Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation

The post Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The standard camera sensor is rectangular in shape – a configuration that allows for both portrait and landscape orientations.

But is landscape orientation crucial to the execution of a landscape photograph? Must portraiture always be photographed in portrait orientation?

Plus, what if you’re photographing a subject that’s neither a portrait nor a landscape? What orientation works best?

In this article, we’ll have a look at how to choose between a portrait or landscape orientation in photography.

portrait and landscape orientation examples

A bit of history

Landscape orientation

Portrait and landscape designations likely stem from the orientations of canvasses used in art.

The dimensions of a horizontal rectangle best accommodate the wide vistas depicted by landscape artists. This earned the format its landscape title.

However, the landscape orientation is not restricted to landscape photos. Yes, landscape masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Hokusai, and Monet have been in a landscape format. But artists like Sandro Botticelli and Wassily Kandinsky have created non-landscape art using landscape orientation. Frans Lanting, Andreas Gursky, and Gregory Crewdson all depict photographic subjects with the landscape orientation.

It’s the same for portrait photography. Photographers such as Robert Frank and Annie Lebovitz have approached portraiture in a landscape format.

horizontal orientation leaf

The landscape orientation of this image of a leaf conveys a more relaxed viewing approach

Portrait orientation

A canvas taller than it is wide has become known as portrait orientation.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring are famous examples of portraits depicted in the traditional format. And Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother and Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl are well-known examples of portrait photography executed in a portrait format.

But portrait orientation isn’t limited to depicting people. Painters like Rachel Ruysch and Claude Monet worked in a portrait format to accommodate non-human subject matter.

And Edward Henry Weston used a portrait format to lend a formal quality to his investigations of organic materials, while the Bechers made hundreds of portrait-oriented images of urban landmarks.

vertical leaf abstract

The portrait orientation of this leaf abstract lends a more formal quality to the image.

Should you use portrait or landscape orientation?

Fitting the subject

One of the deciding factors in choosing between a portrait or landscape orientation is the dimensions of the subject itself.

In terms of framing the face and body of a human, a portrait format can be ideal. The vertical nature of the human body works well with a portrait orientation.

Vertical subjects like tall buildings, trees, and waterfalls may also require a portrait orientation to be captured in their entirety.

vertical orientation flower

Subjects made up of horizontal elements (like aircraft and landscapes) can fit better in landscape orientation.

Landscape orientation can also provide more room for incorporating additional elements into a photograph.

This is particularly useful in genres of photography like environmental portraiture, where the setting of the photograph is as important as the subject.

horizontal or vertical horizontal airplane

Because of the dimensions of aircraft, aviation photography is often carried out in a landscape orientation


The orientation of an image contributes significantly to visual emphasis.

A portrait orientation exaggerates the upright extension of subjects in a photograph. But a portrait orientation also speaks to our associations with tall subjects, emphasizing a sense of independence, wonder, modernity, and even superiority or unease.

In contrast, a landscape orientation places extra emphasis on space, illustrating ease and immersion.

In the simple example below you can see the different emphasis being placed on the floral silhouettes.

The portrait example emphasizes the energetic, upright quality of the flower. The landscape orientation creates a more relaxed perspective.

flower silhouette example


Every photographic situation is different and sometimes an element in a potential image is less than ideal.

If there are elements present within a photo that you would rather omit, switching camera orientations might help achieve a more polished image, either in-camera or in post-processing.

Cropping out excess information with a portrait orientation will simplify an image and minimize distractions.

Switching from a portrait to landscape orientation will decrease image height, prioritizing the horizontal flow in a photograph instead.

abstract horizontal of water

Formality vs relaxation

Over time, our historic use of image orientation has associated specific visual qualities with both portrait and landscape formats.

Portrait orientation is associated with the formality of historic portraiture. It is also associated with being upright, which is attached to wakefulness, sociability, and energy.

A landscape format, on the other hand, can lend a more relaxed, organic impression to a photograph. So a horizontal orientation is associated with laying down, lending a more tranquil quality to an image.

woven mat


Choosing between a portrait or landscape orientation isn’t easy. There are many aspects to consider, and the orientation of an image depends heavily on the situation.

But if you understand the benefits and drawbacks of different orientations, you’ll be in a good position to decide which orientation to use!

Do you lean towards portrait or landscape orientation? Share with us in the comments!



The post Which Way? When to Photograph in Portrait or Landscape Orientation appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Thoughts and a Field Test: The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony

The post Thoughts and a Field Test: The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Sony lenses are notoriously expensive, so it’s a welcome relief that third-party manufacturers have been making solid E-Mount lenses. The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is one such lens. It is the highly anticipated follow-up to the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which was announced in 2018 and is almost always on backorder due to its popularity. After testing the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8, I have no doubt that this lens will be equally popular.

Read on to find out why.

Tamron 17-28mm for Sony E-Mount

The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 tech specs

First off, 17-28mm is indeed a niche and unique focal length. No other manufacturer makes a lens with this range. The closest comparison is the 16-35mm f/2.8, a focal length made by Sony, Canon, and Nikon.

If you’re disappointed about having less reach with the Tamron, consider that if you use this lens with a Sony full-frame, you can always shoot in APS-C mode, which gives you more range. This is one of the most useful features on my Sony a7R III.

Why Tamron went for this slightly more limited focal length is puzzling, but it likely explains how they kept the lens to such a small size. In the comparison photo below, you’ll see that the 17-28mm is essentially the same size as the original Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 and the Sony 24-70mm f/4. Weight-wise, the Tamron is the lightest, coming in at 420 g (0.93 lbs). That is quite a bit lighter than Sony’s own 16-35mm f/2.8, which weighs a whopping 680 g (1.5 lbs).

Since we’re on the subject of comparisons, let’s talk price. Sony charges $2,200 USD for their 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. While their lens offers more solid construction and a more flexible focal range, this is still a chunk of change. On the other hand, the Tamron 17-28mm is priced at $899 USD, which is quite reasonable for an f/2.8 lens.

Tamron 17-28mm for Sony E-Mount

Size comparison of the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 (left), the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 (center), and the Sony 24-70mm f/4 (right).

Image stabilization

The Tamron 17-28mm lens does not have optical image stabilization (OIS). However, it’s so lightweight that it’s still pretty easy to shoot stable photos and videos handheld. In fact, its size goes well with the Sony a7R III and the Sony a7 III.


The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is equipped with a smooth and quiet autofocus (AF) system. It pairs well with modern Sony mirrorless cameras, and all AF modes are available, including Eye AF. In practice, I found Eye AF to be a bit sluggish and hit or miss. But then again, I don’t consider 17-28mm to be my ideal focal range for portraits anyway, and I would rather reach for a midrange zoom or a standard 50mm lens.

Best uses for the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8

A wide-angle lens like the 17-28mm is ideal for capturing landscapes, interiors, and real estate. Those are the types of photography I focused on while testing this lens. The portraiture I did was minimal, and it was mainly for the purpose of shooting at an aperture other than f/11 to see how the bokeh performed (it did very well).

doors off helicopter view of city

A handheld shot taken from a doors-off helicopter ride.

Image quality

For my first test shooting with the 17-28mm, I took it on a doors-off helicopter ride. If you’ve ever been on one of these, you know how incredibly windy it can be in the main cabin and how difficult it is to get any shots in focus. This is very much a “spray and pray” kind of photography scenario. To my surprise, the 17-28mm did incredibly well.

From the moment I started shooting with the Tamron 17-28mm, I almost immediately forgot it was a third-party lens. Autofocus was snappy (I wasn’t using Eye AF), there was zero lag or miscommunication between the lens and the camera, and the image quality was stunning. Photos were tack sharp, there was no distortion, and the colors even seemed to pop a little more than usual.

view of shopping people

Physical construction

Since this lens is so compact and lightweight, don’t expect all-metal or polycarbonate materials like Sony uses in their GM lenses. However, the build quality of the Tamron 17-28mm still feels very solid in the hands, and I think it would hold up well over time.

Tamron says the 17-28mm is equipped with “moisture-resistant construction” and a hydrophobic fluorine coating to repel dirt and fingerprints. Not much else is said about weather sealing, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable subjecting this lens to extreme weather conditions.

long staircase and escalator

6-year Tamron warranty

One of the biggest benefits of buying a Tamron lens is their generous 6-year warranty. Effective for six years from the date of purchase (in the USA only), Tamron lenses are “warranted against defective materials or workmanship.” Meanwhile, Sony provides 1 year of warranty on their lenses.

A match made in photographer heaven

Based purely on specs, this lens pairs beautifully with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. In fact, Tamron claims the combined weight of both of those lenses equates to less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs), which is incredibly light for two f/2.8 lenses. Both lenses also take the same filter size of 67mm, making it easy to swap polarizers and ND filters. This feature alone makes it very compelling to invest in both lenses.

photo of a barbershop


During the reigning days of DSLRs, many photographers scoffed at third-party lenses, saying that “you get what you pay for.” Perhaps back then they had a point.

But today, third-party lenses have really stepped up their game, and the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is one of the best examples of superior third-party glass. If you’re in the market for a wide-angle lens for your Sony body, you can’t go wrong with this lens.

For more information on the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 lens for Sony, check out this video I filmed, along with some additional sample photos below:

interior shopping center

person close-up

leaf hanging down


Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony

The post Thoughts and a Field Test: The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

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.

12 Tips to Help You Capture Stunning Landscape Photos

Whether you are an experienced photographer or just getting started, the amazing landscape photographs you see have all got a few things in common. The reality of landscape photography is that not only are you reliant on your own ability and skill of seeing and composing an image, but also on Mother Nature. But regardless of whatever weather you encounter, there are countless opportunities to be able to capture spectacular landscape photographs.

Here are 12 tips that you can follow if you want to capture stunning landscape photos.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-7

1. Location, Location, Location

Landscape photography is as much about planning, as it is about the actual process of photography. You should always have a clear idea of where you are planning to go, and at what time of the day you will be able to capture the best photograph. Learn how to read maps, and understand how you can utilize them to find the perfect location. By planning your exact location, you will be able to maximize your time there, and ensure that not only you get to your location safely and in plenty of time, but also find your way back, which is usually after sunset.

2. Be Patient

It’s amazing the number of times that the elements conspire to ruin a perfectly composed photograph. Landscape photography requires patience, just in case that white cloudy sky disperses just long enough to allow the sun to break through for you to take your shot. The key is to always allow yourself enough time at a location, so that you are able to wait if you need to. Forward planning can also help you hugely, so make sure to check weather forecasts before leaving, maximizing your opportunity for the weather you require.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-4

3. Don’t be Lazy

One of the reasons we are often stunned by impressive landscape photos is because it is a view taken in a way that we have never seen before. A photo taken from the top of a mountain which requires a huge amount of time and effort to get to, is a view that most people won’t get to see for themselves. So don’t rely on easily accessible viewpoints, that everyone else can just pull up to and see. Instead, look for those unique spots (providing they are safe to get to) that offer amazing scenes, even if they require determination to get there.

4. Use the Best Light

Light is one of the most important factors in any photograph, but even more so in landscape photography. It really doesn’t matter how great the location, is or how you compose your photo – if the light doesn’t do the scene justice, then the image will fail. The best light for landscape photography is early in the morning or late afternoon, with the midday sun offering the harshest light.

But, part of the challenge of landscape photography is about being able to adapt and cope with different lighting conditions, for example, great landscape photos can be captured even on stormy or cloudy days. The key is to use the best light as much as possible, and be able to influence the look and feel of your photos to it.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-3

5. Carry a Tripod

Simply put, if you want to capture the best photographs, at the best time of the day, at the highest quality possible, then a tripod is an essential piece of equipment. Photography in low light conditions (e.g. early morning or early evening) without a tripod would require an increase in ISO to be able to avoid camera shake, which in turn means more noise in your images. If you want to capture a scene using a slow shutter speed or long exposure (for example, to capture the movement of clouds or water) then without a tripod you simply won’t be able to hold the camera steady enough, to avoid blurred images from camera shake.

6. Maximize the Depth of Field

Choosing your depth of field is an important part of capturing stunning landscapes. Usually landscape photos require the vast majority of the photo to be sharp (the foreground and background) so you need a deeper depth of field than if you are taking a portrait of someone. But a shallower depth of field can also be a powerful creative tool if used correctly, as it can isolate the subject by keeping it sharp, while the rest of the image is blurred. As a starting point, if you are looking to keep the majority of the photo sharp, set your camera to Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode, so you can take control of the aperture. Start at around f/8 and work up (f/11 or higher) until you get the desired effect.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-4

7. Think About the Composition

As much as possible you should always aim to get your composition right when taking the photo, rather than relying on post-production. If the scene doesn’t look right when you look at it through your viewfinder, then it won’t look good in the final output. There are several techniques that you can use to help your composition (such as the rule of thirds), but ultimately you need to train yourself to be able to see a scene, and analyze it in your mind. With practice this will become second nature, but the important thing is to take your time.

8. Use Neutral Density and Polarizing Filters

Neutral Density filters and polarizers are an essential piece of kit for any landscape photographer. Often you will need to manipulate the available light, or even try to enhance the natural elements. For example if you are taking photos which include water, you may find you get unwanted reflections from the sun, which is where a polarizing filter can help by minimizing the reflections and also enhancing the colours (greens and blues). But remember, polarizing filters often have little or no effect on a scene if you’re directly facing the sun, or it’s behind you. For best results position yourself between 45° and 90° to the sun.

One of the other big challenges of landscape photography is getting a balanced exposure between the foreground, which is usually darker, and a bright sky. Graduated ND filters help to compensate for this by darkening the sky, while keeping the foreground brighter. This can be replicated in post-production, but it is always best to try and capture the photo as well as possible in-camera.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-2

9. Use the Histogram

Histograms are an essential tool in photography which you should aim to learn how to read, and utilize the findings to improve your photos. A histogram is a simple graph that shows the different tonal distribution in your image. The left side of the graph is for dark tones and the right side of the graph represents bright tones.

For instance, if you find that the majority of the graph is shifted to one side, this is an indication that your photo is too light or dark (overexposed or underexposed). This isn’t always a bad thing, and some images work perfectly well either way. However, if you find that your graph extends beyond the left or right edge, this shows that you have parts of the photo with lost detail (pure black areas if the histogram extends beyond the left edge and pure white if it extends beyond the right edge). This is something you should avoid, so by seeing the evidence in the histogram, you are able to correct it by either recomposing the image or compensating for the exposure.

10. Never Settle for a Good Photo

This is true of any photograph that you are taking. It doesn’t matter if it is a landscape or a portrait, if you can do it better, then you should. But often because of the time and effort that landscape photography requires, people settle for a good photo, rather than waiting or coming back to take a better one. You should always aim to photograph anything at the best possible time, in the best possible way, even if that means waiting or coming back later.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-1

11. Shoot in RAW format

Simply put, if your camera is capable of capturing photos in RAW format, than I recommend that you always capture RAW files. They contain much more detail and information, and give far greater flexibility in post-production without losing quality. Remember, you can always save RAW files in whatever other format you require, but you will not be able to save JPEGs as RAW files, so ultimately you are limited to the quality at which the JPEG was shot.

12. Experiment

For all the techniques and rules that exist to help aid composition and the process of taking the photo, there is always room to experiment. Digital photography means that taking a photo isn’t wasting a negative (and costing money), so there is ample opportunity to break the rules and your own style sometimes. Even if the majority of the time it doesn’t work and the image doesn’t look great, every now and again you might uncover a gem.

KD-2016-DPS-Landscape Tips-5

Landscape photography is one of the most common genres that amateur and professional photographers get into. With practice, hard work, and patience you can capture stunning landscape photos that will look great in your portfolio.

So come on, show us your great landscape shots and don’t forget to share your tips and experiences below.

The post 12 Tips to Help You Capture Stunning Landscape Photos by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Tips for More Dramatic Beach Photos

For some of us, the beach is a way of life. Whether it’s barefoot strolls at sunset, surfing in the big waves, or simply relaxing in the sun, the beach can be a magical place that is food for the soul.

Capturing it in a photograph though, can be a completely different story!

Suddenly you notice things that weren’t so apparent before you took your camera out: super bright harsh light, and photos that look boring and that don’t convey the feelings you experienced when you were at the beach.

Bandon Beach, Oregon by Anne McKinnell

These tips will help you make the most of your time photographing at the beach, and ensure you come home with photos that are just as dramatic and memorable as your fun day in the sun.

1. Photograph during the Golden Hour

The middle of the afternoon, when the sun is high in the sky and the light is bright, is a great time for swimming and sunbathing, but not such a great time for photography. Just like other types of landscape photography, beach photography is all about the quality of the light.

At the edges of day, when the sun is low in the sky, you’ll find more gentle golden light that will make your photos glow. Sometimes you can photograph during the day too, but only when there are big puffy clouds in the sky that diffuse the light and create drama. If you have a big bright blue sky, it’s better to enjoy the afternoon swimming and visiting with friends, and save the photography for later.

Ormond Beach, Florida by Anne McKinnell

2. Use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Even at the edges of the day, the sky is usually quite a bit brighter than the sand or rocks in the foreground of frame, which makes it difficult for your camera to get a good exposure, without blowing out the highlights and creating dark shadows.

Try to even out the exposure by using a graduated neutral density filter which is kind of like sunglasses for your camera. It’s a piece of plastic or glass that is dark on the top, and light on the bottom, and you use it to darken the just the sky portion of your image.

3. Use foreground elements to create an interesting composition

The beach always looks inviting when we’re just about to step onto the soft sand with our bare feet. But when you photograph it just as you see it, it can end up looking boring.

Try using a foreground element in your composition to add interest to the scene. Is there something unique about your particular beach? Perhaps it has colourful rocks, big boulders, driftwood, or seashells. Try incorporating the unique element into the foreground of your image, to make your photograph more interesting.

Rebecca Spit, British Columbia by Anne McKinnell

You can also use a low angle and get really close to your unique element to emphasize it. If you have big colourful rocks, getting down low, and angling your camera upwards, will make them seem even larger. Whereas if you photograph them from eye level they may not look nearly as dramatic as you remember them being.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland by Anne McKinnell

Look around and see what you can use for leading lines that will guide the eye out to the sunset, or towards an important feature in the frame, like sea stacks, or a house in the distance.

Ross Bay, British Columbia by Anne McKinnell

4. Sunbursts and silhouettes

Try some new techniques to create dramatic images. If you are looking towards the sun, you can create a sunburst by including the sun in your frame and using a small aperture like f/22. It also helps if you can partially hide the sun behind an object.

If you have an interesting foreground element with a strong shape, use it to create a silhouette. To do this, use spot metering and expose for the sky, allowing your foreground element to go completely black.

You can even do the silhouette and sunburst together for even more drama!

Canon Beach, Oregon by Anne McKinnell

Next time you go to the beach remember these tips to help you come home with photos that are just as much fun as you had playing in the surf.

Do you have any other beach photography tips, or some favorite beach photos? Please share in the comments below.

The post 4 Tips for More Dramatic Beach Photos by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Take Care of Your Camera in Cold Weather

Mid-day, mid-winter, Alaska light. It just doesn't get any better.

Where I live, it gets cold. Not your “Brrr, I need to put on a sweater” kind of cold, but genuine, bone-chilling, spit-freezes-before-it hits-the-ground, kind of cold. Here in Fairbanks, Alaska, winter temperatures regularly drop far into the negatives, and yearly we suffer through snaps that send the mercury plummeting to -40F (-40C).

You’d think that in such conditions I wouldn’t want to step outside, let alone take photos, but you’d be wrong. Winter light, what few hours there is of it, is absolutely beautiful. That sweet, crisp glow can pull me from the deepest funk, and lure me out with a camera in hand. During many long winter nights, the aurora borealis dances overhead, and that too can draw me from my cozy cabin, into the snowy forest to make images. On the days I made the two images below, it was seriously cold, but that light, yep, that light will get me outside.

Low winter sun, and frosted birches near Fairbanks, Alaska. AK-FAI-Winter-sun-112172-17

To venture out in those temperatures, you’ve got to be prepared. You need the right clothes to stay warm, and you’ve got to make sure your camera equipment is ready too.

Forget about fashion

To shot the aurora during mid-winter in Alaska you need to dress warm!

To shot the aurora during mid-winter in Alaska, you need to dress warm!

You’ve got to dress right. It doesn’t matter what the light is doing, if you get frost-bite on your fingers, and can’t operate the camera. When dressed in my winter-photo clothing, I feel a bit like an onion, wrapped in layer upon layer. From inside to outside my system goes like this: long underwear, fleece or wool sweater and pants, down or synthetic vest, 800 fill down jacket with hood, windproof Thinsulate pants, two pairs of thick wool socks topped by expedition quality winter boots, a musher’s style hat complete with ear flaps, a balaclava or face mask, and thin nimble gloves with a pair of expedition overmitts dangling from wrist straps. Last, I’ll often throw a couple of chemical hand-warmers into my jacket pockets. When temperatures drop to -40F, it’s best not to mess around.

Two of my clients on an aurora photography tour, dressed for the weather.

Two of my clients on an aurora photography tour, properly dressed for the weather.

The author's well-worn NEOS overboots.

The author’s well-worn NEOS insulated overboots.

Stay Charged

The fluctuations of electricity mean that a cold battery cannot kick out the same amount of electricity as a warm battery. This means that on a brutally cold day, your camera or flash batteries will last only a small fraction of the time they normally would at room temperature. It’s a problem easily solved by carrying a spare battery or two.

A backup battery will let you swap out the cold, dead one in your camera, but there is a hitch: the spares should not be kept in your camera bag, but in an inside jacket pocket. That way they are warm when they go into the camera. When the dead battery warms back up in your pocket (with the help of the aforementioned chemical hand warmers) it will be ready to use for a while again. I find I can shoot at extremely cold temperatures for the better part of day by cycling two batteries back and forth from my pocket to my camera. Though this will vary a lot, depending on how power-hungry your camera is.


Avoiding Bad Breath

The cold comes with other risks, one in particular, can ruin your day of photography, and that is – watch your breath. I mean it. A mistimed, warm, humid, breath will condense on your lens, resulting in a layer of milky frost on the glass. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on your lenses, no amount of sharpness will make up for that kind of damage. Wiping at it, usually just smudges it more, and defrosting it inside (see below), can take hours. Watch where you breathe, if you turn your camera around to check lens settings, don’t exhale. I also usually wear a neck gaiter or balaclava that I pull up over my mouth and nose. So with your mouth covered, your breath is directed up, where it frosts on your eyelashes instead of your camera.

This is what happens if you accidentally breathe on your lens during a cold weather shoot.

This is what happens if you accidentally breathe on your lens during a cold weather shoot.

Lens Caps Exist for a Reason

Breath is the usual culprit of fogged lenses, but when shooting at night, there is always the chance that natural frost will form. To avoid this, use your lens cap when you aren’t shooting. If you are walking from one location to another, taking a break, or searching for a new composition, put the cap back on your lens. When I’m out shooting the aurora at night, my cap is on my lens, even if I’m just walking a short distance to a new shooting location.


Back Indoors

Last, and perhaps most importantly, is the return indoors. You know how on a hot day, your cold beer glass gathers condensation? Ever watched how those drips can form and run down the bottle, pooling in a messy ring on the hard-wood table? Imagine that happening to your camera gear. It can, and it will. When you step back indoors to take a break, warm up, or finish up for the day, place your camera and lenses into an airtight bag.

A properly bagged and sealed camera, ready to be taken back indoors after a cold outdoor shoot.

A properly bagged and sealed camera, ready to be taken back indoors after a cold outdoor shoot.

Ziplocks are good, but I favor light-weight roll-top dry bags like those used by boaters to keep their gear dry. These are tough, reusable, and work like a charm. Once sealed up tight in a ziplock or dry bag, condensation can’t form on your gear. Just let your camera warm up to room temperature before you pull it out.


The cold scares a lot of photographers, and make no mistake, a frigid, mid-winter Alaskan night is nothing to mess around with. But with a few precautions – warm clothes, spare batteries, avoiding frost, and protecting against condensation – you can take advantage of the stellar beauty of crisp, clear, days and nights like this one.

The post How to Take Care of Your Camera in Cold Weather by David Shaw appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Use Foreground to Create Depth in Your Images

One of the biggest hurdles in photography is the fact that our majestic three-dimensional scene is rendered into a mere two-dimensional image, and the physical depth that we experience in real life is lost. To resurrect this spacious feeling, we can create the illusion of depth where there is none, by using strong elements in the foreground.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, by Anne McKinnell

When we make a photograph, our natural urge is to get a clear shot of the main subject, without other objects getting between it and the lens. That’s exactly what makes foreground elements so powerful though – they’re unexpected, and sometimes even counter-intuitive. Like any other compositional element, they create shapes, lines, and patterns that lead the viewer’s eye through the image and can be used to enhance its visual impact.

What is the foreground?

When you are working with a grand vista landscape scene, you can often divide it into three sections: the foreground, mid-ground, and background. For example, the scene below contains some colorful shrubs in the foreground, a pond in the mid-ground, and trees in the background.

Paradise Meadows by Anne McKinnell

The foreground, mid-ground, and background areas are not at fixed distances, but are understood relative to each other. The foreground consists of anything that lies between you and your subject, which is typically considered to be in the mid-ground (but not always). The background is made up of everything behind the subject.

You can think of a photograph like a stage: you have the upstage – that’s the background. It gives setting and context to what happens below it. Center stage is the mid-ground, where the bulk of the action takes place. But downstage – the foreground – is the closest to the audience, and therefore the most intimate part. It is capable of whispering to them and luring them into the action. It is the most easily seen and heard, and therefore understood, and can reveal the finer details of the story.

Trona Pinnacles, California, by Anne McKinnell

Not all photographs have three sections though, some just have a foreground and a background, and some have no depth at all.

How is the foreground used?

The foreground should contain some key point of interest, such as a human figure, a tree, a boat, some flowers, rocks, or anything else that is comparatively near to you. Composing in this way evokes depth, and gives your image the illusion of that missing third dimension.

Green Point, Newfoundland, by Anne McKinnell

When you’re composing a photo and you feel that it’s looking a little too flat, placing something in the foreground can instantly add a sense of depth. Exactly how this is done depends entirely on your subject, and on your own creative decisions. This can mean physically adding something to your scene, if you are able to. But most of the time, you’ll be looking for objects in the surrounding area that would make an interesting foreground, and changing your perspective – either by moving your camera higher, lower, or to one side – to incorporate those elements inside of the frame.

For example, imagine a group of oak trees in a field, all standing in a row. If you photograph them head-on, they’ll all look more or less identical – their size, distance, and focus will be the same, and the composition will likely be a flat, static one. However, if you change your perspective and shoot them from one side, everything changes. One becomes closer, and therefore larger, while the others shrink in comparison. When a viewer sees this image, their eyes will immediately fall on the tree in the foreground first, and the implied line created by the row will pull their gaze inwards towards the other trees. Suddenly, the composition has depth!

Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina, by Anne McKinnelll

Likewise, you could change your perspective by lowering your camera angle to incorporate rocks, flowers, or anything else that is on the ground, into your image. This use of foreground will provide a point for the viewer’s eye to enter the image, and any lines created in the foreground will direct their eye into the image.

Like any other compositional element, the foreground is only helpful if it adds to the impact of the image. If it doesn’t help tell the story, or worse yet, if it distracts the eye, then it isn’t working as a benefit to your image. Your foreground should be an important part of the scene, and not something distracting. Look for things that point towards the focal point in some way.

Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland, by Anne McKinnell

Foreground elements can even be made of simple shapes and lines. In some cases, your foreground elements may be nothing but shapes and lines, like the paint on a stretch of road, the waves on the ocean’s shore, or the shadows cast across a wind-swept desert. Anything that forms a line towards your subject is especially effective. These are known as leading lines.

Similarly, a wall that stretches into the picture from the foreground will carry the eye along with it. The corners of your frame are especially strong points, and anything that leads inwards from them will have a particular impact. Textures are another compositional tool that can make for an interesting foreground.

Salton Sea, California, by Anne McKinnell

Arranging your composition so that there are interesting elements in front of your main subject is a very effective compositional tool that can evoke depth, by giving your image the illusion of the missing third dimension.

This week on dPS we’re featuring a series of articles about composition. Many different elements and ways to compose images for more impact. Check out the ones we’ve done so far:

The post How to Use Foreground to Create Depth in Your Images by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Responsibilities of Landscape Photographers

It is hardly questionable that landscape photography is both rewarding and fun. The whole process from planning and researching an outing, to making your way to a location during ideal conditions and, finally, producing a completed image of an exquisite vista can be so fulfilling it’s easy to see why it is such a popular genre.


Unfortunately, there are costs to this popularity. Even though most landscape photographers do identify as environmentally-minded, the sheer number of visitors to some locations can cause adverse effects despite the best of intentions.

There are a few things you can look out for and practices you can take up to help ensure that you nullify – or at least minimise – your environmental impact on your next photography trip.

Watch your step

Chances are you have heard the often-quoted, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints”. It’s a good starting point that simply means do not intentionally damage your surroundings and do not leave your litter. Sadly, it doesn’t go far enough.

Moss in Iceland takes decades to grow but moments to permanently destroy.

Moss in Iceland takes decades to grow, but moments to permanently destroy.

Many ecosystems are extremely fragile and footsteps alone can cause catastrophic damage. Take Iceland’s mossy lava fields: that moss can take many decades to grow, but it can only handle being stepped on two or three times before it’s destroyed permanently.

There are countless other examples of fragility in the world, such as California’s Mono Lake and its Tufa formations. It is easy, however, to prevent this damage. Just adding a little bit of extra location research before you head out can reveal any extra care you should take to prevent any damage.

If you’re traveling abroad and find that obtaining the relevant information is difficult, don’t be afraid to ask local people or officials. I once listened to an impassioned Icelandic warden rant about a tourist who drove a rented 4×4 and devastated about a quarter mile of moss just to stand at the edge of a lake for five minutes. Just ask around, they will probably be grateful for your concern and may even be able to turn you on to lesser-known opportunities.

Follow local regulations

In areas that you're required to stay on marked trails, the rule is usually to keep you safe.

In areas you’re required to stay on marked trails, the rule is usually there to keep you safe.

People failing to keep to required areas on marked hiking trails is one of the most commonly ignored regulations. Although taking a few steps off a trail can seem harmless enough, often those rules are put into place for safety reasons. Things like unstable terrain, sheer drop-offs and even wildlife can all cause danger to visitors.

While it can be rationalised that using common sense should negate most danger, you should consider that most of these regulations will be the product of insurance policies. If, for the sake of photos, these regulations are seen to be constantly ignored then it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine future access to these areas being limited or restricted to photographers.

Large rock formations, boulders and cliffs all pose a danger to hikers.

Large rock formations, boulders and cliffs all pose a danger to hikers.

Other concerns when it comes to local regulations involve the law as it relates to photography. While in most places you are well within your right to photograph whatever you see, that is not the case everywhere. Belgium and France are both examples of countries where Freedom of Panorama is limited in some way. For example, when the Eiffel Tower is lit up at night it is considered a copyrighted scene and images of it cannot be published without explicit consent.

Now, a quick search on Flickr reveals a huge number of images of the Eiffel Tower at night and further research reveals that the regulation is primarily concerned with commercial usages. As such, this aspect may not seem extreme and probably will not cause any aggravation while you’re travelling, but you should still pre-empt any possible clashes with local authorities by thoroughly researching relevant laws in the country that you’ll be photographing in.

Consideration of others

Sheep worrying causes a significant loss of livestock annually and it can cause farmers to revoke access to their land.

Sheep worrying causes a significant loss of livestock annually and it can cause farmers to revoke access to their land.

Beyond legal and environmental implications, it is important to consider other people who are around you. Courtesy and tact go a long way towards this and will often prevent any conflict before there is even a need for resolution. Simple acts like working as quickly as possible to move out of a prime viewing spot in a crowded space and not blocking the passage of others are simple ways to help ensure that you’re not preventing someone else from enjoying a location. If in doubt, try to ask yourself if there’s any way you are being an imposition on others. If so, consider changing your behavior accordingly.

An incident I witnessed at the popular Svartifoss waterfall in Iceland should drive this point home. The waterfall is at the end of a moderately steep half-kilometre trail. As it’s so short a distance, and the waterfall is so spectacular, it gets very crowded. The closest you can get to the waterfall is a rocky outcrop big enough to fit three or four people. To the left, it’s possible to stand in the stream.

While a large crowd awaited their turn for the best views, a woman and her young daughter had commandeered a position in the stream. The girl was dressed in a leotard and was being directed by her mother to perform a variety of dance poses as the latter took photos on her phone. In the forty-five minutes they were doing this, it was obvious that the girl was extremely uncomfortable among the massive group of tourists, yet her mother’s only agitation was her daughter’s apprehension. With the tension between the pair and the presence of a young girl in a leotard dominating the only view of the waterfall, there was a palpable discomfort among the dozens of tourists.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with what they were trying to achieve, but the whole situation could have been vastly different with a bit of forward planning. Had they known what they were doing beforehand, and then gotten it done in a few altercation-free minutes, they could have achieved their results and the experience wouldn’t have been tainted for everyone else present.


Landscape photography is a great pursuit. The rewards to the photographer and their audiences are many, but certain behaviors can be detrimental for both the landscape and the people in it. For the most part, common sense and thorough research will steer you in the right direction.

The post Responsibilities of Landscape Photographers by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Reasons To Should Shoot Your Landscape Images in RAW

Detail recovered from a RAW file, before and after

Detail recovered from a RAW file, before and after.

There is often a debate among photographers about shooting in RAW. Try it out – next time you are with a group of photographers, ask them who shoots in RAW. Better still, ask them why they don’t shoot in RAW. The conversation will become pretty interesting. When I first started photography, I was told that shooting in RAW was a waste of time and that I won’t need all that “information”. I was told it was better to shoot on JPEG as it saves space. Yes, RAW files are bigger, especially on a high-resolution camera, but is it true that we don’t need all that “information”? Over the past few years, I have done a fair amount of research into the RAW vs JPEG debate and I now shoot completely in RAW. Yes, my image files are MUCH bigger; yes, I need more space to store my images; yes, it does impact my image editing workflow. Is it worth it? A categorical yes. Here are five reasons why you should shoot your landscape images in RAW.

1. Details

RAW files are big because they don’t discard any image information that is captured in the scene. When you shoot on JPEG, the algorithm for JPEG determines which information is discarded and which is kept without changing the way the image looks. That is great for saving space on your memory card, but not so good if you intend to edit your images in Photoshop.

The reality is that your camera can capture a significant amount of data if you shoot in RAW, which in turn gives you much more flexibility in Photoshop later. On average, a normal JPEG file will be between four and six megs per image. The same image shot on the same camera in 14-bit lossless RAW format will be 25 – 30mb, five times bigger. The reason is that there is much more information in a RAW file. That information is critical in post-production. You can get so much detail out of a RAW image, such as pulling back blown-out highlights and bringing back detail in the shadows that would be impossible to recover in JPEG format. This doesn’t mean you should be sloppy and not pay attention to your exposure. What it does mean is that in tricky lighting conditions, you will be able to get a shot that’s usable.

Recovered details in a street scene, overall much more detail can be seen.

Recovered details in a street scene, overall much more detail can be seen.

2. Color

We all shoot on color nowadays. If you don’t, you should, even if you are going to convert to black and white – but that’s for another post. Shooting in RAW means that you are saving as much color information as possible from the scene. This is really important in landscape photography, portrait photography, food photography and even street photography. The color in your scene can make the difference between a good image and a great image. By shooting in RAW, you will have all the color information possible. The important part of that is the subtle color. For example, the gradation in the sky will look better than it would on JPEG, even if you think that JPEG will be fine from a color perspective.  If you are shooting a landscape scene, you want to get as much color information as you can. RAW would be the format to do this. In Photoshop, the vibrance function will saturate the colors in your scene which are undersaturated and this can give your RAW file that subtle boost to make the image pop.

Much more colour can be rendered from a RAW file

Much more color can be rendered from a RAW file.

3. Exposure

The exposure in your scene should always be as good as you can get it in camera. In the past, most photographers would underexpose a little to make sure they didn’t blow out the highlights. In recent years, most photographers shooting in RAW have been exposing to the right (ETTR). The new generation of cameras have a really good dynamic range and are able to render details in the shadows and the highlights in one shot. This was not possible a few years ago. ETTR means that when you look at your photograph’s histogram, try and push it over to the right a little – in other words, overexpose it a little. The reason is because RAW can handle highlights in a scene really well and if your shadows are a little brighter there won’t be as much noise in the shadows. This is really a good technique to use in landscape photography and architectural photography. Your images will be cleaner and have very little noise in them. Once you adjust the image in Photoshop, you will have a well-exposed image across the dynamic range.

Blown out highlights in this scene were brought down, but the overall exposure was brightened.

Blown out highlights in this scene were brought down, but the overall exposure was brightened.

4. Flexibility

The best part about RAW files are that they give you flexibility. If you shoot landscape images or street photography, you have a lot of information to work with and you can use that information to create the best possible image. Also, Photoshop is always improving their tools and functions. I have gone back and reworked older images: the RAW file had all the information and the new functions brought out the best of that scene. This has happened quite a few times, so don’t delete “throwaway” images so quickly. For this reason, I am also not a fan of chimping too much. Wait until you download the images to see what is worth keeping. Use RAW to give you as much flexibility as you can, even on older images.

Original RAW file, the image was really dark from the use of an ND filter

Original RAW file, the image was really dark from the use of an ND filter.


The result of the above image after being edited in Adobe RAW converter

The result of the above image after being edited in Adobe RAW converter.

5. Quality

Editing your RAW image is a two-step process. The first step is converting it in a RAW converter. (Lightroom converts RAW images, as does Photoshop and many other image editing products.) Once you have made the corrections and subtle adjustments in the RAW converter, then you can open the converted image in Lightroom or Photoshop. You will then be editing on the best quality image possible. Image quality is almost the “holy grail” of photography. If you ask any photographer what the most important thing is for any image, it will most likely boil down to image quality. To be clear, when I say image quality I include sharpness, noise, dynamic range, color, tone, chromatic aberration and so on. Anything that adds to the overall look and feel of the image. Your image quality will be fantastic if you work carefully in your RAW converter and edit well in Photoshop. You can get good image quality in JPEG too, but you will be able to squeeze that much more out of the image if you shot in RAW.


Look at the quality and detail of the scene after being edited in Adobe Camera Raw converter

Look at the quality and detail of the scene after being edited in Adobe Camera Raw converter.

RAW is a great format to use if you plan on editing your images. If you shoot landscapes, fashion, food, architecture and even weddings you should be considering shooting in RAW. One caveat on using RAW for weddings – you don’t have to shoot the whole wedding in RAW, but shoot the important images or images where the light is tricky in RAW. That way you can be confident you have the shot and information you will need for editing later.

RAW requires a different workflow for your image processing. If you don’t want to spend too much time editing, then maybe RAW will not work for you. The reality is RAW files are bigger, but that’s because they capture so much more information. If you are skeptical, give it a try. Shoot some scenes in RAW and try the Adobe RAW converter. Lightroom also works with RAW files. You might find that you have more details and information in your image than you thought.

The post 5 Reasons To Should Shoot Your Landscape Images in RAW by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Simple Tips for Photographing Waterfalls


The smoothness of the water against the hard, sharp edges of the rocks or greenery that surrounds them can create very pleasing compositions. But, like all types of landscapes, photographing waterfalls can be challenging.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be sure to get some great shots:

Find the Right Season

The best time to photograph waterfalls is after rainfall as it means the water is in full force, and the rain helps saturate the greens in the forest, or the moss on the rocks, which will produce a beautiful luminous green colour. Avoid the drier seasons as you may find that the waterfall is no more than a trickle. Waterfalls are best photographed on overcast or cloudy days, as the even light can compensate for the harsh contrasts between the water and the rocks or vegetation.

Arrive Early

Unless the waterfall you are photographing requires a lot of effort to get to, it will likely attract crowds. One of the best ways to avoid this is to arrive very early in the day when you usually have the place to yourself. But if you do find that it’s busy, just wait for a gap in the flow of traffic or get close and crop out the people in the picture. Remember that you could also try to incorporate people into your image, which can give the same waterfall a completely different context.


This waterfall was packed with tourists the day before when I first visited. So I went back the next day at 6am and had the place to myself for two hours.

Think About Your Shutter Speed

There is no right or wrong way to photograph moving water. Some people prefer to photograph the water in a way that captures the details, and some prefer to capture a smooth silk-like movement. Your shutter speed is key in determining how much movement you want in the water; 1/15th of a second should be a good starting point for blurring the water (go slower if you want more blur) and 1/250th or higher should start to freeze the water. If you are going to be photographing using slow shutter speeds remember to use a tripod to ensure you capture sharp images. A polarizing filter is also handy if you want to minimize unwanted light reflections in the water or rocks.


Experiment with different shutter speeds to get the desired effect for the flow of water.

Don’t Focus on the Waterfall

It might seem like a strange thing to say, after all the waterfall is the hero of the shot. But if you want to make the waterfall more interesting sometimes it better to make it secondary in the composition. By adding something in the foreground it will capture the viewer’s interest, then you can lead their eyes to the waterfall. This could be anything like rocks, a fallen tree, leaves, or even potholes. Not only will it make your photo more interesting but it can also help create a sense of movement in the water. So don’t settle for the first angle that you get, instead look around to see if there is anything interesting, which can help the composition. The key is to take your time rather than rushing to the next place.


By including more of the foreground the waterfall becomes secondary in the image but the viewer’s eyes are still led to it from the foreground.

Look for People

One of the best ways to make your photos look original and also give them context is to include people. Not only can including people provide a sense of scale, but it can also help your photo become more interesting, and tell a story. So don’t be afraid to add people into the image. Just make sure that you are either using a fast enough shutter speed to shoot handheld or you are using a tripod.


To avoid the crowds arrive early. Or you can always try to incorporate people into your image.

Waterfalls make for fantastic photos, but as with all landscape photography you need to try and think beyond the obvious. Waterfalls are well photographed and to make your images stand out you need to be prepared to dedicate the time and effort needed to capture them at their best.

Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.

The post Simple Tips for Photographing Waterfalls by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

1 2 3 4