. In simple terms, a processor is split into cores. Each core can work on a separate task, so therefore, the more cores you have, the more multi-tasking the computer can do (or the better its ability to split tasks down into smaller parts to complete it quicker).

Ideally, you want to be looking at a quad-core to a six-core processor. A quad-core processor hits this sweet spot of performance to price ratio, but if you can afford to upgrade to a six-core processor, you will see increased performance. After this, unless you are a particularly heavy user, you will see little benefit in more cores.

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A processor is where you really need to max out when choosing a new computer.

RAM

This is where you may be surprised. If you are using your computer solely for editing photographs and you are not applying several layers and effects in Photoshop, you can easily get away with 8GB of RAM. If you want to push the boat out a little, or are planning on getting a camera with a huge megapixel count, such as the new 64MP Sony, you really need to push this to 16GB.

RAM tends to be one of the cheaper upgrades when configuring a computer. Whilst you may not be needing 16 or 32GB right now, as with all things computer-related, buy the best spec you can afford. This allows you to be happy with your computer for longer. RAM is one of the simple upgrade tasks to do yourself. However, note that in some computers, laptops especially, (yes, I’m looking at you Apple) it is not something that can be done after you have purchased the computer.

Graphics Card

Your graphics card (or GPU) is the thing that fools some people. For photography, you really do not need a hugely powerful graphics card. It is something that has one main purpose, which is running your monitor. Now if you are planning on running a dual monitor 4K setup, then it is worth investing a little in your graphics card, but unless you are planning on doing some hardcore gaming, you will not really notice the benefit of the high-end graphics cards in almost all photo editing situations.

When using certain photo editing tools, the graphics card will speed things up a little, but the price to performance ratio of a higher-end graphics card is not as beneficial as spending the money elsewhere, such as an upgrade to your processor.

Now, if you do video editing as well as photo editing, this is where you will see the benefit from a good quality graphics card. If you are doing any type of motion graphics on your videos, you will see an even bigger boost. This is where graphics cards will make a difference. If you are doing video work (or plan to) then you do need to allow some budget for a dedicated graphics card, or GPU if you are going down the laptop route.

Hard Drive

There are two types of hard drives: Solid State (also known as SSD) and a Hard Disk Drive (known as HDD). They work in different ways, both of which have advantages and disadvantages.

Hard Disk Drives have been around for years. Data is stored on a rotating platter, which is then accessed by a read/write head to access or write the data. Most hard drives spin at 5400 or 7200 rpm. Simply put, the faster the rpm, the faster the drive can read/write data. Because they have been around for so long, the cost is much lower than a Solid State Drive. This makes this type of drive ideal if you are looking for a large amount of storage. It also means computers with HDD drives tend to be cheaper.

Solid State Drives are much newer technology. You will be most used to them as the storage in your phone and tablet. They work via an inbuilt processor called a Controller that performs the tasks of reading and writing data. The better the quality of the Controller, the faster the drive. They are much faster than Hard Disk Drives, but have one major disadvantage – the price.

The cost per gigabyte of storage Is much greater on SSD drives. On average, it is up to five times more expensive. However, that is really the only downside. SSD drives are much faster, less noisy (an SSD drive has no moving parts, unlike an HDD) and generally a little tougher (the head on an HDD does not like being banged about).

How much faster? Well, on an average computer, the start-up time will generally be over four times faster with an SSD. Programs will load much quicker, and the whole experience just feels snappier.

This is one of those speed boosts that you will not necessarily miss until you have used an SSD-based system. Once you have experienced it, I guarantee, you will not want to go back from it. Upgrading to an SSD on your current computer will give you a great upgrade for relatively little money.

I would always recommend an SSD as your main hard drive and then using larger HDD drives for your storage, either internally or externally. This way, you will have the best of both worlds. If you can afford it, I would suggest a 1TB SSD drive, as this means you can keep current work on the SSD drive to feel the benefits. Then your archive can be kept on HDD to access when you need it.

You also need a backup strategy in place. If you haven’t, please do yourself a favor and read up on how to backup your photos. I would hate the thought of any of you crying over lost photos.

Image: Possibly the most boring photo ever put on DPS. Whilst they are not much to look at, an SSD d...

Possibly the most boring photo ever put on DPS. Whilst they are not much to look at, an SSD drive will give you a big speed boost.

Summary

I could now list some machines that are currently considered the best for photo editing. If you Google the phrase “best computer for photo editing 2019” you will find several lists. However, I don’t want to do that. Not least because if you are reading this 6 months after I wrote it, it will already be out of date. Instead, I thought I would leave you with the top 6 things to think about when choosing the right computer.

  1. Buy the best processor you can afford. The majority of the work for photo editing relies heavily on the processor. Depending on what machine you buy, RAM is something you can upgrade yourself cheaply in the future. If you can afford 16GB then go for it. Just make sure before you stick at 8GB to save some budget, you can upgrade it later.
  2. Go for an SSD, but don’t go crazy for size. Try to go for a 1TB drive, or if on a tighter budget, a 512GB drive. Then invest in a larger 7200RPM external drive for more space. This way you can get the speed benefits of an SSD for your current editing and keep your work stored on a still fast, but cheaper external drive. And pretty please, with a cherry on top, invest in a backup!
  3. Don’t buy a laptop if you’re not going to use your computer out and about. You can get much better value from a desktop. So, if you only edit at home, get the most power for your money.
  4. Invest in a decent monitor. Then invest in a calibration device. Then invest in your computer. A good, calibrated monitor will not only last you longer, but it will also make your photos look better. Not just to you, but to everyone else as well.
  5. Keep your eyes open for deals. These are usually highest when new models are coming out. If you are happy to invest some time searching, you can find some great bargains.
  6. Lastly, don’t be afraid of secondhand or refurb, especially if you are on a budget. I have purchased most of my equipment refurbished by Apple (and saved a lot of money). You can also save huge amounts of money buying secondhand. You can buy some slightly older equipment that will be perfectly adequate for a fraction of the price. For example, lots of gamers often update their graphics cards. You can then pick it up to boost your computer for a fraction of the retail price. Obviously, this method is not without some risks. However, it is a way to get great value for money if you’re on a tight budget.

Lastly to go back to the start, Mac or PC? It really doesn’t matter! Unless you can afford to buy a Mac. In which case, you should always buy a Mac! (Sorry PC fanboys and girls, I couldn’t resist. I await my roasting in the comments 🙂

 

how-to-choose-the-right-computerfor-photo-editing

The post How to Choose the Right Computer for Photo Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Canon May Produce an Unprecedented 50-80mm f/1.1 Lens

The post Canon May Produce an Unprecedented 50-80mm f/1.1 Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Canon May Produce an Unprecedented 50-80mm f/1.1 Lens

Are you a Canon user?

If so, you’ll be happy to know that Canon continues to push the boundaries of camera gear innovation.

Because earlier this month, a Canon patent was published, one that detailed plans for a new lens: a 50-80mm f/1.1 zoom.

Yes, you read that right.

According to the Canon patent, the lens would have a fixed maximum aperture across its entire focal length range, maintaining its f/1.1 maximum aperture from 50mm to 80mm.

A fixed-aperture f/1.1 Canon lens would certainly make waves. None of Canon’s recent lenses have an f/1.1 aperture. The closest lens is the Canon 50mm f/1.2. So this lens will certainly appeal to those who enjoy unique equipment.

The f/1.1 aperture would be ideal for portrait photographers. The wide aperture would allow for stunning background bokeh. And it would also allow for photography in low light, which is perfect for those who shoot indoors or at night.

Plus, the 50-80mm focal length is great for portrait photography of any kind. At 50mm, portrait photographers can get some standard shots. At 80mm, you can go in for a tighter image.

Street photographers will also be a fan of 50-80mm, given how 50mm is often considered the fundamental street photography focal length.

A zoom lens such as this one would likely exist as part of Canon’s RF lineup, which is rumored to expand over the course of the next year.

Note that some patents never actually amount to anything. In other words, just because Canon patents the designs doesn’t mean that they will send the product to market. But it’s interesting to see Canon thinking about such incredible new equipment.

So keep your eyes peeled, Canon users.

And even if the Canon 50-80mm f/1.1 lens is never produced, it’s certainly piqued consumers’ imaginations!

Would you be interested in a lens like this one? What do you like and dislike about it? What would you use it for? Let me know in the comments!

The post Canon May Produce an Unprecedented 50-80mm f/1.1 Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

The post Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

ways-to-improve-your-photos

Successful photographs usually have one thing in common – an obvious point of focus or a subject that is the dominating element.

One of the main reasons a photograph falls flat is because there is no central or main feature to draw in the viewer’s attention.

One very easy way to combat boring, flat photos is to practice the simple idea of filling the frame.

Of course, you might say – I always fill the frame; it’s impossible not to!

ways-to-improve-your-photos

With this idea, though, you are working on being a lot more intentional about how you compose.

When we “fill the frame,” we are attempting to make a photo’s intention completely clear. The viewer should have no doubt as to what the photograph is about.

Instead of getting fixated on your subject, and focusing your attention almost totally on that (something I see people doing all the time on my workshops), we are considering every single part of the frame.

ways-to-improve-your-photos

We are looking at the corners. This is probably the most common thing many of my students don’t do – look at what’s in their corners.

Often there are things that don’t need to be there which you only realize afterward when studying your images.

We are considering what is running alongside the edges. What’s poking in that shouldn’t be there? It’s amazing how a stray branch or a bit of litter can make its way into your image without you noticing.

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We become aware of every part of the frame to make sure that every single element is working to complement our subject.

Now, this is key. Every single thing in your frame needs to be working with, or complementing your subject.

If it’s not, you need to move around and try to work the subject and surrounding elements into a better composition.

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

Sometimes a photographer will react too quickly. They make a photo from where they are standing instead of thinking about the most favorable position to be in and how it can greatly improve the image.

I mention position here because I believe it is the first option when it comes to filling the frame with a subject.

Usually, what happens when we do not fill the frame with our subject is we end up creating a lot of space in the photograph. This is all fine if you are using this space with intent. However, if you are not, then it just looks vast and empty, and your subject is competing with the “bad space.”

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

Changing your position and getting closer to your subject is your best first choice. Remove that unwanted space by physically moving closer or zoom in if you must. (I will always prefer moving to zooming).

Have a look at the photos of mine that I’ve included in this article. They are all images where everything in the frame is 100% relevant. Even with a complex image like this, I have considered every part of it:

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

5 Simple but Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

1. Always think about your position

In general, bad photographs have way too much wasted space. You can easily remedy this by thinking about your position relative to your subject.

Do you need to get closer to reduce wasted space around your subject? This also has the added benefit of making a photo more intimate when you get closer.

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

2. If moving is not an option, then consider switching lenses

If changing position is not possible, then now would be a good time to switch lenses. This method is not as good (I think) as changing your physical position, but it can allow you to fill the frame, drawing interest to your subject.

ways-to-improve-your-photos

3. Check the edges of the frame

This is a very common mistake for beginner-photographers.

Some do not put enough effort into looking at the entire frame and what lies on the edges of it. When you shoot this way, you find yourself cropping a lot more to remove those things you overlooked when shooting.

It is better to learn to see the whole frame than to get good at cropping because you didn’t see it in-camera.

Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos

4. Photography is a process of reduction

Let’s say you moved in closer to fill that frame. Now is a good time to ask yourself – is there anything else that does not need to be in the frame?

You can find the answer to this by asking if it is helping or hurting your subject. If you decide the element does not need to be there then take it out.

This usually requires a change of position or some movement from you!

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5. Don’t fixate on your subject

If you are really dedicated to filling your frame and making better images, then my one ultimate piece of advice is to NOT fixate on your subject.

This is the #1 reason photographers are dissatisfied with their images later.

Sure, be in awe and wonder of what you are shooting, that’s part of the joy of doing photography. However, don’t lose yourself to the point your composition is not it’s very best.

ways-to-improve-your-photos

Conclusion

Remember to always shoot with intent.

I would love to know what you think of my tips and ideas about ways to improve your photos. Please let me know in the comments below.

Is this an idea you practice? Alternatively, is this new and you think you might use this in the future?

Thanks for reading.

 

ways-to-improve-your-photos

The post Filling the Frame: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Improve Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

The post How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

Your camera is capable of capturing intense, true color that is almost everywhere you look. So how hard could it be? Answer: It is actually quite easy to capture color. However, you need to practice a little more awareness when it comes to creating images with that extra “oomph.” Here are a few tips to help you capture vibrant colors in photography.

1. Keep it simple/details

As with other types of photography, simplicity is an art on its own. While details are can be essential too, sometimes scaling back on the amount of details is required. Thus, when working with vibrant colors in photography, your story may have more impact when you include only the key elements as opposed to having too much going on.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

You can achieve simplicity in different ways. The first is by minimizing the number of colors in the frame. Yes, there are instances when many colors work well together in an image, but at other times it gets confusing. You need to direct your viewer’s eyes. Another way to keep it simple is to avoid too many details in your composition. It has the same effect as too many colors. When working with vibrant colors, simple works better.

2. Experiment with color combinations

Starting small is usually better with bolder colors. You can focus on one main color and build from there. When you start adding other colors in, determine if they work well together. Fortunately, you do not have to reinvent the color wheel and have tried-and-true color harmonies to use to your advantage.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

Color harmony is a combination that is visually appealing to the eyes. Some of the options include complementary colors (those directly opposite each other on the wheel) and analogous color (those next to each other).

Both of these harmonies exist in the natural world. A sunset of oranges and blues is an example of complementary colors. Whereas a green tree against the midday blue sky is more along the lines of analogous color. When you are working with color combinations, spend the time to make the final image pleasing to the eyes.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

3. Make colors stand out/playoff

Your scene may be full of color, vibrant and busy. If this is what you want to portray, then all is well. On the other hand, what if there is a subject in that chaos that you want to isolate? You can use color to make that happen. To do so, one of your options is to desaturate/tone down the colors that are not contributing to your subject’s story.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

Another is putting a bright color against a dull one to help it to stand out more. Also, adjusting the hue and lightness of the colors next to your main color can help it pop.

Here are a few easy ways for you to help your colors play off each other:

White Balance

Pay attention to your use of white balance when working with bold and strong colors. Your camera has several white balance options to deal with different lighting situations (Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent, etc.). Each of these affects the overall color of your image. They either move your color to the warmer side (by adding yellow) or to the cooler side (by adding blue). Thus, white balance can enhance your colors or change the hue altogether.

vibrant-colors-in-photography

Note: If you do not want your colors to end up looking too blue or yellow, you have the option of manually adjusting your white balance color temperature.

Saturation

By default, Saturation is used to enhance the color intensity of every color in an image. However, you can use editing software and use Saturation selectively. When trying to make colors play off each other, you can increase the intensity of one color while desaturating other colors in the scene.

vibrant-colors-in-photography

Vibrance vs Saturation (the same level applied)

Vibrancy

When you change the Vibrance in an image, it is a little more specific than Saturation. Vibrance only adjusts the intensity of the duller colors in your image. When playing off colors, this tool can be very effective.

How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success

Conclusion

When working with vibrant colors, be aware of your palette. Keep your compositions simple by minimizing the number of colors and details in your image. Work with the color wheel and learn about the various harmonies that exist. When you pay attention to all the colors in your image, you get a better sense of how they work together. You also understand the way each color affects and plays off the other. Most of all, have fun experimenting while you learn about color!

Do you have other tips for using vibrant colors in photography? Share with us in the comments section!

 

vibrant-colors-in-photography

The post How to Use Vibrant Colors in Photography with Great Success appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Street Photographer Attacked on Social Media for Taking Photos in Public

The post Street Photographer Attacked on Social Media for Taking Photos in Public appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Image: Joshua Rosenthal’s Instagram feed.

Joshua Rosenthal’s Instagram feed.

Are you a street photographer?

Have you considered what might go wrong in your line of work?

Most street photographers don’t.

But maybe they should.

Joshua Rosenthal is your average street photographer. He goes out with his camera, photographs people in public places, and posts the photos on his website and Instagram. He does no harm, and nobody is bothered.

Until this past week, when Rosenthal’s actions attracted a lot of attention – and not in a good way.

Rosenthal journeyed to the Ventura County Fair in California. He walked around, taking photos of fairgoers. People noticed, became suspicious, and the police questioned Rosenthal. But doing photography in a public place is not a crime, and so nothing came of it.

According to the police department:

“The subject was contacted by police officers at the Fair on that date and has been contacted again today for questioning. No crime occurred during this incident.”

Rosenthal probably thought that being questioned at the county fair was the end of things; after all, he hadn’t broken the law.

 

So it was most likely a huge surprise when he awoke the next morning to find his name plastered all over social media alongside accusations of pedophilia and of predatory behavior.

As it turned out, a number of fairgoers took videos and photos of Rosenthal at the fair, which depicted Rosenthal snapping images of a young girl. These videos and photos were promptly distributed on social media, capturing intense attention.

One poster writes “Hey moms and dads, beware of this P.O.S. at the fair. He’s going around taking pictures of…little girls, in dresses.”

Another poster compared Rosenthal’s actions to child traffickers, while a third wondered whether he is a “perv.”

Rosenthal was questioned once again by the police but was not arrested. We can be confident that no legal action will be taken against Rosenthal.

Rosenthal has plans, however. He will be reaching out to the ACLU, which deals with civil liberty cases. He explains, “This is more about the First Amendment and doxing than it is about me.” He also apologized to the parents of the girl he was seen photographing.

For all the street photographers out there:

How would you handle this scenario? And how do you handle taking photos of children?

One way to prevent this kind of thing is to ask permission before photographing children. The parents might refuse, and that’s okay; there are plenty of people to photograph in the world!

Another way to protect yourself is to avoid photographing children entirely. As Rosenthal found out, parents are often extremely uncomfortable with their children being photographed, and for good reason. While there are plenty of harmless photographers out there, dedicated street photographers aren’t the only people taking photos of children.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for avoiding these difficult situations? Do you feel comfortable photographing children?

Leave a comment below!

The post Street Photographer Attacked on Social Media for Taking Photos in Public appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

The post What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

If you spend any length of time within one photography genre, you come to the point when you wonder, what would take me to the next level?

Deepening your creativity often means making connections between unlikely things.

If you want to deepen your photography, one option is to take what you learn from one genre and apply it to another. Could you find something used in portrait photography and apply it to landscapes? How about taking an approach from birth photography and applying it to real estate photography?

Let’s explore the idea of combining approaches from different photography genres.

Street and landscape photography combined

I had been out taking some landscape photos when I saw these canoes. A photo of the canoes on their own wasn’t working out for me. But when I saw this child come walking by it gave me an idea. I thought of all the street photos I had seen of people walking past interesting objects or backgrounds. For the fun of it, I adopted that concept here. I love the way the boots echo the yellow canoe.

What Portraiture can teach us about Landscape or Nature Photography

I’m a portrait photographer. What I love about portraiture is exploring the way people express their hidden selves through their body. You can see expression and gesture in feet, hands, and faces.

If you love to photograph nature and landscapes, you can take this concept of gesture (something we normally look for in people or animals) and apply it to your nature photography.

The more I focus on gesture in people, the more I see it in nature as well. Consider what Jay Maisel has to say in his book, Light, Gesture, and Color:

“Gesture is the expression that is at the very heart of everything we shoot. It’s not just the determined look on a face; it’s not just the grace of a dancer or athlete. It is not only the brutalized visage of the bloodied boxer. Neither is it only limited to age, or youth, or people, or animals. It exists in a leaf, a tree, and a forest. It reveals the complicated veins of the leaf, the delta-like branches of the tree, and when seen from the air, the beautiful texture of the forest.”

I believe something like gesture is what we’re after when playing with lines in a photo or even slow shutter speeds. Look at nature through the lens of gesture, and you’ll be more creative in your nature photography.

Low angle photo of a tree suggesting gesture.

When I looked up at this tree, it was the gesture of the branches that drew me in. It takes decades for those branches to get there. Though they’re holding perfectly still, there is the feeling of gesture because of their shape.

Flower photo with gesture.

I love to play with light. While photographing these flowers, a little lens flare struck my view. It’s very subtle, but on the right side of the photo, you can see a faint burst of warm light. It’s as if the flowers are reaching for the light.

What Wedding Photography can teach us about Food Photography

I’m not a food photographer, but if I photograph a wedding or event, I try to include a photograph of the dinner. Couples pay a lot for their meal, so why not add a photo? The problem is a stark white dinner plate full of food looks lifeless and uninspiring among all the other wedding moments. There was a disconnect between my candid event photography and my attempt at food photography.

Weddings are about writing a new story; joining families and sharing life. But I discovered that there is just as much of a story in the food as there is in the rest of the wedding. When I was able to chat with a chef as she prepared food for the guests, I came to learn how much she loves her craft. There is as much heart in the preparation as there is in the sharing of the meal.

So I began to photograph the meal just like I did the rest of the wedding. I took the heart of what I had been pursuing in all those candid wedding photos and applied it to photographing the food.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What Birth Photography and Real Estate Photography can teach us about each other

I can’t imagine two genres more opposed than birth photography and real estate photography.

If I tell a friend that I photographed a house for a real estate agent, they don’t care. They assume it’s just something boring I do for money. But when my wife tells people she photographs births, their jaws hit the floor and a passionate discussion ensues.

For most people, maybe photographers too, real estate photography is a boring necessity while birth photography is an exciting adventure. After all, one of those life experiences is about drama, emotion, and new beginnings, while the other is a series of appointments and paperwork until the ordeal is over.

Yes, but which experience is which?

Have you ever bought or sold a house? Then you know there is plenty of drama and emotion involved. Have you ever had a baby? Then you know there are plenty of appointments and paperwork. Both experiences – home-buying and having babies – are filled with the potential for adventure and emotion.

Try taking the obvious emotional excitement of birth photography and applying it to real estate photography. When you force yourself to flip everything on its head, you might see something quite different.

Many families have a negative birth experience. They’re treated like a commodity by their doctors and the hospital staff. A birth photographer knows that even if a laboring woman is given a bad experience by hospital staff, the photos still have to portray the unique beauty of the experience.

Even though real estate photography may often feel like a commodity, it can be a beautiful part of the story. First-time homebuyers are on an amazing life journey. Perhaps there can be more spontaneity and emotion in real estate photography than we first think – even if it’s hard to represent in typical real estate photos.

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My wife, Naomi, made these birth photos. I love to see the range of emotion and depth of personality in her photos. But they certainly make my real estate photos look dull.

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different-photography-genres

 

Real estate photography

I know that my real estate photos are part of a larger story and every once in a while I have the chance to photograph that story. Sometimes that comes by being able to photograph the move-in day.

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

 

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres

What Street Photography can teach us about Newborn Photography

If you’re tired of posing newborn photos, street photographers can be your guide. They are masters of spontaneity – taking whatever moments the situation gives to them. Street photographers are explorers of society. As a newborn photographer, you can be an explorer of human nature in newborns.

Wait and see what that baby will do. Take what the newborn gives you rather than forcing your vision and poses on them. There is nothing wrong with posing, but it can be exciting to explore other moments that happen naturally.

Newborn photography

Do you know all those adorable photos of newborns wrapped in beautiful fabrics and placed in baskets? Well, this is the reality; a screaming newborn and bewildered older brother. Take the moments that come to you.

Think beyond your genre of photography

When you want to deepen your creativity as a photographer, begin with the principles of the genre of photography you’re working within. When you’re ready to go even deeper, go beyond the principles of your genre and consider what different photography genres might teach you.

 

different-photography-genres

The post What You Can Learn From Entirely Different Photography Genres appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

The post How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Silky water effects, streaked clouds, motion-smoothed with an ethereal look; long exposure photography seems to be in vogue as photographers discover the looks that can be created. There are multiple ways to achieve this. The most basic is to buy a standard neutral-density photography filter which cuts the light, allowing you to use long shutter speeds without overexposing your shot. You can achieve exposures minutes long, especially when using 10-stop ND filters like the Lee Big Stopper or even the 15-stop Super Stopper.

I recently did an article on an alternative way to make long exposure photos, “Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos.” I encourage you to read the piece and learn how a piece of welding glass can be a budget substitute for more expensive photographic ND filters.

simulate-long-exposure-stacked-image-averaging

This is the same location I used for some of the other shots in this article but taken when the river was much higher and faster. The biggest difference is that I used DIY welding glass ND filter to achieve this shot. See my other article for this technique.

This article teaches you a third method of making long-exposure images with no filter at all. Unlike the welding glass trick which pretty much requires your final image to be monochrome so as not to have to fight the heavy color cast, this works great in full color, with no filter at all, and no color cast present. It’s a great method to simulate long exposure.

The technique uses a stack of multiple images of the same scene then processed with a Photoshop process called Image Averaging. It’s really quite simple and has some advantages over traditional methods with ND filters.

Advantages over the traditional ND filter method

When doing traditional long exposure photography with an ND filter you will be making long exposures.  (Duh!)  There are a few challenges with this:

  • If during the long exposure you bump the camera or things move in the shot you don’t want to be blurred, you will need to re-do the shot.
  • Long exposures can often be several minutes in length. Double the time if you also enable in-camera noise reduction. If it takes 2-minutes to expose and another 2-minutes for the noise reduction to work, you will only be making a shot every 4-minutes. This can really slow down your work, and if the light changes during that time, you could miss it.
  • With very dark ND filters, you won’t be able to see anything through the lens once the filter is in place. You will have to compose your shot, pre-focus, then mount the ND filter and make the image.
  • Determining exposure will take some calculation. You’ll check exposure without the filter then use a calculation tool to determine the new shutter speed the ND filter requires. Often this will need some tweaking after you see your shot and…yup, another re-do will be needed.
  • If back in editing you see the shots and wish you’d gone for longer or shorter shutter speeds to change the look, too bad. You’d have to go back and reshoot – if that is even possible.
Image: In fairly bright sunlight, even with the ISO at 50 and aperture at f/22, 1/5th of a second wa...

In fairly bright sunlight, even with the ISO at 50 and aperture at f/22, 1/5th of a second was as slow a shutter speed attainable while maintaining proper exposure. This was with no filter.

 The advantages of the Image Averaging method

The advantages of using the image stacking method are essentially the opposite of those things just stated above:

  • You’ll be making multiple images rather than one long one. If one of the images in the group has a problem, you may be able to eliminate it and use the rest to still successfully create the effect.
  • You can see what you’re doing! Not shooting with a dark filter means you’ll still be able to see, compose, use auto-focus, auto-exposure, and even image stabilization if you shoot handheld.
  • No calculation! Without the addition of a dark filter, you eliminate this step.
  • Adjust the length of your “simulated slow shutter” later in post-production. Want more or less blur? You can change your mind later.
  • Are conditions too bright for a standard long exposure shot? Maybe you only own a 6-stop ND filter, and daytime conditions are too bright to let you get the length of exposure you’d like. You can combine both methods to simulate a longer exposure than possible with the ND filter alone.
  • Are people in the shot you’d like to remove? Because they are likely to move during the multiple shots, when the averaging process takes place, they will vanish!
simulate-long-exposure-stacked-image-averaging

Make people disappear! Notice on the inset the people walking in the river, but on the completed shot, 15 images, each 1/5th of a second = 4 seconds simulated. They are gone.

Making the shots

Setting up and shooting the images you need for your image-averaged creation is much the same as any photography. Here are the factors and steps to keep in mind:

Composition still counts!

Because you introduce a long exposure blurred effect does not mean that you will have automatically created a good photo. Still consider how to carefully compose your image. Take into consideration that moving objects in the shot will blur and look simplified with less detail. Good long exposure shots often emphasize the contrast between static, non-moving objects (buildings, rocks, trees, etc.), and moving objects like clouds and water. Include both in your shot.

Shoot on a tripod

I mentioned you could do this handheld and, well…maybe you could. However, even with this technique, you will still want to shoot at the slowest shutter speed possible. That way, you won’t have to make too many shots for combining. Once you get much slower than 1/30th of a second (and faster than that if if you’ve just had coffee), handholding your camera is probably going to ruin your shots.

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All Images ISO 50, f/22 . Top left – No filter – 20 images each 1/5 second = simulated total = 4 seconds. Top right – No filter – 35 images each 1/5 second = simulated total = 7 seconds. Bottom – 6-Stop ND filter – 15 images each 20 seconds = simulated total = 5 minutes.

How many shots?

This technique simulates long exposure by combining multiple shots.  The simple formula is:

(# Shots) x (Shutter Speed of each shot) = Total simulated shutter speed effect (in seconds)

Let’s plug some numbers into that and see the result.  Set your camera for the lowest ISO possible.  I can get my Canon 6D down to ISO 50.  Some cameras will have ISO 100 as the lowest.  Use whatever you can.  Set your aperture to the smallest aperture possible.  Meter with those settings and see how long you can make each individual shot and have it properly exposed.  Say we were able to do this in the shade: 1/4 second, f/22, ISO 50.  To get a simulated shutter speed of one minute (60 seconds), we’d need to make 240 shots.

240 shots x 1/4 second (.25) = 60 seconds

That’s a little unwieldy, and stacking 240 shots in Photoshop may cause your computer to choke. So what to do? Perhaps you don’t have an ND filter in your bag, but you do have a circular polarizer. It will help reduce the light. You mount it and now find you’ve lost 2-stops. So your exposure can be 1 second, f/22, ISO 50. Plug that into the formula, and you get:

60 shots  x 1 second = 60 seconds

If you’re shooting in lower light conditions, you may be able to get a slower shutter speed to start with. That will mean you can take fewer shots.

To make your job easier (and the computers as well), always try to get the slowest shutter speed you can for your shots. That will mean you can create the simulated long exposure with fewer shots.

Say you did have a 6-stop ND filter in your kit. You mount that, and now your settings are 16 seconds, f/22, ISO 50. Now, to get that simulated 1-minute exposure, you’d just need about four shots. Why not make 10 while you’re at it and you can simulate a 2.6 minute (160 seconds) exposure?

Had you done this traditionally, and had a 10-stop ND filter, you could take the unfiltered exposure down from 1/4 second, f/22, ISO 50 to 256 seconds (4.2 minutes), f/22, ISO 50. So, to get the same effect with a 6-stop ND filter as you could with a 10-stop by using image averaging, take 16 shots.

16 shots x 16 seconds each = 256 seconds (4.2 minutes)

simulate-long-exposure-stacked-image-averaging

35 images each 1/6 second combine to simulate a 6-second exposure. Shooting into the sun, it would probably be impossible to make a 6-second exposure without a filter.

Forget the math, make the shots!

If all that math made your head hurt (it did mine), here’s the simple way to get what you need so Photoshop can do its magic:

  • Use a tripod.  You don’t want to do all this and get shaky shots.  That will waste all your work.
  • Do what’s necessary to shoot with the slowest shutter speed you can get with the equipment you have.  In the camera, that will usually mean setting the lowest ISO and smallest aperture.
  • If you have a polarizer or ND filter, use those to get the shutter speed even slower if you can.
  • Make lots of shots for each stacked image you will create.  Depending on how slow you were able to get your shutter speed, a few dozen isn’t too many.  You don’t have to use them all when you get into editing, but having more will allow a longer simulated effect.

Putting it all together

This recipe assumes you will be using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in combination. You don’t have to use Lightroom. You can get your individual images into a stack in Photoshop another way if you need to (though using LR is much easier). Using Photoshop, however, is mandatory. Also, to use the Smart Objects function described, you will need a version of Photoshop that is Version 14.2 or higher. Older versions of Photoshop won’t have this.

There are ways to do this with older versions in a more manual process. If you have an older version, you will need to do a little online research to learn that technique. I used the latest version of Photoshop at this writing (Photoshop CC 20.0.4).

Let’s look at this step-by-step process visually…

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1. From Lightroom, select the sequence of images you will use.  Edit the first one in the sequence to your liking.  Then select all of them and use the Sync function so all have the same settings as the first.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

2. With all selected, send the images from Lightroom to Photoshop by going to Photo->Edit In->Open as Layers in Photoshop. (Photoshop will open, and the images will appear as layers in a stack). If you have a lot of images to be opened and stacked, this can take a while. Let it work.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

3. With all the layers selected, in the menu select Layer->Smart Object->Convert to Smart Object. This can take a while to do its work. Be patient.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

4. With the Smart Object layer selected, from the menu select Layer->Smart Objects->Stack Mode->Mean. This can also take a bit to work.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

Wait for it…wait for it…and…

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Presto!  You will have a simulated long-exposure image made from your stack of shorter exposures.  20 images each at 3.2 seconds, f/22, ISO 50.  No filter used.  Simulated long exposure of 64 seconds.

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The water in this section of the river was pretty calm anyway, but look at the before and after areas pointed out by the arrow where the original shots were 3.2 seconds vs the combined 20 shots x 3.2 seconds = a simulated 64 seconds.

How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging

5. To finish up, go to Layer->Flatten Image.  Then File->Save As and save the finished image where you like.  If you want to give the completed image some additional tweaking, you can do that with Photoshop or Lightroom as you would with any other image.

Remember…

That’s the magic!  Here are a few things to remember for best results:

  • Consider your composition.  Look for a scene where you will have a combination of static objects that won’t move during the sequence and those that will.  An image with both will be more compelling.
  • Use a tripod.  You can do this handheld if you must, but know that any camera movement will be translated as a blur in the final result.
  • Do what you can to get as long a shutter speed with each image in the sequence as possible.  Drop your ISO to the lowest setting, use a small aperture, and use polarizing filters or whatever ND filters you have.  Longer exposures for each shot mean fewer images are needed to create a simulated long exposure.
  • Overshoot.  You don’t need to use all the images in a sequence if you decide you don’t want as much blur. However, if you don’t shoot enough, you might later wish you had them.
  • As you work through the steps, some things can take a long time.  Be patient and let your computer work.  If the process crashes, it could be you don’t have enough computer resources and will have to settle for a smaller stack.
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5 images, each 6 seconds = a simulated exposure of 30 seconds. No filter used.

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10 images, each 1/4 second combine to give a 2.5-second simulated exposure. This can be a great technique to use for getting silky water effects when you don’t have an ND filter and only need a longer exposure of a few seconds.

Final thoughts

Is this a better method than using an actual ND filter? Like so many photographic things, the answer is probably…it depends. Maybe you don’t have a filter or have one with you. Perhaps you don’t need a really long exposure, but just one a little longer than you can get with a low ISO/small aperture combination such as when seeking blur on a waterfall. Maybe you need to vanish people and don’t want to make a single multi-minute shot for various reasons. Alternatively, perhaps you have an ND filter but need an even longer exposure than it can give you.

There are lots of reasons to add this How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging Technique to your bag of tricks. Give it a try, and I’m sure you’ll have fun. Share your images with us in the comments!

 

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The post How to Simulate Long Exposure using Stacked Image Averaging appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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