Getting to Grips with Fill Light in Portrait Photography

The post Getting to Grips with Fill Light in Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Image: Using fill light is an essential skill that will allow you complete control over the contrast...

Using fill light is an essential skill that will allow you complete control over the contrast and tonality in your images in any type of lighting situation.

It should be no secret to any photographer that one light is all you need to achieve great results. While one light setups (in this context, specifically those that don’t involve the use of a reflector) are both well discussed and incredibly useful, sometimes it’s good (or even essential) to go beyond the basics. The next step in your progression is probably going to be to add fill lighting.

Fill light is one of those essential skills that every photographer should have a good grasp of no matter what type of light they are using.

Image: One light setups are powerful, and the results can be great. However, sometimes it’s us...

One light setups are powerful, and the results can be great. However, sometimes it’s useful to be able to take even more control over the contrast in your images.

This article will help to get you started with two types of fill lighting. The first of these is the use of the humble reflector. The other is to use a second dedicated light source. Both of these methods are very different in how they are implemented and what they can achieve. Mastering both will give you a more complete skill set with which to use in your photography.

What is fill lighting and what does it achieve?

Image: In the image on the left, the lack of fill lighting has left most of the details in the back...

In the image on the left, the lack of fill lighting has left most of the details in the back of the subject’s dress as pure black. Adding fill light (right) has brought those details back.

The concept of fill lighting is quite simple.

The idea is that you use it to light the shadows in your frame. What this does is:

  • Brings up the exposure of the shadow areas in your image.
  • Reduces overall contrast in your frame (much like landscape photographers use graduated ND filters to reduce contrast in their images).
  • Brings your final images more in line with how the eye sees the world, rather than the limited range of your camera’s sensor.

While really dark and contrasty images definitely have their place (I love them myself), images (especially portraits for clients) will benefit from a more even contrast ratio. I once heard it described (I’m sorry, I don’t remember where) that in lighting for TV and cinema, the shadows are always lit. This was a lightbulb moment for me as I had always wondered how cinematographers seemed to show a lot detail while still retaining a good amount of contrast. The answer was controlled fill lighting.

Two types


Image: Reflectors are a powerful and versatile tool that allows you to be as subtle or as bold as yo...

Reflectors are a powerful and versatile tool that allows you to be as subtle or as bold as you like with your fill lighting.

The most basic type of fill lighting is that provided by the ever so basic, yet powerful, reflector. You probably have at least one of these already (or you’ve made a few). Reflectors provide fill light by reflecting light (go figure) from your key back into the shadows of your frame. In a lot of cases, reflectors will be your first foray into fill lighting. However, they will also be one of your most-used pieces of kit altogether.

Secondary lights

Image: Using a secondary light source as fill is going to be your most versatile option.

Using a secondary light source as fill is going to be your most versatile option.

You can also use a second light (or third and beyond) as your fill light. A dedicated fill light will do the same basic job as a reflector, but it is infinitely more controllable. You can fine-tune the exposure and shape of your fill light with a precision that reflectors just don’t allow.

Contrast ratios – The very basics

Image: Left: The shadows are filled heavily and the fill light is metered one-stop below key. This r...

Left: The shadows are filled heavily and the fill light is metered one-stop below key. This results in a low contrast image with shadows retained. Right: the fill here is four stops below key. The contrast is high and the shadows are deep, but all of the detail is present.

The very concept of a contrast ratio can seem technical and daunting, I know. However, it is not at all that difficult of a concept and it’s just not that technical. At the most basic level, a contrast ratio simply tells you how bright one light is in relation to one another in terms of the aperture of your camera.

If your key light is metering at f/8, that means that if you set your camera to f/8 and an appropriate shutter speed (lower than your camera’s max sync speed) you will achieve a correct (subjective) exposure in-camera.

Fill lighting will always be underexposed in relation to your key light. If it’s even to your key light, you will get flat, no-contrast images as a result. For a contrast ratio that provides low contrast, you will want your fill light to be at least one stop darker than your key light. Since our hypothetical key light is f/8, that means the key light in this instance needs to meter f/5.6. This is a ratio of 2:1 (which is more advanced and you definitely don’t need to know to get started).

In short, if you want less contrast, your fill light should be one to two stops under your key light. If you want more contrast, try three to four stops.


If you want to be as precise as possible with these ratios, you will want to consider a light meter. That way you can measure any light falling on the scene with the press of a couple of buttons. This is the easiest way to go about it and works in the studio and natural light. You can also meter the light bouncing off a reflector.

Image: A light meter is the easiest and most accurate way to read what your light is doing. However,...

A light meter is the easiest and most accurate way to read what your light is doing. However, they don’t tend to be cheap.

That does not at all mean that you have to use a light meter, though. While more difficult (especially if you’re new to lighting like this), you can do it with your histogram on the back of your camera. Take a test shot with just your key light on. Now take one with only your fill light on. (Note: you won’t be able to do this if you are using a reflector.) Because fill lighting should be raising the exposures on your shadows, the shadow area of the histogram of your fill light test shot should be further to the right than that of your key light test shot.  If the shadow areas on both histograms line up, you need to increase the exposure of your fill light. If the shadow areas of your fill light’s histogram line up with the mid-tones or highlights of your key light’s histogram, you need to decrease the exposure of your fill light. (I did say it was trickier.)

Image: Left: Without fill light, you can see the shadows are underexposed. Right: With subtle fill l...

Left: Without fill light, you can see the shadows are underexposed. Right: With subtle fill light, you can see the shadows are brought up quite a lot.

Of course, you don’t have to do either of these things. You can always eyeball the whole setup and try to adjust things on the go. I would say this is perfectly fine with experience, but as you start out, I encourage you to at least have a go with the previous methods. It will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes you to get to grips with the technique and fully understand what is going on with your light. The more you understand, the easier you will find it to adjust things on the fly. You will also be able to learn new techniques faster.

Fill light with reflectors

Image: Reflectors can be subtle or bold when used as fill and are pretty versatile for what they are...

Reflectors can be subtle or bold when used as fill and are pretty versatile for what they are.

Reflectors are:

  • Cheap
  • Easy to setup
  • Easy to use
  • Very effective

Getting started with reflectors as fill lighting

Image: Reflectors are powerful, yet accessible, tools for fill lighting.

Reflectors are powerful, yet accessible, tools for fill lighting.

Before you start to think about fill, you will want to decide what your key light (main light source) is going to do. Set up your key light so that it is shaping and lighting your subject the way that you want. Meter so that you have the exposure settings that you desire.

Image: A small(ish) softbox placed in front of and above the subject creates soft light with shadows...

A small(ish) softbox placed in front of and above the subject creates soft light with shadows underneath the subject’s features.

Now, evaluate the shadow areas that your key light is creating. If you’re using natural light, or strobes fitted with modeling lights, you can do this by eye. Alternatively, you can take a test shot and review it on the back of the camera.

Image: Here you can see that while the light is soft, the shadows are a prominent part of the image.

Here you can see that while the light is soft, the shadows are a prominent part of the image.

Place your reflector so that it is roughly opposite your key light. Evaluate what the reflector is doing (either by eye or test shot again).

Image: Adding a reflector beneath the key light serves to raise the exposure in the shadow areas of...

Adding a reflector beneath the key light serves to raise the exposure in the shadow areas of the image.

What you are aiming for is for you shadows to be brought up in exposure, but not eliminated altogether. If you want low contrast, bring your reflector in as close as possible. If you want more contrast, move it away.

Image: With the reflector used as fill, the shadows are still present, but the overall contrast in t...

With the reflector used as fill, the shadows are still present, but the overall contrast in the image has been reduced.

It can take quite a lot of practice before you learn to see the subtle changes a white reflector provides. The key is to get as much practice in as possible.

Set up an object and light it. Put your reflector wherever you want and start taking shots, being sure to move the reflector into different positions each time. Review each shot and try to notice the behavior of the light in each instance. This exercise will give you a pretty good idea of how a reflector is going to behave in any given situation. Do this exercise often and you will find you can see even the most subtle shifts in light where it was difficult before.

Another quick tip to help you see the difference in contrast in a scene is to squint. It sounds ridiculous, but squinting reduces your vision to blocks of value and you will be able to see the contrast in the scene more easily.

A second light

Image: A second strobe serving as fill gives you the most control over how you manipulate your shado...

A second strobe serving as fill gives you the most control over how you manipulate your shadows.

Like reflectors, using extra lights as fill is a fundamental skill, albeit one with a slightly steeper learning curve. That said, unlike reflectors, using a dedicated light source allows you full control over the power output, making it much easier than a reflector to control how the light is going to behave.

Image: Varying degrees of contrast between your shadow and highlight tones are possible just by adju...

Varying degrees of contrast between your shadow and highlight tones are possible just by adjusting the power of your fill light.

To get started using a dedicated fill light, place your key light in your desired position and set the power for your desired aperture. Let’s return to that hypothetical of f/8.

Image: Here, a softbox is placed at 45 degrees to the subject.

Here, a softbox is placed at 45 degrees to the subject.

Knowing your aperture, place your fill light where it will affect the shadows in the manner you would like and set the power output so that it will be underexposed in relation to your aperture. How much you underexpose for is entirely up to you. If you want, say, two stops of fill in this scenario, then you will want your fill light to meter at f/4.

Image: A 7′ parabolic umbrella with diffusion was added about 10-feet away to serve as fill. I...

A 7′ parabolic umbrella with diffusion was added about 10-feet away to serve as fill. It was set to meter 2-stops under the key light.

Take a test shot and see if you have your desired effect. Adjust as required and there you go.

Image: In this before (left) and after (right) you can see how the shadows on the right side of the...

In this before (left) and after (right) you can see how the shadows on the right side of the image are lifted and filled in with the fill light.

Taking it further

Image: You can design fill lighting however you like. Feel free to use multiple sources of different...

You can design fill lighting however you like. Feel free to use multiple sources of different sizes and shapes if it works.

Of course, you are not limited to a single fill light. You can have multiple fill lights lighting your subjects from both sides. You can also mix lights and reflectors for different strengths of fill lighting from various angles. You can pretty much do whatever you want in terms of designing a light set-up. You are only limited by the equipment you have at hand and what you can dream up.

Image: Using multiple fill lights allows you to control every aspect of contrast in your images.

Using multiple fill lights allows you to control every aspect of contrast in your images.

An idea is only crazy if it might work and you don’t try it.

Tips for fill lighting

1) It’s often better to retain the shadows rather than fill them in completely. This is not a rule, but images that retain some amount of contrast are often more natural and pleasing to the eye.

2) Pay attention to the catchlights in portraits – Extra light sources mean extra catchlights. When you are setting up your lights (reflectors included), be sure to watch the catchlights in your subjects’ eyes. Catchlights can make or break a portrait, so make sure you are controlling them as much as you are the lighting itself.

3) Big light sources at a distance work very well as fill light.

Image: This is by no means a rule, but big light sources (like the 7′ umbrella to camera right...

This is by no means a rule, but big light sources (like the 7′ umbrella to camera right) from a distance work really well as fill lighting.

4) Don’t be a slave to the ratios – While using the ratios as a starting point can, and will, be a useful springboard, that doesn’t mean you should adhere to them rigidly. If something isn’t right, adjust as you see fit. Nobody cares in the end if your ratios are exactly 4:1, but they do care if your photos look right. Use your best judgment and change things up if you need to. Sometimes only the tiniest of power adjustments will completely change the end result.

5) Think outside the box – Any light source can be your key and your fill. You’re probably aware that you can use flash to fill-in shadows in natural light, but you can also use natural light as fill where your main lighting is provided by flash.

Image: Here, the key light is a large window to the camera right. The fill light is provided by a st...

Here, the key light is a large window to the camera right. The fill light is provided by a strobe. You can mix light sources however you want to achieve your fill lighting.

That’s it

Hopefully, that’s served as a primer to get you started and demystify fill lighting. Being able to control the contrast in your images with lighting is a fundamental skill that you will be able to use across multiple disciplines. It will allow you to bring a new level of depth to your images straight out of the camera.

Get out and practice, start simple and go slow, and you will master the basics in no time at all.

Try out some of these tips, and share your photos with us in the comments!



The post Getting to Grips with Fill Light in Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography

The post DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Your choice of backdrop can have a big impact on the final look of your photos.

You may have purchased expensive professional photography backdrops because you know this. 

But whether you’re a hobbyist or pro, you probably already spend enough on your photography that you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for your props. Luckily, with a bit of creativity, you don’t have to.

Here are some of the best ways to create beautiful DIY photography backdrops for still life and product photography.


Painted canvas backdrop

For a magazine-quality look, my top pick for a still life photography backdrop is painted canvas.

Professional canvas backdrops are expensive, but you can make your own for a fraction of the retail price.

Go to your local hardware store and buy a canvas painter’s drop cloth.  These are pieces of canvas you use to protect the floor when painting interiors.

Canvas drop cloths are usually large, so you can cut them into four pieces to get four backgrounds out of one stretch of fabric. Make that eight if you go double-sided. 

While you’re at the hardware store, purchase two or three paint samples in a similar tone for each backdrop. Note that the canvas soaks up a lot of the paint, so you may need to purchase primer as well, or use more paint than you thought. 

Layer the paint onto the canvas with a small, good-quality roller, moving the roller in different directions.

To add more texture, scrunch up a rag or use a large sea sponge and dip it into the paints. Randomly press the rag onto the canvas.

Your backdrops will have a natural texture that enhances but doesn’t compete with your subject. The canvas also has a great subtle texture, too. 


Ceramic flooring tile

Another beautiful yet simple background is porcelain or ceramic tiles. You can get them from your local home improvement store. These are inexpensive and look great. They’re easily wipeable, which is a bonus if you’re dealing with food or liquid products.

Just make sure that any tiles you pick aren’t shiny, so you don’t get glare.  Good colors to choose are grey, black, white, or cool brown tones like taupe. These neutrals will enhance and complement a wide variety of products or still life subjects. They are better for smaller subjects because they tend to not be very large.


Painted wooden backdrops

These days, there are a lot of suppliers selling painted custom backdrops for still life photography, but painting some yourself can be a lot less costly, and you don’t need any special skills. 

To make your own, buy thin plywood sheets at the home improvement store. Pieces that are at least 2×3 feet should accommodate most of your set-ups. The bigger stores like Home Depot can also cut larger pieces into smaller ones for you, so you can get more mileage out them.

You can purchase paint samples from the hardware store as well, or use craft paints. Just make sure that any paints or varnishes you use are matte. Even some of the satin types can cause unwanted shine in your images. 

Choose three or four colors in a similar color family and pour them together in the middle of the board. Take a large sea sponge and dab the paint all over the board to create a blended and subtle, mottled effect.

Finish with a thin coat of matte, water-resistant sealer. 

DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography


Having a variety of linens on hand will make your life a lot easier as a still life photographer

Depending on what you shoot, these can run the gamut from natural fabric like linen to lightly patterned damask tablecloths.

You can use the fabric as the entire backdrop, as shown in the image below, or just to cover a portion of another backdrop.

When covering your entire surface with a piece of linen or tablecloth, place another layer of fabric underneath. This will plump it up and make it look more attractive.

Again, when choosing your colors, stick to neutrals. Shades of blue also look good, especially in dark and moody images. You can choose a pastel or brighter color depending on what you’re shooting and your desired result.

The key is that you don’t want your photography backgrounds competing with and drawing the eye away from your main subjects.

DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography

Vintage Tray

Don’t get rid of any old or vintage trays you may have kicking around. They also make great photography backgrounds for still life. 

Depending on the metal, they will often have a lovely patina that will add something special to your shots. They look great close up or at a distance, or can be used as an element in telling your story.

You can often find vintage trays for an affordable price at secondhand or antique stores.

As with any backdrop, it should not be reflective. 

Note that in the images below, the tray doesn’t look overly shiny, even though I backlit my subjects. It has a nice and subtle texture. 



Colored papers

Colored or textured craft or construction paper can make pretty and inexpensive photography backdrops that are light and easy to store.

Source large pieces of craft paper or construction paper at your local craft supply store, or check out sites like Amazon for packages of paper offering a variety of colors.

In the image below, I used a large piece of yellow construction paper as my background. To recreate this look, distance your paper a fair bit away from your set. This will help you get a blurred out horizon line and so your subject doesn’t look “stuck” to your background.


Wooden cutting boards

Depending on the size, a wooden cutting board can function as a nice backdrop or be used as a layering piece in some types of still life shoots, like food photography.

Be careful about purchasing boards with a warm, orange, or yellowish tinge. Since most food is quite warm in tone, an image that is warm throughout can end up looking dated.

Also, the camera tends to exaggerate this orange tone. I find that I have to decrease the orange saturation in all of my images to start with.

Look for light boards like pine, or boards in deep espresso for darker shots. You can also paint these in whatever color you want. In the image below, I painted mine white and distressed it with fine sandpaper.

Be sure to keep painted boards for photography purposes only, because they won’t be food safe.

DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography

To sum up

There are so many different ways to create stunning still life and product photography backdrops without the expense of buying and shipping wooden backdrops from specialist suppliers.

These are just a few ideas, but also look at contact paper, wallpaper, burlap, and old pieces of wood.

Experiment with the items you already own before spending a lot of money on costly photography backdrops. 

Do you have other tips for DIY photography backdrops? Share with us in the comments section!




The post DIY Photography Backdrops for Still Life and Product Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How To Protect Your Camera Against Lens Fungal Damage

The post How To Protect Your Camera Against Lens Fungal Damage appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Protecting your expensive camera against lens fungal damage is necessary to prevent lasting damage. Left unchecked, fungal growth can damage the glass elements in lenses forever.

Fungus is a living, growing microorganism which can form on camera lenses. This type of mold is most common in humid climates. Often the damage it causes is only minor, but a rampant fungal growth can ruin a lens.

How To Protect Your Camera Against Lens Fungal Damage

Cleaning fungus on exterior elements of lenses can be relatively easy. However, you need to catch it before it becomes too advanced. Growth of mold on interior lens elements is more difficult to detect and it requires a skilled technician to be able to remove it. The lens must be stripped down, cleaned and then rebuilt – which is a costly process.

Prevention of fungal growth on lenses is far more preferable than having to remove mold. If left unrestrained, fungus can permanently damage a lens because it eats into the glass. Once cleaned, furrows remain in the lens and affects the way light refracts through it.

Methods for preventing lens fungus

Taking proper care of your camera equipment is always good practice. Well-kept equipment will last longer and retain higher used resale value.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid encountering the problem of fungal growth in your lenses.

How To Protect Your Camera Against Lens Fungal Damage

Clean your lenses often

Many photographers are in the habit of cleaning only the front element of their lenses, or the filters that screw on to cover them.

Wiping down your whole lenses with a damp microfiber cloth from time to time is good for them. Particularly if you’ve been photographing in a hot, humid climate. The atmosphere and sweat from your hands can affect your lens.

Using a microfibre cloth helps to avoid leaving unwanted lint deposits on the lens. Once you’ve wiped your lens down with a damp cloth, have a dry one on hand to wipe it down once more. Using a hairdryer on a low heat will also help any moisture evaporate from your lens.

Don’t leave your lenses in the sun to dry them. This can cause other problems.

Store your lenses in a dry box with silica gel

An airtight box is a good place to store your lenses. It’s convenient to leave all your gear in your camera bag, but left there it’s susceptible to affect by moisture.

Including a quantity of silica gel in the box helps to absorb any residual moisture. Small packets of silica gel often come with consumer goods. These do not contain enough to make a significant difference.

Silica gel can be purchased at a store or online, in larger quantities. I prefer the type of gel that can be used more than once. It changes color from blue to an orange color once it’s absorbed moisture. It can then be dried out by placing it in a microwave oven for a few minutes at medium power setting.


Moist and Dry Silica Gel

A cup full of silica gel placed in an old or stray sock with a knot tied in it will help keep your gear dry in a box. You’ll want to make sure the sock has no holes worn in it.


Sealed Storage Box

Food storage boxes with good seals are useful. I use this type of box to store my film cameras and older lenses I don’t use often. Every so often I dry out the silica gel in the microwave oven.

A more expensive and robust option is a Pelican case. These rugged camera cases are completely airtight when closed. Depending on the size of the case you may need to add more than one sock of silica gel.


Pelican Case

Keep your lenses in an air-conditioned room

If you have an air-conditioned room, this is also a good location to store your lenses and other camera gear.

Air conditioning not only keeps the air in a room cooler, but it lowers the humidity. Ideally, you do not want the temperature of the room to be too cold. If you live in a hot climate, this can be problematic when you take the lenses outside. They will fog up.

When a lens is very cold and then taken into a very warm environment, condensation can form quickly. You’ll have to wait for it to clear before you’re able to take any photos.

Use a dehumidifier

This is the type of household appliance which sucks water from the air. It will not cool the room, but it will draw out any moisture in the air.

Running a dehumidifier for a few hours a day in a small room in wet weather is usually enough to dry the air.

They are often portable and cheaper than an air conditioning unit. They also consume less electricity.


Buy a dehumidifier dry cabinet

This appliance is a dedicated piece of equipment. It’s designed for the task of helping prevent lens fungal damage in your camera equipment.

A dehumidifier dry cabinet is usually a glass-fronted cabinet. They are available in various sizes to accommodate as much or as little equipment as you have to store.

These units are digitally controlled so you can regulate them.


Taking good care of your precious lenses is well worth it. Finding mold in your favorite lens would be soul-destroying.

Investing in an appropriate storage solution can be far cheaper than having to pay for lens cleaning.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any other tried-and-true ways of keeping your lenses from becoming mold farms.



The post How To Protect Your Camera Against Lens Fungal Damage appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

9 Great Lensball Perspectives for Creative Photography!

The post 9 Great Lensball Perspectives for Creative Photography! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

One of the most effective ways of getting more out of your photography is to change the perspective. It’s a great way to explore your camera without needing to get additional equipment. The same concept can be applied to lensball photography, where a change in your lensball perspectives can lead to a burst of creativity with your work. It’s easy to think of lensball photography as a one-trick pony, rather like, say, a fish-eye lens. As any fish-eye lens owner will tell you though, there are plenty of ways to add creativity with that lens, and the same is true of refraction photography with a lensball.

In this article, you’ll learn about nine different lensball perspectives, and how you can go about using them in your photography.

1. The standard lensball perspective

Image: This shows a standard lensball perspective. It shows the tree as the main subject in the ball...

This shows a standard lensball perspective. It shows the tree as the main subject in the ball. There is also context provided by the area outside the ball.

The standard photo might vary from person to person. A lot of people choose the second item on this list, so this is of course subjective. In this type of photo, the lensball will be a significant part of the photo, it will absolutely be the main subject. Where you place the ball and the subject you choose to have within the ball are subjects covered in this article.

Typically the ball will be off-center within the frame, and will fill around forty percent of the photo. The remaining portion of the photo is likely to be the foreground the ball is sitting on, and the background that has been blurred out as part of this photo. This type of photo will be taken using a macro lens, or a lens with a long focal length.

2. The lens ball as part of the scene


The ball can also be used as part of the scene. Here, the interplay with the arch works well.

A popular alternative to the above photo involves bringing the background into play. This style of photo will need a wide-angle lens, so you can get reasonably close to the lensball, while taking a more standard landscape photo. In this photo, the lensball has become more of an accent in the photo, yet it’s still a focal point for the image. You’re looking at using repetition in your image, with the background of your photo appearing inside the ball as an upside-down image.

There are a number of strategies you can use to enhance this type of photo.

  • The tunnel – A classic in photography, this works very well with the lensball as well. Use the infinity point of the tunnel and place the ball at this point in the photo. The tunnel will then frame the photo, and there’s a good chance the image in the ball won’t be noticeably upside down.
  • Holding the ball – Holding the ball while photographing it is a popular form of lensball photography. Using a wide-angle lens will allow you to hold the ball, and include a lot of the background in your frame.
  • Flipping the image – As the background is prominent in your frame, you might want to use post-processing to flip the image within the ball. You can learn how to do this here.

3. Getting closer

Image: In this photo, the lensball fills the frame, and you can barely see the edge of the ball.

In this photo, the lensball fills the frame, and you can barely see the edge of the ball.

Alternatively, you can get much closer to the ball, and use a macro lens for your photo. You will need to scout a good location for this type of image.

In this photo, you’re using the ball much more like an external lens. Through the use of the macro lens, you can get close enough to the ball that you’re only photographing a portion of it. This allows you to use the curve of the ball as a line coming through your frame, with the main subject photographed within the ball. The outside of the ball will be blurred, even with a smaller aperture. With this in mind, keep the aperture to around f/8. This will give you a sharper image inside the ball.

4. Splitting the horizon line


Lines that can be bisected by the ball work especially well.

A great technique to use with the lensball is splitting the horizon.

This works well because of the effect refraction produces. If you line the ball up with the horizon line, the inverted image in the ball will invert along this line. When aiming for this type of photo, it’s important to get the horizon line exactly lined up. Getting this wrong is as bad as not getting your horizon line straight on a regular landscape photo. The following are some ideas that will help you acheive this type of photo.

  • Holding the ball – Holding the ball up to the horizon line with your hand can be effective. It’s tricky to get the exact horizon line. Take multiple photos until you’re happy the horizon line within and outside the ball is lined up.
  • Minimal landscapes – In order to split the horizon line, you need to be able to see the horizon line. Look for coastal, desert or other locations that don’t have objects blocking this line.
  • Use the tripod – With the ball steady on a wall, or perhaps a rock you could use a tripod. With the camera on a tripod, you can make sure the horizon line is lined up. Once you’re ready to take the photo you’ll know this won’t shift as you take the photo.

5. Bending the horizon line

Image: This photo shows the fisheye-like effect of the ball. You can see the horizon line in the bal...

This photo shows the fisheye-like effect of the ball. You can see the horizon line in the ball is bent and distorted.

The lensball’s fisheye-like lens properties can, of course, be used in exactly the same way as a fish-eye lens. You can bend the horizon line in the lensball by raising or lowering it away from the horizon line. This can be used to creative effect with your photo.

If there is a lot of interest in the foreground, you could include more of these within the ball. Equally, if the sky is really dramatic, and you want to include more of that, you can. Simply lower the ball away from the horizon line, and watch the line bend towards the top of the ball, and more sky fill the bottom portion of the ball.

6. Distorting your main subject

Image: This abstract portrait is the result of lensball distortion.

This abstract portrait is the result of lensball distortion.

In addition to bending the horizon line, you can use the lensball to produce other distortions as well. Once again, think of the distortions a fisheye lens can make, and apply that to the lensball. You can use the ball to distort elements of your main subject, providing you can get close to your subject. This works well when the subject is smaller, so this won’t be effective with large architecture.

You can use this distortion to great effect with portrait photography. Here the aim is to distort part of the body, for instance, the eyes, to get a more creative portrait.

7. Photographing down onto the ball

Image: Shooting directly down onto the ball can give interesting results.

Shooting directly down onto the ball can give interesting results.

A simple trick involves photographing down onto the ball.

Place the ball on the ground, and stand over the ball to photograph it. No inverted image will appear in the ball, but you will see a magnified version of what the ball is sat on.

This can work well for surfaces that have a texture. For instance, gritty sand or a pebble beach works well. Those photographers looking to create a series of lensball photos that have variety could attempt this style of photo.

8. A worm’s eye view


The worm’s eye view can work well. Note the ball is placed at the infinity point of the image.

The worm’s eye view means photographing below the ball and looking up. The only realistic way to do this is holding the ball above yourself, or better still, ask someone to hold the ball for you. This will mean a person’s hand will be in the photo, so look to incorporate this into your composition as best you can. Finally, you’ll need to find an interesting subject to photograph.

The following are some subjects that work well for this angle.

  • Tall buildings – When close together these can form a tunnel-like look when looking straight up. Place the ball at the infinity point of this, and take your photo.
  • Repetition – When you’re standing under something like a roof of repeating umbrella’s or lanterns, you can use the lensball to capture this.
  • Dramatic sky – Sky photos can work well if the sky is interesting enough. This type of photo will be more interesting with a strong subject.

9. Reflection

Image: Reflection works very well in lensball photography.

Reflection works very well in lensball photography.

Photos that involve reflection will give you a strong composition. Of course, you need to use the right angle to maximize this reflection. In this case, your perspective will be as low to the angle as you can get.

However, there are scenarios where you can get great reflection photos without the need to get on all fours. In both of these cases, use a circular polarizing filter to increase the strength of the reflection.

  • Ball on reflection surface – In this case, you’ll need to get a low angle, so you’ll be on the floor. Marble surfaces or a puddle will work well here. Your aim is to reflect the ball itself in the puddle.
  • Ball in front of reflection surface – In this case, you’ll see a reflection surface like a large pond. It’s obviously too large to place the ball into it, but you can still capture the reflection. The ball needs to be placed or held in a position near to the reflection surface. Now within the ball, you’ll see both the reflected and the actual image. These images will both be refracted, so the reflected image will be the one that appears the right way up.

Creativity is in your hands

A change of perspective is a great creative option for every photographer and can lead to some really compelling results. The lensball, when thought of as an external lens, is a great creative tool. When used properly, it is capable of creating a great series of photos under the one theme.

So if you have a lensball, you can go out and try some of these ideas. If you don’t have one, why not get hold of one?!

Finally, we love to see your photos at digital photography school, so why not share some in the comments section below?



The post 9 Great Lensball Perspectives for Creative Photography! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

Tips for Creating Awesome Double Exposures In-Camera

The post Tips for Creating Awesome Double Exposures In-Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Tips for Creating Awesome Double Exposures In-Camera

Techniques for creating double exposures have been around since the beginning of film photography. While the days of being able to expose the same frame of film multiple times are mostly gone, a great many digital cameras do offer that functionality. While the technique can be unpredictable and hard to get right, that’s part of the charm of it (in my opinion) and what makes it so fun. This article provides you with a few tips to help you create double exposures in-camera.

What about Photoshop?


Photoshop (and alternatives) offer an infinite number of ways to blend exposures, but doing it in-camera can lead to spontaneous and unpredictable results.

Of course, you don’t need to do it in-camera. The almighty powers of Photoshop absolutely give you a great deal of control over blending images. You didn’t need to do it in-camera in the film days either as you could sandwich negatives together in the darkroom before putting them in the enlarger. So yes, by all means, use Photoshop to your heart’s content, but if you want to inject a bit of unpredictability and spontaneity to the process, do think about trying to create a few in the camera.

Understand the functionality in your camera

This first step may seem obvious, but every camera that I’ve run across handles the settings for double exposures in different ways. Taking the time to learn and understand how to set up your camera for multiple exposures ensures that when you get out to start creating the images, you know exactly what’s going on. For example, unless I turn on the right setting, my camera will take a single sequence of images and then revert back to normal settings. This can be (and has been) frustrating when I’m lining up a second exposure of a moving subject and find that I’m back to taking a single image.

This is probably just a matter of reading your manual and then putting it into practice a few times in your backyard or somewhere where the results don’t matter.

Start simple


While getting to grips with the technique, you can start simple with just a few moving elements to help you understand the process better.

When getting started with a technique like multiple exposures, it is easy to start snapping away without putting too much thought into it. The results can be less than inspiring and may even make you second guess the technique.

Try to keep it simple in the beginning. Instead of many exposures layered together, try to keep it to a simple double exposure until you figure out how the exposures work with one another. Of course, the results are almost always going to be unpredictable, but once you start to take a lot, you will quickly learn how to judge what two frames might look like on top of one another.

Look for bold shapes and textures

Image: Mixing silhouettes and textures is an effective way of creating bold double exposure images.

Mixing silhouettes and textures is an effective way of creating bold double exposure images.

One of the easiest ways to get results with double exposures is to overlay a texture onto a recognizable shape. Silhouettes of people work great for this. If you start your sequence with a  silhouette, you can then take a photo of something with a lot of texture and the shadows of the silhouette will reveal that texture in the final image.

Another simple one for you to try is to layer your main image on a background of clouds. The whole concept is simple and done a lot, but it is still effective. If you start with these simple processes, you will quickly start to see how you can use the technique for more complicated images.

Think in terms of design

Image: Finding things that match up together to make a cohesive image can be tricky, but when it hap...

Finding things that match up together to make a cohesive image can be tricky, but when it happens, the results speak for themselves.

Because you are layering your images, it can help if they work together with a theme or if the final image helps to convey a message. Keeping the various elements in your images (whether that be the subjects, colors, lighting, etc) in line with your intended end result can help for better images. It also helps to start with your final composition in mind. How will the various elements line up? How will they react and line up with one another? Is there a particular sort of framing that would help tie the whole thing together? Asking yourself these questions before your camera is even out of the bag can help your final images be the best they possibly can.

Go abstract

Image: The double-exposure effect can be weird and sometimes it’s best to embrace that weirdne...

The double-exposure effect can be weird and sometimes it’s best to embrace that weirdness.

Now, your images don’t have to be of anything at all. Don’t be afraid to go for the abstract (or non-objective if you prefer). You can layer a bunch of modern buildings (or the same building) together for some interesting effects where there is no real focal point.

You can do the same with multiple textures. Just roll with it and see what happens. You might find you have a bunch of images that don’t work, but you might also find that one that really, really does. Try looking for things with lines or shapes, without too much texture, that can overlap one another.

Block your lens


To manage your backgrounds while creating a double exposure in the studio, cover a portion of your lens with a black card to avoid the background being exposed twice. In the top middle of the frame, you can see where that has happened.

Block your lens if you want to photograph the same subject, human or inanimate, multiple times in one frame. You can use this trick for photographing fireworks to help control your exposure. When you’re lining up your first exposure, cover your lens with a piece of black card so that you are blocking the part of the frame that will contain the subject of your second exposure. In a double exposure, this will stop the background being exposed twice. Your backgrounds will be darker, but your subject will also be clearer where it appears in the frame.

Use grids


Turning on guides and grids in your camera can help you line up subjects between the multiple frames.

If your camera has the option for a grid overlay (rule of thirds) in the viewfinder, turning it on can help you to line up various elements throughout the multiple exposures.

It’s okay to post-process

Image: Not everything is going to go right all the time. If something doesn’t line up, like To...

Not everything is going to go right all the time. If something doesn’t line up, like Tower Bridge in this image, don’t be afraid to use Photoshop to help you get the results you were after.

Although this article is about creating double exposures in-camera, there is nothing wrong with taking your results and fine-tuning them afterward.

Did you overlay a silhouette with a texture but you don’t want the texture elsewhere in the frame? Photoshop can help. If it helps you to create what you had in your head, by all means, go for it.

That’s it

Creating double exposures in-camera is a finicky technique, but sometimes the results can be incredible. More important, it’s a technique that’s a lot of fun. I encourage you to go out and give it a try for yourself, and hopefully, some of these tips will make your results a bit more predictable.

Please share your results with us in the comments section – we’d love to see them!



The post Tips for Creating Awesome Double Exposures In-Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Top Tips for Photographing the Best a City has to Offer in 48-hours

The post Top Tips for Photographing the Best a City has to Offer in 48-hours appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Always be on the lookout for interesting scenes in cities. I saw this view in Taipei from a metro train and went back at dusk.

You have two days and two nights to photograph a city you’ve never been to before. How will you make the most of this opportunity and come away with amazing photos?

You could just turn up without much advance thought and deliver a stunning set of images that fits the brief perfectly. Leaving things to chance is not always the best plan, though. You will be better prepared and more confident if you research and plan your trip in advance.

Whether you’re working for a client, an editor, or taking photos for your own portfolio, these tips will help you make the most of your trip. Here is a guide to photographing a city and the best it has to offer in 48 hours.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Find what is unique about your destination and capture it.

What’s unique about the city?

The first question you need to ask is what makes the city unique? Does it have stunning architecture? An incredible food scene? Unique modes of transport? Vibrant markets? Make sure you keep this in mind as you plan your trip.

What types and styles of images are you being asked to deliver?

What type of shots are you, your client, or your editor expecting? Find out what their expectations are in as much detail as possible. Is there a particular style or theme you need to shoot for? Will your images be used to accompany a story on a particular subject, for advertising, or as a standalone photo essay?

Think of the final use of your photos. Will you need to capture landscape or portrait orientation photos? Do you need to shoot images with negative space to allow for text to be overlaid?

Image style is an important consideration. Is your client looking for bright, colorful photos? Images showing well-known landmarks? Hidden gems? Photos with a shallow depth of field? Moody black and white images? Photos of people experiencing the city? It’s important to get agreement on this too.

Create a mood board

Visualizing your shots before you go can help the planning process. One way you can achieve this is by creating a mood board for the trip, showing the types and the style of photos you will aim to produce. The good news is, it’s easy to do with a tool such as Pinterest.

A mood board can also be handy if you don’t have a formal brief. If you create one for yourself or your client showing the type and style of images you propose to take, this can stimulate further discussion. It might be exactly what they’re after, or it could prompt them to get involved in the process and suggest changes.

photographing a city-matt-murray

On my list of shots for Taronga Zoo was an iconic view of the Sydney with animals – thankfully, this giraffe helped me out!

Weather and climate

The next thing to research is the expected weather and climate at your destination. Bear in mind, some destinations, such as London and Melbourne, are notorious for variable conditions all year round. Getting a sense of what to expect will help with your daily planning and can guide your choices for clothing and equipment.

For example, if you’re heading to Asia during the wet season, you’ll need to think about taking clothing and camera gear that is water-resistant, whereas if you’re on a trip to somewhere hot and dry, such as Dubai or Death Valley, you may need to consider a hat and sunscreen.

Next, look at the sunrise and sunset times for the city when you will be there and plan your day accordingly. Make a note of them and think of the most important shots you need to capture at those times. These times will also indicate the number of daylight hours you have on location.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Autumn in Sydney was a good opportunity to capture golden leaves.

Online planning resources

Two resources that can help you are the Photographers Ephemeris and PhotoPills. These handy guides for photographers also give you information like how long the blue hour and golden hour last for, the direction of the sun at sunrise and sunset, and much more. This can be very helpful, though, remember, in built-up environments, you’ll never truly know how the light falls on your scene until you’re there.

Background city research

Researching your destination is one of the most important things to do before you leave. Learn as much as you can. Potential sources of information include travel magazines, travel blogs, official tourism websites, and YouTube videos. It’s also worthwhile downloading guidebooks from companies such as Lonely Planet, or if you’re on a tight budget, you could borrow them from a friend or your local library.

As you’re doing this research, make a note of previous coverage the destination has had in published articles or photo essays. If you plan to use the same or similar angle, aim to capture the destination in a unique or better way.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Image research

Pay close attention to the types of images used to illustrate and promote this city. What style are they? Do they fall into a particular genre? What kind of lenses do you think the photographer used? This is all useful information.

Then turn to more visual references. What kind of images show up for your destination using a Google image search? Is there a famous view of the city you’d like to capture? Next, search on Instagram. Look at images used by the official city or country accounts, popular hashtags for your destination and even geolocation image searches.

Take a look at recent Instagram posts, carefully reading the description. Was the image taken in the last few days? If it was, this might help you understand the weather or lighting conditions at your destination. If there is no context to when the image was taken, it could’ve been from last month or last year.

Another key place for researching your destination is stock photography sites. What images are the best sellers for the city? Keep these in mind when you’re shooting. As well as your main client, think of other markets where you could sell your images such as stock libraries.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Always look for detail shots at your destination that show the way of life.

Create your shot list

I love travel photography as it includes so many other genres. On a single assignment, you can include landscapes, cityscapes, street scenes, portraits, food shots, detail shots, architecture, and documentary-style images. Remember this as you create your shot list.

First, lock in the locations you need to be for sunrise and sunset and have a rough plan for the rest of the day. Plot these locations on a map and make sure you’re leaving yourself enough time to look around and photograph unexpected sights. Sometimes the best shots at a destination are not the things you expect to see, but things you didn’t expect to see.

Then list the next most important shots for you or your client. Make these a priority.

Try to capture well-known landmarks in a new or interesting way. This could be through the frame of a doorway or window, a reflection, or a completely different angle or viewpoint not used before.

Jot down a reminder to get a good variety of images at each location you visit – landscape orientation, portrait orientation, images with negative space, and images that crop well for Instagram. Also, think back to why this city is unique or exotic and make a note to get images of the food, people, clothing – anything that’s different.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Booking your hotel

Now you’ve created your shot list, look at the key locations on your map, and book a hotel nearby. It can be tempting to save money by staying at a hotel further away, but being close to your proposed photography locations is a huge advantage. Not only will it cut down on travel time, but you will also have the advantage of popping back to your room whenever you like throughout the day.

Quite often when I’m photographing a city, I head back to my hotel for a break. You can have a quick rest, grab a hot or cold drink, back up your images, and review the progress you’ve made ready for the next round of photos. You may even need time to warm up or cool down depending on the weather.

With your hotel search, always be on the lookout for historic or beautiful hotels that could provide additional photographic opportunities for you. Also, remember to choose a hotel where you feel like your gear will be safe when you’re not there.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Carry a travel tripod so you can capture scenes with a slow shutter speed.

Packing your kit

Versatility is the key when packing your kit. Fast zoom lenses are generally the travel photographer’s best friend. Also, look at the notes you made during your research. What type of lenses do you think the photographers used? Does your client expect any images with a very shallow depth of field? Do they want images taken with long telephoto lenses or ultra-wide angle lenses?

Plan your kit, taking into account these considerations along with the expected weather conditions. For a two-day trip, I would typically take the following:

  • Two camera bodies that use the same batteries and lenses, at least one of which is weather resistant.
  • Two zooms covering a wide focal range, at least one of which is weather resistant.
  • One or two small fast prime lenses – these are very handy for low light conditions and shallow depth of field shots.
  • As many reliable high-quality SD cards as you have. Make sure you format them before your trip.
  • As many batteries as you have for your camera system.
  • A small travel tripod and some neutral density filters.

You can see more about the travel kit I take in my article, The Best Fujifilm X-Series Kits for Travel Photography

photographing a city-matt-murray

Sydney Opera House sails with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Traveling to your destination

As your trip approaches, keep an eye on the weather and current events for the city you’re heading to. Will this present any issues or challenges? Is there other gear you may need to bring? As I write this, I am preparing for a few days in Hong Kong, where there are currently protests taking place. I don’t think these protests will affect my trip or what I plan to photograph, but it’s good to always good to stay up-to-date with what’s going on.

Before I arrive at my destination, I always sort out some way to use my iPhone when I get there. This can mean either having a SIM card for the country I’m visiting or setting up international roaming before I go.

On the way from the airport or train station to my hotel, I look for interesting things to photograph. I have my phone at the ready with maps loaded up tracking the journey I’m taking. If I see something interesting, I screenshot the map, so I have the exact location on my phone for future reference.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Children playing in the Faroe Islands photographed on a telephoto lens.

Once you’ve arrived

You’ve arrived at your hotel, dumped your bag and are now ready to hit the streets and tick off that shot list. Before you go, make sure you have everything you need and leave anything you won’t need at the hotel. Remember to go easy on the air conditioning or heating – extreme temperature changes can fog up your camera lenses.

Take a few minutes to double-check your camera (especially your ISO and image quality settings), make sure you have fully-charged batteries and formatted memory cards. Then synchronize the clocks on your cameras at local time.

Regardless of the time I arrive, I always try to hit the streets as soon as I can to get a feel for the place. In tropical locations, shooting conditions are not always ideal during the middle of the day when it’s very bright with the sun overhead. It’s still possible, however, to look for opportunities to keep shooting. On a recent trip to Indonesia, I found the most beautiful light in a semi-covered market place in Borobudur. I took some of my favorite shots of the trip at that market.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Borobudur Market.

After the sun is well and truly below the horizon, you may think it’s time to head back to the hotel, but always see if there are opportunities to photograph food vendors or night markets. You’ll need either a fast prime or zoom lens in conjunction with using a higher ISO to capture handheld shots or a tripod for longer exposures.


When you’re finished shooting for the day, it’s time to head back to your hotel and backup your images.

For each trip, I create a new Lightroom catalog on my laptop. I then import the images into Lightroom, specifying that the images should be copied from my SD cards to an SSD hard drive plugged into my MacBook.

After the import, I copy these folders and the Lightroom catalog to a second SSD drive. I always keep these SSD hard drives in separate locations – one with me in my camera bag, and one in my luggage. As I review my shots in Lightroom, if there are any that I think are perfect for my needs or my client, I make another backup of those select images to DropBox. When I get home, I transfer the folders and Lightroom catalog from my laptop straight to my desktop computer.

photographing a city-matt-murray

Final thoughts

I hope these tips will help you think about what you need to plan and research when you’re in a city for the first time on assignment.

Always remember, though, despite the amount of research and planning you do, things are often out of your hands. If you can’t get that iconic shot due to weather conditions, street closures, scaffolding or who knows what else, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Instead, concentrate on other opportunities that you can capture while you’re there to make the most of your time.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share on photographing a city in 48 hours? Share with us in the comments!


photographing a city in 48 hours

The post Top Tips for Photographing the Best a City has to Offer in 48-hours appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Great Reasons to put a Carabiner in your Photo Kit

The post Great Reasons to put a Carabiner in your Photo Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The carabiner is a device most closely associated with mountain climbing, but now it finds application in so many other things.  In this article, we’ll explore a few ways you can make good use of a carabiner as a photographer.

Interestingly, the carabiner was not initially invented for climbers.  The history of the device is interesting with an inventor nicknamed “Rambo.” It’s not a story I’ll detail here, but worth a read.  The carabiner is essentially a loop with an easily opened “gate.” It allows quick clipping onto objects and then which closes by means of a spring.  Some carabiners also have a locking mechanism which prevents the gate from inadvertently opening.


Inexpensive carabiners are great for many of the applications we’ll discuss here. However, note, they are clearly marked “NOT FOR CLIMBING.”

Not for climbing

Carabiners come in a multitude of sizes and designs.  Those specifically made for climbers are carefully designed, tested, rated for strength, and marked with their load-bearing capabilities.  At the other end of the spectrum are the lightweight versions often sold for just a few dollars in hardware stores and the like.  These are often marked “Not for Climbing” as they are not built with the same care or performance capabilities of the climbing-specific types.

Image: The huge almost 8-inch carabiner on the left might have some good photo applications like car...

The huge almost 8-inch carabiner on the left might have some good photo applications like carrying multiple items or hanging an extension cord, but it’s not for climbing. The other three are climbing-rated carabiners. The one at the far right is a locking type.

For the purposes described in this article, we will cover possible uses by photographers. For those applications, the lighter weight, non-climbing versions may work fine.

As a disclaimer, I know very little about climbing. I am not a climber and certainly would not begin to suggest you take anything in this article as instruction on how to use carabiners for climbing. If that’s is your intention, go find an expert – someone you trust with your life.

In the climbing world, that really is the purpose a carabiner may serve.

Security and convenience

Carabiners serve two main purposes for climbers:

Safety – Carabiners are used as quick attachment devices to clip into climbing ropes. Those ropes act as safety devices so should the climber fall, the rope and the carabiner restrain the climber and save them from disaster.

Convenience – On the side of a mountain, it’s just you. Fumble and drop something, and it’s gone. Unable to carry a heavy load, you need a strong, lightweight device that provides security as well as easy access to your equipment (sometimes with just one hand). That’s just the job for which the carabiner is well-suited.

Safety and convenient use of carabiners by photographers is what we’ll address.


When fragile things fall onto hard surfaces, bad things happen.  That is why climbers use ropes and carabiners – as safety devices.  If you’ve ever dropped a camera, lens, or other valuable photo gear, you learned this lesson the hard way.  So, what if we could come up with a few tricks using carabiners to provide some safety for your photo equipment so you aren’t punished by the law of gravity?

Image: A simple DIY camera-to-tripod safety tether as outlined here. The top knot is a clove hitch,...

A simple DIY camera-to-tripod safety tether as outlined here. The top knot is a clove hitch, the bottom one a cats-paw knot.

Camera-to-tripod tether

I do a lot of landscape photography and like to mount my camera to my tripod with a Swiss-Arca compatible L-bracket. The bracket clips into the lever lock mount at the top of my tripod. I prefer the lever clamp to twist knobs. It’s quicker to work, easier to see if it’s locked, and unlike a twist knob, doesn’t require periodic checking. After taking a few shots, when moving to a new location, I put the tripod over my shoulder and walk to the new spot with the camera and lens still mounted to the end of the tripod.

Now, I know I’m not the only one to do this – I remember watching Art Wolfe’s “Travels to the Edge,” where he’d routinely carry his camera like this. I like to be cool like Art – silhouetted against the sun with my tripod and camera over my shoulder. Never did I see his camera fall off the tripod and I’ve never had mine fall off…yet.

I’m afraid that one day I’ll be walking, carrying the camera this way, and suddenly feel the tripod get lighter and hear a crash behind me. I know my blood would run cold. A clamp failure or unplanned release could spell disaster and certainly, make a grown man cry. Rather than have that happen, I came up with this idea.

Get two carabiners and tie each to opposite ends of a short length of rope. Paracord works well for this as it’s light and strong. Don’t over-engineer this. You want to pick carabiners and cord with a load strength of maybe 50-lbs or greater to be on the safe side, but not so large as to be cumbersome. What is important is to tie the cord to the carabiners with the proper knot. If the rope comes loose from the carabiner when the need arises…yup…that would be bad.

Go online and find a good video showing how to tie a rope to a carabiner. I like the catspaw knot for this purpose. The clove hitch is good too.


Walking with your camera on the tripod over your shoulder like in the inset image, if the clamp released your camera would be saved like in the large shot IF tethered. Otherwise…     = :-O

The length of the cord shouldn’t be much longer than the distance to reach from your tripod head to the camera. Usually, 6-8″ (15-20cm) will be about right. Get a split ring, the kind often used for keyrings, and mount that to the lug on the side of the camera made for a regular camera strap.

Now, clip one carabiner through the ring and the other one just under the mount on your ball head. (See the photo). Most ball heads will accommodate this. However, if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to find an alternate place on the tripod to clip the lower carabiner. Now head down the trail confident that if the clamp releases your camera, the tether will save it.

Yes, it might occasionally get in the way or prevent your ball head from completely free motion while photographing, but if so, unclip the carabiners while you work. The peace of mind I get as I walk the trail with my camera on my tripod over my shoulder is well worth a slight inconvenience.

Other uses for a safety tether

A similar DIY device, two carabiners connected by a length of cord, may find other applications in your photo work as a safety tether. The size and weight of the device you need to protect will dictate the strength of your carabiners and connecting cord, rope, or cable. People in lighting or theatrical work are likely familiar with such safety tethers. Having a heavy light fall onto the talent below would be bad, very bad.

Even if your photography doesn’t involve talent under lighting or other equipment, having expensive photo gear fall off a mount and crash to the ground is also bad. Consider devising ways you can create safety tethers for some of your other equipment with a little creative DIY engineering.

Image: A sling-style camera strap attached to the bottom tripod hole of a camera with a locking cara...

A sling-style camera strap attached to the bottom tripod hole of a camera with a locking carabiner-style clip.

Camera Straps

I get it, no one likes a strap around their neck, and most camera straps are a bothersome hassle. But like wearing your seat belt in the car, perhaps you need to consider the risk versus the inconvenience. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen photographers – even pros – holding their camera and taking a shot with the strap dangling down in front of them rather than around their neck. I see them shooting out the tour bus window, over the side of the boat, over a cliff edge or at the zoo with crocodiles below.

Also, I wish I had all the money wasted when cameras and lenses which could have saved with a strap instead were fumbled, dropped, and destroyed. I use an Op/Tech sling strap (Black Rapid is a similar well-known sling-strap designer). It is more comfortable, keeps the camera on my hip rather than my chest, an is still ready for quick action.

My work camera uses a different connection method. It uses a mount into the tripod screw hole and a snap-clip which is much like a carabiner. Before that, I modified my OEM strap and used a similar hardware store snap-clip.

I guess there are people who “free-climb” mountains with no safety devices, people who drive without their seat belts and, yes, people who don’t like camera straps. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Me? Camera straps, carabiners, and safety tethers are my friends.

Photographing near the edge

On a trip to Canyonlands National Park in Utah, we had a photo buddy in our group with less acrophobia than I. (We nicknamed him “Spiderman”). While photographing the canyon at Deadhorse State Park, he was uncomfortably close to the edge. I tried not to look and concentrated on my photography. Then I did look around…and he had disappeared! His tripod and camera were still there, but not him.


I feared the worst and cautiously peered over the edge…


A few minutes later, with a big grin, he stepped out from behind some bushes.

For our next trip, I’m considering rigging him with a safety tether.

Image: That next step is a doozy! My photo buddy “Spiderman” on a trip to Deadhorse Stat...

That next step is a doozy! My photo buddy “Spiderman” on a trip to Deadhorse State Park in Utah.

I tell that story to suggest this, using a carabiner and length of rope to allow you to make those “edgy shots” safely. The shots where you extend your camera and tripod over the edge, out the window, over the side of the boat, cliff, above the crocodile pit (Crikey!). All of those places where if you fumble or your clamp releases you won’t be getting your gear back. At least not in one piece. There’s also the potential danger to those below to consider.

I’m suggesting attaching your camera/tripod to a tether.  A good device if you do a lot of hand-holding of your camera with a wrist strap.  There are various commercial designs, or you can fashion a strap with a velcro fastening to go around your wrist and a carabiner to clip to a ring on your camera.  Fumble the camera and the safety tether to your wrist saves it.

While working near precipitous edges, it may also be a good idea to have a tether on yourself. However, if you decide to do so, you enter the realm of “climbing.” As I said, don’t look to me or this article for guidance on that subject.

If you do tether your equipment, secure the other end of the rope to something secure, perhaps not yourself. You don’t want a falling camera and tripod dragging you over the edge too. Got all that Spiderman?

Image: Often the hook at the bottom of a tripod column just isn’t large enough to accommodate...

Often the hook at the bottom of a tripod column just isn’t large enough to accommodate a camera bag handle. A carabiner makes it work. Use this arrangement when you want extra weight and stability for your tripod or to keep your camera bag off the dirty or wet ground.

Convenience – What, where, and when you need it

Having what you need, where you need it, when you need it, and available for quick access and return to its storage location is essential to a mountain climber hanging on the side of a cliff. It’s also handy for a photographer who has hands busy operating the camera. Or doesn’t have the time to root through a backpack looking for something while the light is fleeting. Carabiner to the rescue! Putting easy access to equipment within reach is a hallmark of this little wonder.


Zip-tie and gaff tape a carabiner to a tripod leg and you have a “third-hand” hook. Keep a filter or other accessory bag right at hand while you work.

Creative photographers will come up with many uses for a carabiner, whether in the field or the studio. Others marketing all manner of other goodies and gizmos have also incorporated carabiners into their equipment designs to make them more useful.

Let’s look at some photos that show both some DIY uses as well as product designs that leverage the wonders of a carabiner.


Many products incorporate carabiners int their design. Here are just a few of possible interest to photographers. Urban Gear knife, TempaBright light/thermometer, Coghlan’s waterproof capsule container, Coghlan’s large carabiner carry handle, small carabiner keychains, Nite Ize S-biner, Nite Ize DoohicKey, LuxPro focusable flashlight, LifeLine weather-resistant First Aid Kit, and don’t forget the zip-ties.

Team these with a carabiner

You’ve seen some great uses for carabiners for a photographer, and hopefully, I’ve introduced you to something you can use. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest some other devices to throw into your pack to increase the versatility of carabiners even more.


My LowePro ProTactic 450AW backpack has MOLLE webbing on the outside giving many places to clip in carabiners and goodies.


Originally developed as the suspension lines used on parachutes, this strong and lightweight nylon cord is a great accessory to have in your pack.  It’s available in many thicknesses and strengths, a rainbow of colors, is easily cut when you need a shorter length and you can seal the ends with a match.  It’s great stuff and a perfect partner to a carabiner.

Image: Need to tighten a loose line? Clip on a carabiner, twist the carabiner until the line is tigh...

Need to tighten a loose line? Clip on a carabiner, twist the carabiner until the line is tight, then clip the carabiner back onto the now tightened line.

Binder clips

Yes, the kind used in the office.  They come in a variety of sizes so you can suit the size to the need.  A perfect photographic application is hanging a backdrop.  Put a few binder clips along the top edge of the backdrop, clip carabiners through the loops of each clip and you can hang the backdrop from a paracord line or rod.


Hang a backdrop with some carabiners used like curtain hooks on a line or rod. Binder clips work well for this, but these ProGrip TarpSharks were too cute not to buy a couple.

Zip ties –  (aka cable ties)

Zip ties are very lightweight, strong, and able to be pulled very tight and locked there. These are wonder devices.  When you can’t attach your carabiner directly to an object, try attaching a zip tie to it and before tightening, a carabiner as well.  The example above of attaching a water bottle to a carabiner is a good one.  You’ll think of dozens of other uses.  Zip ties can also save the day when straps or other things in your photo kit break and you need an emergency fix.

Gaffer tape

People in the film and theatrical professions know and love this stuff and no photographer ought to be without a small roll in their pack.  Don’t confuse this with duct tape, it will only make a sticky, hard-to-remove mess of your equipment.  Get real gaff tape and then go nuts with the many ways you’ll be able to use it.

Image: In the studio, an easy way to keep two joined extension cords from becoming unplugged.

In the studio, an easy way to keep two joined extension cords from becoming unplugged.


Not a lock, but at least a way to use a carabiner on your backpack zippers to discourage a potential thief from a quick grab of your gear.

The DIY photographer

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a real DIY nut! If I can figure out a cheaper, better, innovative way to do something, including my photography work, I’m all over it.

Carabiners certainly fall into the list of useful parts in the “goodies” bag I keep in my photo backpack.  I hope you picked up a useful tip here. If there’s something I missed that you’d like to share with the worldwide photographic community here on DPS, please include it and maybe a photo too in the comments section below.

Now go forth and photograph!



The post Great Reasons to put a Carabiner in your Photo Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Perfect Starburst Effect

The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Perfect Starburst Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Adding a starburst effect to your images is a great way to spice things up and really grab the attention of your viewers.

Seeing rays of light slice through your photo is one of the most enjoyable tricks to pull off, especially if you haven’t really done this sort of thing before. While some software programs let you do this on your computer, the real magic comes when you do it by knowing how to use your camera.

starburst on building

Step 1: Find a light source

Creating the starburst effect isn’t difficult. But it does require a bit of training and practice to pull off. You’ll need a few basics to get started:

First, you’ll need a bright source of light, such as the sun. A street lamp or really powerful flashlight will work too, but the sun is nice because it’s always available and doesn’t cost money to use.

If you don’t mind shooting pictures at night, you can get a starburst effect quite easily with a street lamp or other source of light. However, night photos might not look as interesting or visually compelling as shots of the sun.

Ironically, you also need something to block most of the sun. This is because the sun itself is too large and bright to give you good starburst shots; just a sliver of its light is all you need. Buildings and trees work great, but whatever you use can’t be too far away. If the thing blocking the sun is separated from you by too great a distance, you won’t get the starburst effect.

starburst effect on a building roof

The effect isn’t as pronounced in this image, but it’s definitely there. Using a structure to block most of the sun is a great way to help you achieve a good starburst.

Step 2: Choose a small aperture

As far as your camera goes, the one setting that really matters is your aperture.

To get a good starburst, your aperture should be small, such as f/11 or f/16. This means you will need a camera with aperture control, such as a DSLR or mirrorless system. Nearly all mobile phones use wide apertures and very few of them allow you to have any control over the aperture at all.

So if you want to pull off a cool starburst effect in-camera, you’re going to need a dedicated camera and not just a phone.

Step 3: Set up for your starburst shot

The basic setup for a starburst effect photo is also fairly simple and works best when the sun is lower on the horizon during the morning or late afternoon. You can do it at other times of day, but it’s a little more difficult to find objects that obscure the sun when it’s directly overhead.

starburst on a clock

To achieve the starburst effect, position yourself so that the sun is off in the distance and the object obscuring it is not too close and not too far. Then set your aperture to f/11, point your camera in the direction of the light, and take a picture.

Take care to not point your camera directly at the full sun, as it could damage your sensor or your eyes. Just a sliver of the sun and a small aperture is all you need.

Step 4: Experiment with different setups

If the object you use to block most of the sun is too far away, the starburst effect will be much more difficult to achieve. In the shot below, you can just barely see the points of light emanating from where the sun is peeking over the clouds. It’s subtle and can work if it suits your compositional goals for the image, but I don’t find shots like this to be nearly as fun as other starburst images.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Perfect Starburst Effect

There’s a lot of creative things you can do when you start experimenting with starbursts. In the picture below, the sun was obscured just a bit too much by the tree branch. The cicada exoskeleton looks fine, but the photo lacks something in the way of a visual spark.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Perfect Starburst Effect

I adjusted the position of my camera by mere millimeters so as to get the tiniest bit of the sun poking out below the branch. The result is a much more compelling photo:

cicada with starburst

The addition of a starburst adds a whole new dimension to the photograph and elevates it to a whole new level.

Note: How aperture alters the starburst effect

To see why a small aperture is important, look at the following photos, which were taken just a few seconds apart. The first used a large f/1.8 aperture, and as a result, the sun is a large yellow blob in the sky and not all that interesting. This is similar to the type of picture you could take on a mobile phone since most of those have large apertures ranging from f/1.8 to f/2.8.

Image: I took this photo with an f/1.8 aperture at 50mm.

I took this photo with an f/1.8 aperture at 50mm.

Stopping down to f/11 changes the image dramatically. Not only is the foreground and background in focus, but the sun is now a brilliant star pattern. This is a direct result of the smaller aperture.

fountain with starburst

I took this photo with an f/11 aperture at 50mm.

A similar effect is seen in the two photos below. Taken at different locations, they illustrate the effect quite clearly. The first shows a row of lights fading into the distance, and because I shot it at f/1.8, they appear as blurry orbs. This isn’t a bad thing, as my intent was for the viewer to focus on the light in the foreground.

row of lights without starburst

I took this photo with an f/1.8 aperture at 50mm.

The next image shows a similar row of street lights, but the small aperture I used caused every point of light in the image to appear as a starburst.

streetlights with starburst

I took this photo with an f/13 aperture at 50mm.

Even the green traffic lights far in the distance are starbursts. You can see how this dramatically alters the overall effect of the picture. If I had used a larger aperture, it would be an entirely different image.


My favorite part of shooting starburst photos is how easy it is once you get the hang of it. It’s also rather gratifying to know you can do it just by manipulating your camera.

starburst at night

Have you tried using the starburst effect in your images? What tips or tricks do you have for the DPS community, or for others who might not have done this type of photography before? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!



The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Perfect Starburst Effect appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography

The post How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Making a pinhole body cap is a rite of passage on any digital photographer’s journey. It’s a great way to get some of the unpredictability of analog photography without spending loads money on film or having to wait for the results to come back from a lab.

pinhole body camera image

But how do you make a pinhole body cap? And what do you shoot once you’ve made your pinhole body cap?

That’s what you’ll discover in this article.

What is a pinhole body cap and how do you make one?

First things first:

Let’s talk about pinhole body caps and how you make one. For that, you need to know what a pinhole camera is.

A pinhole camera is essentially a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light passes through the hole and projects an image on the opposite side of the box. It’s a tiny camera obscura – an optical phenomenon that has been known and used for hundreds of years. If you put photographic film or paper inside the box, you can record the image that the camera obscura produces!

So by modifying a camera body cap, you’re essentially creating a digital version of the camera obscura.

It’s very easy to do! You just need to buy a cheap body cap for your camera (don’t worry about it being on-brand and don’t destroy the one that came with your camera) and put a hole in the middle of it.

drilling into a camera body cap

I use a tiny drill bit (and a holder meant for model-making) to put the smallest hole I can create in the center of the body cap. Then I take a small piece of black construction paper and put a hole in it with just the very tip of a skinny sewing needle.

Next, tape the construction paper into place on top of the hole you’ve just drilled, lining up the two holes as carefully as possible.

Finally, place the body cap directly onto the camera body and you should be ready to go!

(Note: On some digital cameras, you may need to use a setting that allows you to shoot without a lens attached. If you’re struggling to find this, check your camera manual.)

What’s so special about pinhole shooting?

There are a few great features of pinhole camera photography that you might want to think about as you plan what to shoot. Using a pinhole body cap is completely different than shooting with a traditional lens.

creative pinhole shot of shapes

Concentrating on shape and texture can create striking pinhole body cap images.

Almost infinite focus

The first thing to note is that pinhole cameras have an incredibly large depth of field. You can’t focus a pinhole body cap, but that’s okay. You don’t need to. You’ll get images that are sharp throughout.

(However, this means you’ll lose any shallow depth of field or bokeh effects.)

Instead of blurring out any inconvenient backgrounds, you need to work with your surroundings in mind when you compose images.

No distortion

If you’re using a wide-angle pinhole body cap (the focal length of your pinhole body cap is the distance from the pinhole to the sensor), then there will be no lens distortion. When you are shooting architecture, the walls of the building will appear completely straight rather than curved as they would with many wide-angle lenses.

building against sky

Using hard light to create contrast can be a way to make images appear sharper.

It is possible to increase the focal length of your pinhole body cap by using extension tubes and the like (or a cardboard toilet roll with the inside painted black).

Test out different focal lengths and see what you can achieve!

Long exposure times

The downside of all that depth of field is that you’ll generally need a pretty long exposure time for most shots. This does mean that you can work with interesting blur effects. If you’re shooting urban spaces you can also blur out most of the people in the image, too.

On the other hand, you generally need to take a tripod with you when you go out shooting with your pinhole body cap. The exposures will probably be too long to handhold your camera.

blurry portrait pinhole body cap camera

Asking your subject to move while photographing them can produce interesting effects.

It can be interesting to explore either intentional camera movement effects or long exposures on moving subjects with a pinhole body cap. I particularly enjoy using a pinhole body cap to shoot portraits of people.

Try looking at the portrait work of Victorian photographers who used wet plates, or the more modern long exposure portraits (with a large format camera) by Sally Mann. These can provide some inspiration for your pinhole photography of people.

Help! All my images are soft!

The sharpness of a pinhole image depends largely on the size and accuracy of the pinhole you create when building your pinhole body cap. Unsurprisingly, putting a hole in a piece of construction paper is a pretty inaccurate way to build photographic equipment.

The smaller the pinhole, the more accurate the image will be. And the neater the edges of the pinhole, the more perfect the circle around your image will be.

comparison of sharp portrait and pinhole portrait

These two images are a direct comparison of a 35mm lens on a Fujifilm body (about a 50mm equivalent) and a pinhole body cap on the same body. The camera wasn’t moved between shots, and both images were cropped the same.

Ultimately, you’re going to need to embrace the heavy imperfections of this style when you plan what you’re going to shoot. Images will be in focus, but they will be very soft – and that’s not something you can correct afterward! If you really enjoy digital pinhole photography then you may want to explore some of the laser cut pinholes that are available on the market. They are very tiny, accurate circles and will create a more technically perfect image.

Of course, the smaller the pinhole, the longer the exposure you’ll need. This is because less light is hitting the sensor, so everything is a trade-off. With extremely tiny pinholes you can be looking at exposures of many minutes rather than a few seconds.

Seeing the world differently

I find that using a pinhole body cap forces me to approach photography differently. Because of the soft quality of the images and the large depth of field, I tend to focus on things like color and shape rather than the subject matter itself. It’s a great way to think about different kinds of composition rules.

tree in pinhole shot

If you end up with a pinhole that isn’t quite circular (like most of mine), that can also be a good thing to experiment with. Finding objects that fit inside the pinhole shape you’ve made can create some really unusual images.

What are you waiting for?

Time to get out and shoot! One of the best ways to improve your pinhole body cap photography is simply to head out and start capturing a ton of images. You need to learn how the things around you will translate into pinhole images. It’s only then that you’ll start to see the possibilities for pinhole photography.

Don’t be discouraged at first. It takes time to hit your stride with this style of photography. You may need to let go of some ingrained inhibitions and embrace the imperfections and flaws instead of aiming for technical excellence.

But eventually, you’ll be capturing some stunning photos!

We’d love to see your pinhole images! Share with us in the comments section.


The post How to Use a Pinhole Body Cap for Awesome, Creative Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Photo Business (Step-By-Step Guide)

The post How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Photo Business (Step-By-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Do you use Pinterest to market your photography services?

You should.

Because here’s the thing: Millions of potential clients use Pinterest. In fact, 250 million people around the world use Pinterest every month, and this number continues to grow. 

Most people think of Pinterest as a social media platform, but it’s actually a search engine that’s driven by search and discovery. Statistics show that nearly half of online users search in Pinterest before turning to Google. It has an incredible power to drive traffic to your site and grow brand awareness. Visitors from Pinterest convert into leads or sales faster than those from social media networks.


One reason is that Pinterest has a much longer shelf life than social media. Once an image is uploaded to an Instagram or Facebook feed, it gets buried quickly. With Pinterest, your pins will have staying power and benefit you more the longer they’re around. 

Now that you know why Pinterest is so great…

…let me tell you how you can gain traction on Pinterest, fast.

pinterest photography business profile page

Step 1: Get a business account 

In order to use Pinterest effectively for your photography business, you’ll need to sign up for a free Business account. A Business account will allow you to monitor your analytics from within Pinterest. This will give you important information about the boards and pins that are most popular with your audience.

These insights can help you increase your engagement and pin more effectively.

pinterest statistics

Step 2: Create a succinct Pinterest profile

Your Pinterest profile needs to be short and to the point. It needs to let people know what you do. Are you a wedding shooter? Do you specialize in personal branding portraits? Include it in your profile.

For example, my main income comes from commercial and still-life photography, but I’m also a photography mentor. This third aspect of my business is the focus of my Pinterest account. Therefore, it’s the focus of my profile biography.

Step 3: Organize your board for your viewers

If you want to promote yourself as a photographer, you must always keep your target audience in mind. Your boards are not for you; they’re for your viewers, and so you need to speak to what they might be looking for when they log onto Pinterest.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have boards on crafting and cooking. It just means that you need to hide these non-business boards from public view.

Just remember, all of your visible boards must be relevant to potential clients.

Since I’m a food photographer, most of my boards feature beautiful images of food, organized into topical boards such as Salads, Desserts, Main Dishes, etc., as well as themes such as food photography lighting and styling.

And since I mentor food bloggers and emerging photographers, I also have boards such as Learn Food Photography as well as Blogging Tips. Use basic names for your boards that will be searchable and easy to find. 

Your boards should be organized from most relevant to least relevant, not by alphabetical order. Have your first board feature your own photography only; you want to show potential clients what you can do. Clean up your own boards and create new ones.

You’ll quickly see a big difference in your Pinterest traffic.

pinterest business boards

Step 4: Use keywords in your descriptions

Pinterest works similarly to Google – users search for specific content they’re interested in by using keywords.

In fact, keywords are the number-one tool for content discovery.

That’s why each of your boards should have a description using keywords or using hashtags created from keywords. Also, use as many keywords as possible in your pin descriptions. General keywords make your content easier to discover.

You can also use keywords to attract potential clients in your region. If you live in Portland and want to attract brides in your area, use keywords like “Portland Bride” or “Portland Weddings.” Add them to all of your descriptions and alt tags. Local keywords are underused and undervalued, especially in small markets, so they can make a big difference.

pinterest keywording
Step 5: Brand your pins

When creating pins, you may want to add text (depending on your niche and your reason for pinning posts).

If you’re just trying to share your stunning images, then this may not be relevant. But if you can think of a way to add text that will advertise your services, it’ll work in your favor. Surprisingly, pins with text get more attention than those without text.

For example, the purpose of my Pinterest account is to attract people to my photography coaching services and products. I do this by driving traffic from Pinterest to my blog.


I create pins for each blog post I write. The pins are simply designed, but they’re consistent. I use the same font and style for each pin, which creates a “brand” for my pin that is consistent and that viewers will easily recognize.

Consider creating some pins with text in Photoshop or using an easy app like Canva. Canva offers a variety of free templates already sized for use on Pinterest. Test a few different styles and fonts and see how they perform. You may see that one style of pin gets repinned more than another. If so, then stick with that style.

branded pins

Examples of branded pins created on Canva.

The bottom line is that you should try to keep a strong brand identity, one that highlights specific services and remains visually consistent. It might be a bit of extra work at first, but it’ll pay off in the end.

Step 6: Join group boards selectively

Group boards are like regular boards, except that the board owner can invite collaborators to add pins of their own.

Group boards used to be a great way to generate traffic. Until Pinterest introduced the “Smart Feed,” which prioritizes and ranks pins based on their quality and engagement.

This led to a big decline in the value of group boards. You see, group board collaborators often rarely look at the board, and therefore rarely repin other members’ content. Because no one interacts with the boards, Pinterest assumes the pins are not popular. So they don’t show up in the Smart Feed.

How do you avoid this problem and use group boards to your advantage?

Choose active, niche boards that focus on one topic and have less than 100 contributors. Too many contributors can mean low-quality content.

The important thing to remember is that quality is much more important than quantity.

A board that encourages mutual sharing is also crucial. For example, a policy stating that you need to repin two pins for every post you make can make a big difference.

If you choose to join group boards, then keep these points in mind.

Step 7: Use boards to collaborate with clients

Visuals are a part of the communication that should take place between you and your clients before you start a job, especially if you’re in the commercial world. Pinterest can help you share images that serve as inspiration or a guideline for an upcoming shoot. If you work with commercial or editorial clients, you can collaborate on a mood board using Pinterest. This ensures that everyone involved in the shoot understands what the final results should be.

If you work in a retail niche like weddings or portraiture, you can use Pinterest to get a sense of the mood and color your client is drawn to. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Light green might mean one thing to you and another to your customer, so images that demonstrate the feel and color treatment that is sought can go a long way in helping you get the right look.

You can also use Pinterest boards to educate clients. If you do glamour or boudoir portraits, you can send your client a What to Wear board. This will provide inspiration and examples for choosing outfits for their shoot.

chef portraits board

Step 8: Schedule pins with the Tailwind app

Tailwind is a Pinterest-approved scheduling tool. It’s a fantastic app to help you grow your audience like crazy.

You see, pinning consistently is important growth strategy, but most people don’t have time to be pinning throughout the day. With Tailwind, you can sit down once a week to schedule your pins. They’ll automatically upload throughout the week at optimal times. Or, if you prefer, you can customize your pin schedule.

Tailwind also offers powerful tools that analyze your pins and boards, as well as your Pinterest profile. You can see which pins are getting the most engagement and reschedule them right from the interface.

Tailwind analytics


Pinterest is a great tool for generating visitors and leads.

And if you follow the steps I’ve given above, your Pinterest account will start expanding, fast.

So go set up your Pinterest account and start pinning!

Do you have any other tips for using Pinterest? Share with us in the comments section!



The post How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Photo Business (Step-By-Step Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

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