Canon Announces the EOS Ra, Its First Mirrorless Astrophotography Camera

The post Canon Announces the EOS Ra, Its First Mirrorless Astrophotography Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Canon eos raCanon has announced its first astrophotography camera since the Canon 60Da, which is also its first-ever mirrorless astrophotography camera:

The Canon EOS Ra.

The EOS Ra isn’t a particularly flashy camera; it’s the Canon EOS R, along with a few special features designed for astrophotographers. But if you’re looking to take photos of the night sky, the Canon EOS Ra may be exactly what you need.

Canon eos ra

What makes this camera special?

First, Canon has added a special IR filter in front of the sensor, one that promises to increase transmission of the H-alpha wavelength by approximately four times the amount of the standard EOS R. Most cameras include an IR filter that reduces H-alpha wavelength transmission. But the H-alpha wavelength features heavily in celestial phenomena such as diffuse nebulae; the enhanced transmission should make for clearer, sharper images of these astronomical objects.

And second, Canon added enhanced EVF and LCD viewing. You can zoom in to 5x or 30x magnification using either the LCD or the electronic viewfinder, which allows you to focus on celestial objects with increased precision.

Canon Announces the EOS Ra, Its First Mirrorless Astrophotography Camera

Note that the Canon EOS Ra offers all the other features of the EOS R, including a 30.3 MP sensor, the DIGIC 8 processor, continuous shooting at 8 frames per second, and Canon’s amazing Dual Pixel autofocus.

So who should get the Canon EOS Ra? And how does it perform when shooting subjects other than the night sky?

The Canon EOS Ra is designed for astrophotographers, and I recommend you keep it that way. While all the EOS R features are present, the altered IR filter may cause issues when photographing non-celestial subjects. Plus, the EOS Ra has a few hundred dollars added to its price tag, selling for $2499 USD compared to the $1799 USD Canon EOS R. For non-astrophotographers, purchasing the EOS Ra will be throwing away unnecessary dollars.

But for astrophotographers, the Canon EOS Ra is a fantastic option.

The camera is currently available for preorder and should debut in mid-December 2019.

What do you think about the Canon EOS Ra? And for all the astrophotographers out there: Will you be using it for astrophotography?

The post Canon Announces the EOS Ra, Its First Mirrorless Astrophotography Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The post The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.


The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

Do you want a camera that will capture amazing shots in low light?

As camera technology advances, DSLRs get better and better at handling the low light demands of photographers. Ten years ago, you would feel uncomfortable pushing ISOs past triple digits; now, ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are common settings. And low-light autofocus lets you do some much more compared to 2010.

Of course, if you want these low light capabilities, there is one caveat:

You have to have the right camera. Because while some cameras perform admirably in low light conditions, others are still less than impressive.

In this article, I break it all down. I’ll share with you the five best low light DSLRs you can buy.

You’ll come away knowing which DSLR you need to grab – if you want the best low light capabilities out there.

Let’s dive right in.

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

1. Overall winner: the Canon 5D Mark IV


The Canon 5D Mark IV is an all-round great camera. And its low light performance is, well, amazing.

First, the Canon 5D Mark IV features strong low-light autofocus. The camera is rated down to -3 EV, and the autofocus does well when acquiring focus in the dark.

But where the Canon 5D Mark IV really shines is in its high ISO performance. The 5D Mark IV’s sensor easily outperforms the 5D Mark III, the 6D Mark II, and every Canon crop-sensor DSLR ever produced.

Images are great up through ISO 1600, and still usable at ISO 3200, 6400, and even 12800. This makes the Canon 5D Mark IV perfect for those who need to carry on shooting, even in ultra-dark conditions, such as wedding photographers and astrophotographers.

Plus, the Canon 5D Mark IV is just great across the board, packing a 30.4-megapixel sensor, dual card slots, 61 AF points with 41 cross-type points, and 7 frames-per-second continuous shooting.

Note that the Canon 1D X Mark II (Canon’s $5000+ flagship camera) does give better photos than the Canon 5D Mark IV, especially at ISO 6400 and 12800. But the unspeakably high price makes it a non-starter for pretty much every enthusiast and even semi-professional photographer, so I opted to leave both it and its Nikon equivalent, the D5, off the list.

2. Incredible alternative: the Nikon D850


First things first:

The Nikon D850 is one of Nikon’s top DSLRs and an amazing low light shooter in its own right.

In fact, the Nikon D850 edges out the Canon 5D Mark IV when it comes to low-light focusing. The Nikon D850 can lock focus in almost complete darkness, and it’s rated by Nikon down to an AF sensitivity of EV -4. In other words, the D850 is a strong option for event photographers, as well as anyone else looking to shoot moving subjects in low light.

Where the Nikon D850 falls short is in terms of ISO performance – though “falling short” is a bit of a misnomer in this case, because the D850 features amazing high ISO capabilities.

(It’s a credit to the Canon 5D Mark IV’s outstanding low light performance that it comes in ahead of the Nikon.)

The D850 offers beautiful photos up to ISO 1600. Images are still usable at ISO 3200. After this, color casts begin to distort the D850’s photos, though noise performance is still impressive.

If you’re comparing the D850 versus the 5D Mark IV, it’s worth noting the higher resolution of the D850 (45.7 megapixels) with the same frame-per-second rate (7 fps). Add to that 4K video capabilities, and you’ve got yourself a tremendous competitor.

3. Good budget option: the Nikon D750

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The Nikon D750 is a few years old now (it was released in 2014), but that doesn’t stop it from offering up impressive low light performance, five years later.

The biggest benefit the D750 offers in terms of low-light capabilities is its autofocus; while it can’t go down to the -4 EV AF sensitivity featured on the D850, it offers autofocusing at a respectable -3 EV and does extremely well (better than the D810) at acquiring focus in low light.

The D750 packs impressive high-ISO capabilities, as well. You should be able to shoot comfortably up through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, some noise will be present, increasing at ISO 6400, but remaining usable.

Other features include a 6.5 fps continuous shooting speed, a full-frame, 24.3-megapixel sensor, and an adjustable LCD screen. Where the D750 shows its years is in terms of its accessories: there’s no touchscreen, and no 4K video.

But it’s easy to find used D750s on sale for under 1000 dollars. So if you’re looking for a stellar low-light camera on a budget, the D750 may be the way to go.

4. Canon 6D Mark II

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The Canon 6D was considered an exciting full-frame option for enthusiasts. Unfortunately, its successor, the Canon 6D Mark II, debuted to less critical acclaim.

That said, the Canon 6D Mark II does have a few features worth noting, including its low light ISO performance, which is outranked only by the 5D Mark IV among Canon’s semiprofessional and APS-C DSLRs.

On the 6D Mark II, you can push your ISO to 1600 without worrying about intense noise. Even ISO 3200 gives useable, though somewhat noisy, images.

Low light focusing is good, with the 6D Mark II acquiring focus down to an EV of -3, and featuring a strong AF center point (as part of a 45 AF point spread).

All in all, the Canon 6D Mark II is a solid low light option, especially for those not willing to shell out the money for a Canon 5D Mark IV (or its Nikon competitors).

5. Best APS-C low light option: the Nikon D7500 (and the Canon 80D)

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019Full-frame cameras are better low light shooters, hands down. The larger pixel size gives better noise performance, and top brands channel their best features into semi-professional and professional full-frame bodies.

That said, there are some great low-light crop-sensor options out there.

In particular, the Nikon D7500 offers some impressive low-light capabilities at a very reasonable price (and is just an all-around solid option).

First, the ISO range is outstanding: ISO 100 to ISO 51,200, with an extension to the whopping ISO 1,638,400 (not that you should ever use it).

ISO 1600 shows noise, but nothing serious. Images at ISO 3200 are surprisingly good for an APS-C camera, and even ISO 6400 is usable with some noise reduction for smaller print sizes.

On the Canon side of things, the 80D doesn’t quite match the low-light performance of the Nikon D7500 but is still worth a look. Images become noisy around ISO 1600, increasing with ISO 3200 and beyond. I’d also recommend checking out the new Canon 90D; while the noise performance will no doubt be scrutinized over the coming months, initial tests indicate that the 90D is close to equivalent with the 80D at high ISOs.


Here’s the bottom line:

For entry-level shooters looking to grab a strong low-light performer, the Nikon D7500 or the Canon 80D might be the way to go.

The 5 best low light DSLRs you can buy: conclusion

You should now have a good sense of the best low-light DSLRs out there – and the right one for your needs.

If you’re looking to do some serious shooting and you have the cash to spare, the Canon 5D Mark IV or the Nikon D850 is the way to go.

But the Canon 6D Mark II and the Nikon D750 are solid backups.

And for the entry-level photographer, the Nikon D7500 and the Canon 80D both feature good high-ISO performance, even if they are APS-C bodies.

Do you agree with these low light shooters? Are there any other low-light DSLRs you’d recommend? Share with us in the comments!


The post The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Nikon Announces the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, it’s fastest lens ever!

The post Nikon Announces the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, it’s fastest lens ever! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 NoctNikon has just announced its latest Z-mount lens:

The Nikkor Z 58mm S Noct lens, which includes a whopping f/0.95 maximum aperture. The lens is slated to hit the shelves on October 31st, and it will debut with considerable hype, having snagged the designation as the fastest Nikkor lens ever made.

For those of us who have been waiting for Nikon to make good on its claims that the Z-mount’s 55mm diameter allows for the production of better optics, this new lens should give us a hint of what’s to come. But while the f/0.95 maximum aperture is eye-catching, is it actually useful? And will photographers actually be interested in this lens?

Let’s take a closer look.

While lenses with ultra-wide apertures are rarely small, the Nikkor 58mm f/0.95 sits on the other extreme, with a weight of nearly 4.5 lbs (2 kg). This comes from its aperture, the 17 lens elements, and a magnesium alloy construction. Of course, there are real benefits to all these features, such as higher optical quality and increased ruggedness. But is it worth the cost? For many, a huge benefit of mirrorless setups is the decreased size and weight. Yet this lens won’t be at all convenient to carry around. Plus, all that glass takes up a lot of space, which is why it’s packed into a 6-inch (15.3 cm) body.

Note also that an f/0.95 aperture will provide a very small plane of focus. And given that this lens only focuses manually to begin with, you may struggle somewhat to lock onto your subjects with speed.

The lens is primarily designed for astrophotographers and other night shooters (hence the ‘Noct’ designation). And for astrophotographers, the shallow depth of field won’t be a problem, as they rarely need to think about depth of field anyway. But ambitious portrait photographers may find themselves frustrated by the combination of a shallow plane of focus at f/0.95 and a manual focus lens, and anyone who tries to lock on subjects other than the night sky may come away from shoots without much luck.

Now, don’t get me wrong:

The Nikon 58mm f/0.95 is most likely an incredible lens, optically speaking. Nikon is promising amazing sharpness, and I expect this will be borne out in tests. I’m also impressed by the wide aperture, which will allow for unprecedented shooting in low light and at night. Astrophotographers, in particular, will like this lens, regardless of its size.

But at the same time, it’s hard not to wonder whether many other photographers will be interested. Especially because Nikon’s MSRP for this new lens is an incredible $7999.95 USD.

So now I’d like to ask you:

What do you think? Would you be interested in this lens? Will anyone buy it? Is there anything you would’ve preferred Nikon scrap or modify?

Let me know in the comments!

The post Nikon Announces the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, it’s fastest lens ever! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

tfttf728 – RISK



A great tip by Dave on how to save tons of time when shooting at night. A few thoughts on Tripods by Chris based on Brian’s question. An interview with Broui Wang, the founder of Phil has a question of getting his first roll of film developed and wants some tips on shooting candid shots of a group of people.

Also: anyone in for a 2018 Kamtchatka photo tour? Drop a comment below.


Upcoming events:
» Jun 2016: Lofoten, Norway
» Sep 2016: Donegal
» Feb 2017: Lake Baikal, Siberia
» May 2017: Svalbard/Spitzbergen
» Nov 2017: Bhutan
» all events

The post tfttf728 – RISK appeared first on PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM THE TOP FLOOR.

tfttf633 – Nightscapes vs Deep Skies

In this last episode of the year, Chris will touch on Deep Sky Photography vs. Nightscapes (and why he might have used that term slightly wrong). There are a few questions about zones (is it really the holy grail of exposure?) and Chris interviews Sina Farhat from Gothenborg, Sweden, who tells us about his method … Continue reading tfttf633 – Nightscapes vs Deep Skies

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tfttf659 – Deep Sky Photography

Chris will do some night sky photography in Ethiopia. In this episode he goes over how he prepares for that, what lenses he’ll bring and how he applies the “600 rule” to get the right shape of stars. This episode … Continue reading

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How to Photograph Fairground Rides

Learn how to photograph the fairground at night

When it comes to taking pictures of the fairground or amusement park, you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to get super colourful, vibrant, and bright images of those awesome rides. Twilight is the best time to shoot, when all those mega-joules of artificial lights burst into action to give you amazing effects that aren’t possible during the day time.

Here’s what you’ll need:

When is the best time to shoot?

The optimum time is about 30 minutes after the sun has set. If you’re lucky, there will be a beautiful colourful afterglow in the clouds, but it will still be dark enough for all the artificial light to be the brightest parts of your image. When it gets fully dark you can still get stunning shots, but the sky may just be a dark blanket if there is cloud cover.

How to Photograph Fairground Rides

Harness the power of higher ISO

By increasing your ISO settings to around 400,  you’re increasing the light sensitivity of your camera. You can try higher settings (larger ISO numbers) but your goal here is to achieve an exposure time of around one to two seconds so that you capture some motion blur in the people and in the rides. Using a higher ISO than 400 will speed up your exposure time and you don’t necessarily want that, unless you want to totally freeze all of the motion in your shot. There’s some trial and error involved, depending on the available light of your scene, so my number of 400 is approximate.

When the rides are static, you won’t capture any motion blur but as soon as they start to move (and they usually move fast), you’ll find that the one to two second exposure time is ideal for capturing a lot of movement.

Shoot in time-lapse mode

By taking pictures every four seconds, you’ll end up with a huge variation of different motion blur as the rides progress through their cycle. It’s almost like shooting video, but by shooting time-lapse, you’ll ensure that every frame is a full resolution image – video can’t compete with that. This technique ensures that you capture lots of images at different stages of the ride. Here’s a one minute time-lapse movie I made while shooting stills at the fair using this technique.

If your camera has a built-in intervalometer or time-lapse app, you’re in luck. Set your interval at four seconds, and your camera will take a picture every four seconds. If you’ve set your exposure time to two seconds that gives you a two second gap after your shot has finished before the next shot will be triggered. Make your time-lapse last for about a five minute duration, and you should be able to capture images of the rides while they are static and while they are moving – it depends on how busy the rides are and how long the ride cycle lasts.

You can then overlay those blurred images with the static images in Photoshop to create the ultimate composite of sharp static scenes, and motion blurred scenes.

Don’t worry if your camera doesn’t have a time-lapse function, you’ll just need to take as many pictures as you think will capture your desired motion blur and static states. Alternatively you could buy an intervalometer which will connect to your camera and trigger the shutter for time lapse shooting.

Top Tip: Be sure to switch off your built-in noise reduction as this will slow down your write times to the memory card, and will mess up your intervals.

Photographing Amusement Parks

Choose the right white balance

It’s important to set the right white balance on your camera for this type of shooting. Don’t trust the auto setting because there are so many different light sources that your camera won’t know which setting to choose. For all of the shots I took with the Sony A7R, I used the Fluorescent Warm setting.

Experiment to get the most pleasing looking white balance for your scene, try to avoid everything looking super orange. Look at the scene with your eyes, then look at your shot to try and get the most accurate colour temperature.

It’s full of stars!

Night time photography tutorial

In shots like the one above, you can see a very pleasing looking blue star on the lamp post. All lenses produce their own characteristic stars, some are better than others. One thing you can do to get the best star out of your lens is to select a very narrow aperture like f/16 or f/22. This will also have the added benefit of forcing your shutter speed to be slower which gets you closer to the two second exposure time I mentioned earlier.

Get up close

Remember that wide angle lens I mentioned at the start? That lens will allow you to fill your frame with all the fun of the fair. Wide angle lenses create a pleasing looking distortion that adds drama and intensity to your shot. A 14-16mm shot on a full frame camera can cram in a LOT of action. By getting close to your subject and positioning yourself at a point that creates a nice looking distortion effect, you’ll really make your images POP!

Wide Angle lens used for Night Photography


Noise reduction

What happens to your image quality when you use higher ISO settings? Noise, that’s what. We don’t like noise do we? No, so lets get rid of it using the brilliant noise reduction of Adobe Camera Raw. Your specific settings will depend on your camera’s sensor, as not all sensors are made equal. Here are the settings that I found gave me the best results for my pictures. Experiment with these sliders to get rid of as much noise as you can while still retaining image detail.

Noise Reduction Settings

Fix the shadows

You’ll probably want to brighten up your shadows and blacks a little but don’t overdo it. We actually need those dark areas in our image to contrast with the bright lights, that’s what gives our image its PUNCH!

Fix the highlights

If the brightest parts of your image look a little blown out, pull them down a little with the whites and highlights sliders. Again, don’t overdo it or you’ll run the risk of ending up with a totally fake looking image.


Increase the clarity a little to introduce some contrast to the mid tones.


Increase the vibrance a little to make the colours pop and give a subtle blue hue to the sky area.

Use graduated filters in Adobe Camera RAW

The graduated filter simulator is a really powerful tool, but did you know it’s not just for making a part of your sky darker? You can use multiple graduated filters to selectively brighten or darken large parts of your image. If you want to brighten just your foreground, simply add a graduated filter and increase its exposure value like in the image below. You can further tweak just that selected area with the other powerful ACR tools like shadows, clarity, contrast etc.

Using Grad Filters in Adobe Camera Raw

Combine your images to make the ultimate composite

Once you’ve finished tweaking your images in Adobe Camera Raw, it’s time to open them in Photoshop to make a composite image that captures the motion blur and the static state of your fairground ride. It’s worth pointing out that this is just a creative choice, if you’re happy with just a single image, that’s cool too.

Step 1 – Choose and open your Images

From your images, choose one that shows your ride in its static state. This could either be while it’s not moving or perhaps you took a super fast, high ISO shot while the ride was moving and managed to freeze the motion nicely. Either way, pick an image that you like, and open that in Photoshop.

Step 2 – Copy and paste your images

Next you’ll choose an image, or images, that perfectly capture the motion blur of the ride; maybe it’s a roller-coaster ride and you want to catch the long streaking lights of the carriage. Open this in Photoshop so that you’ve now got two tabs, each with their own image.

With the motion blur image open, hit ctrl+a (or Cmd+A for Mac) on your keyboard to select the entire image. You should see the marching ants around the image. Next hit ctrl+c (Cmd+c) to copy that image on to your clipboard.

Now click on the other tab to switch to your first image which shows the static or frozen motion shot, and hit ctrl+v (Cmd+v) to paste your clipboard image on to a new layer above the default (Background) layer. Photoshop will call your new pasted layer “Layer 1″.

Step 3 – Blend your images

Assuming that you used the exact same ACR develop settings for both images, just go ahead and change the blend mode of the motion blurred image (Layer 1) that you just pasted on to the new layer to “Lighten”. The blend mode lives in your Layers panel and defaults to Normal, so change Normal to Lighten.

Now you should see both images combined to give you a lovely composite of both moments in time. If the effect is too pronounced, try turning down the opacity of the second layer to around 50%. For fun you could also try the Overlay blend mode or Screen, for a more intense effect. Remember to play with the layer opacity to get the look you want.

Step 4 – Erase the parts you don’t like

It’s likely that when you’ve blended both layers together by choosing the Lighten blend mode, you’ll want to erase certain parts of Layer 1 if the image gets too complicated. You can do that easily by choosing the Eraser tool and selecting a soft brush size, appropriate to the area you’d like to erase. Simply click on Layer 1 where you’d like to erase and bam – it’s gone (or use a layer mask for non-destructive editing).

Combine Layers in Photoshop

That’s it! You’ve now learned how to shoot and process your amazing images of those mind blowing fairground rides. Go out and have some fun with this, just don’t overdo it on the cotton candy and doughnuts like I did, ugh.

If you have another other tips for photographing fairground rides, please share in the comments.

The post How to Photograph Fairground Rides by Gavin Hardcastle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Do you pack up and leave after sunset and miss the fun of night photography?

There’s no question that the best light occurs during the golden hours, but does that mean that you should pack up your cameras after sunset and miss all the fun of night photography?


Absolutely not!

Fun of Night Photography

Night photography offers so many great opportunities for photographers that it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact – I think it should be experienced by everyone.

Of course photographing at night means that you’re going to be pushing your gear to its limits. High ISOs, long shutter speeds, fast lenses, tripods, remote shutters, and patience are a must when it comes to photographing after the sun has set, but the results will be worth it.

So what is there to capture at night, and more importantly how do you go about capturing each of these subjects?

City Lights


Cities are great places to take photos any time of the day, but at night, cities come to life. Just think of Times Square in NYC or the Vegas Strip for example. Of course, not everyone’s going to have access to such iconic locations, but that doesn’t mean that your local city won’t offer you the goods.

When photographing a city you have so many options open to you; from skylines, to the simple every day things that make cities run. Things like the traffic, the people, and the objects they use to get around are a great start. This photograph of a bike, chained to a parking meter, in front of a church lit up for the night, is a great example of what can be found walking the city streets.

For more tips and examples on photographing cities at night check out these great posts:

The Night Sky

When it comes to capturing the night sky there are two basic ways that you can go about doing this. You can either show the vastness of space and showcase the number of stars in the sky, or you can capture the motion of the Earth’s rotation by creating star trails.


Night photography showing vast open sky and stars

The basic concepts for capturing both types of night sky photos are the same. You’ll need a tripod, a wide angle lens, and you’re going to be working with a large aperture in most cases.

When it comes to the shutter speed and ISO that is where things start to differ between the two types of shots. As the Earth’s rotation is what causes star trails to form, you have to limit your shutter speed in order to capture a single frame shot before this rotation creates the trailing effect.


Night photography capturing star trails over a long period of time

A general guideline for this is known as the 600 rule which basically states that the longest shutter speed you can use is determined by dividing 600 by your focal length corrected for 35mm. So if you’re using an 18mm lens on a 1.5x crop sensor DSLR you’d take 600 divided by 27 (18mm x 1.5 crop factor) which would mean that the longest shutter speed you can use would be about 22 seconds. To control this you’re going to need to set a rather high ISO. However, with modern DSLR cameras being as good as they are with noise these days, this is becoming less and less of an issue.

However, if you DO want to capture the star trail effect, then the object is to capture the motion that you were trying to avoid before. Often times star trail photographs are created by stacking multiple long exposures of the same scene over a long period of time. Since shutter speed is not going to be an issue here it’s much easier to use longer speeds which will result in less frames in the end. You’ll also be able to use lower ISO and smaller apertures here if you prefer.

Here are some more great posts to send you in the right direction for taking better photos of the night sky

Light Trails


Light trails are a lot of fun to photograph and can be done just about anywhere you can find a busy road.

In general any shutter speed from one second, to a few seconds, should be enough to give you the look you’re after. But it doesn’t just come down to finding a road with traffic and photographing it – make sure you’re aware of your composition as well.


As roads make for great leading lines, try to use those to your advantage. You can either shoot from above the traffic on a bridge or a building, or your can try and get down low and shoot from a median or side walk. No matter where you’re shooting from you’re going to want to be super aware of your surroundings and never do anything that would put your life in danger – no photograph is worth getting hit by a bus over.

For more tips and examples on light trails check out these posts:

What else?

What else can you think of for night photography? I know I left at least one big one off this list and I did that on purpose as I have no experience in light painting – oops did I just give one away?

The post Do you pack up and leave after sunset and miss the fun of night photography? by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Tips for Creating fun Campfire Photos


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the Digital Photography School headmaster, Darren Rowse, in person at a conference we both attended called the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR. The message of the conference (yes, the name invokes much curiosity) is simple: community, adventure, and service. It’s a large group of people that enjoy life, live adventures constantly and give back in service of others. That’s one of the reasons why I love writing on this site so much, I get to share my experience and knowledge and help you!

Me and Darren Rowse

Me and Darren Rowse

Darren was one of the keynote speakers and he most of the attendees (3000+) inspired to move forward and live our dreams. He even fulfilled one of his childhood dreams on stage, but I’ll leave that for Darren to share with you!

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is visit the Sea Lion Caves in Oregon. So after the conference my husband and I headed to the coast for a few days. We camped in one of the state parks, in the middle of the woods and sand dunes, it was awesome being in nature. But, being a photographer I couldn’t just sit around the campfire and do nothing, so out came the camera!

It’s really not that hard to create some really cool images that will impress your friends. I’m going to walk you through my process for creating the image above and how I adjusted as I went to get the desired result. Remember photography is a journey, not a destination, don’t expect to get it perfect on the first shot – I never do!

Here are my 5 tips for you on creating some fun campfire images.


A tripod is essential for doing this type of photography as you’ll be dealing with some really long exposures, mine ranged from two to ten full seconds. Make sure you have a sturdy tripod and if you want to get in some of the photos you can either use the self timer, as I did and run into the scene, or get yourself a handy wireless remote you can put in your pocket and fire the camera from your spot in the image.



ISO 400, f/4, 1/8th of a second

The image above is the first one I made and I wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t have the mood I wanted and the sky was too light. So I had a snack and waited about an hour then made the following image. I’ve given the exposure data for each shot so you can see how I adjusted it as the sun went down and the amount of light diminished.



ISO 1600, f/4, 2 seconds

Okay, so that’s way better but I felt it was still missing something. I really liked how the light was streaming out of the holes in the rim of the fire pit. The exposure is just right on the background but it seemed a bit boring.

Notice also that I increased the ISO to 1600. If I hadn’t my exposure at ISO 400 would have been 8 seconds. It’s pretty hard to keep perfectly still for 8 seconds so I sacrificed gaining a little bit of noise to get what I felt was a more reasonable 2 second exposure time.


Going from the last image, I knew wanted to add a bit of a light to to the tent, to make it look like it was glowing. So I took my headlamp (get one at a camping supply store or use a flashlight) and turned it on inside the tent. I aimed it at the back wall facing away from the camera so I didn’t get a hot spot, and it lit up the whole tent quite evenly. If you have a larger tent you may need more than one light inside.

**NOTE:  do NOT put fire or a gas lantern inside your tent! Please practice good fire safety habits at all times.**


ISO 1600, f/4, 2 seconds

Okay almost perfect, except for a couple of little things. As we had just put a log on the fire it was pretty intense and bright. That brings me to the last tip.


There’s no way to control the intensity of the fire except by darkening the whole image, but if I do that then my background will basically disappear into a black abyss. So we waited a while before doing the next image. I also added a second head lamp, this time on the picnic table seat behind us. It is pointed back towards us and I placed it careful so we’d be in front of it and the light itself wasn’t hitting the lens directly.

Here’s a couple of the final shots, with which I was quite pleased. I changed my camera angle a bit and re-cropped but otherwise they are very similar. Notice these last exposures were a bit longer. The light in the sky was almost completely gone so in order to get any detail in the background I had to increase the overall exposure, taking care to not overexpose the fire.


ISO 1600, f/4, 5 seconds


ISO 1600, f/4, 5 seconds


Focusing at night is very tricky because your camera can’t see in the dark, neither can you! The best way to focus is to have your friend hold a light where you’re going to sit (or put it on a chair). Aim the light directly at the lens, which will allow the camera to “see” it and lock focus on that spot. Once it’s locked, just switch to manual focus, taking care not to bump the camera or accidentally turn the focusing ring. If you move the camera or recompose the scene, just do the same procedure over again.


If you want to read more about other night photography techniques I’ve done a couple of article on Light Painting and some special effects. Links to them below:


Since we still have a little bit of summer left in the Northern Hemisphere, if you plan on doing a little camping take the camera gear along and give this a try! You may find your travel companions get into it and have a little fun with it as well. Also gives you a great way to do some fun group photos. You can also use flash if you’re so inclined and skilled. Please do share your images with us and any other tips you want to add that I may have missed.

Cheers, Darlene

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

5 Tips for Creating fun Campfire Photos

Light Painting Part One – the Photography

"1956 Le France Pumper"

I teach a night photography class and I find that many people who’ve never tried it imagine it to be a lot harder than it really is to get spectacular results. In this two part series I’m going to take you through step by step how I created the image above using light painting techniques that are actually quite easy.


In this article, Part One, I’m going to go through everything you need to know so that you can go out and create some images using this technique. In Part Two I’ll take you through combining multiple exposures, like I’ve done for this shot, using Photoshop to create the final photograph. It’s really not that hard and I’ll do it one step at a time so you can follow along with my screen shots after each step.


  • Recommended equipment
  • Camera basics (how to set up your camera)
  • Finding a good subject
  • Getting started (set up, preparation and starting points)
  • Lighting, how to do light painting and some tips
  • Potential problems and how to avoid them


Night photography is not that difficult but there are a few essential pieces of equipment needed to do the job right. Here is a list of mandatory and optional items:

The “Must Haves”

  • a DSLR, or camera with manual settings that include “Bulb”
  • a camera that shoots RAW format images (not mandatory but highly suggested)
  • a sturdy tripod that is not affected by wind
  • an electric cable release or remote trigger (could be called either) with a locking mechanism or timer
  • at least one extra battery for your camera (long exposures and cold eat up batteries quickly so you may run through two or more in a night)
  • a lens hood or shade for your lens

The “Really Nice to Haves” – not essential, but sure handy

  • a digital watch or timer (or remote that has a timer) I use my iPhone
  • a penlight or small flashlight (your cell phone can work in a pinch) to be able to check camera settings and find an item in the bottom of your bag OR a headlamp like the kind hikers wear, is a better option for hands free operation
  • a powerful flashlight like a Maglite for light painting (I use an incandescent one, LED will produce a bluer tone light)
  • a speedlight or portable flash unit can also be used for light painting (you don’t need a fancy one, even an old Vivitar 283 or 285 will do the trick)
  • rain covers for your camera bag, camera, and yourself (weather can change quickly at night but you can get some great shots in bad weather if you’re prepared – you dry easier than your camera, keep that in mind!)
  • A friend to tag along. Helpful if you’re doing night photography in an urban setting. It’s someone to help pass the time, but also watch that your gear doesn’t grow legs and walk off while you’re digging in the camera bag for something. Or someone to stand guard over the camera gear while you’re off painting with light in the scene.


  • File format -  shoot raw whenever possible lighting at night can be odd colors
  • White balance – I generally choose “incandescent” or “tungsten” White Balance Preset when doing light painting because I know that will balance correctly for my flashlight. I let the rest of the scene fall where it may color wise
  • Focus – your camera has a hard time focusing at night and will “hunt” unless you find focus and lock it for all your exposures.  If your camera has back button focus capabilities I’d suggest using that, if not you can focus and then turn it to manual focus so it doesn’t attempt to refocus when you hit the shutter release. You can try to focus using manual but keep in mind if your camera can’t see in the dark, neither can you!  So to achieve focus use your flashlight, and if you have a friend along, get them to light up the part of the object you want to focus on. Then either use your auto focus and lock it, or manually focus and then don’t touch it!
  • Manual mode or BULB – for exposure set it to manual. That way the camera is not trying to guess the correct exposure. We’ll be setting it and leaving it for the most part – just like our focus. For exposures longer than 30 seconds (30″ on your camera) you’ll need to find and use your BULB setting. On many cameras it is right after 30 seconds on the shutter speed scale, one some there’s a B option on your mode dial on top of your camera.
  • ISO – how low can you go?!  This is where it gets counter intuitive because your gut may be telling you that it’s dark out so you need a higher ISO, right?  Well in certain situations like shooting the moon, a starry sky, or northern lights where you want a faster shutter speed – then you might need a higher ISO. But for this purpose and most of the times you are on a tripod it is always best to choose the lowest ISO possible. Noise in your image increases with changes in 3 things:  higher ISO, long exposures and in blue or dark areas of your scene. We’re already pushing the long exposure boundaries and night is ALL blue – so keeping the ISO low will minimize the noise best we can.

Light-painting-015FINDING A GOOD SUBJECT

Night photography can produce some great images, but it can be a bit tricky to find a location and compose your shots in the dark.  It is best to go out ahead of time and find a spot, then return to it later, about 30 minutes before you actually want to start shooting.  That will give you time to find it, get set up and be ready.   Here are some tips for finding a good night subject suitable for painting with light.

  • Old barns and abandoned cars and trucks in fields make great subjects, and often are appropriate for some painting with light.  If you need to cross someone’s land to get to there, make sure to get permission BEFORE you head out.  Trespassing is not cool and could lead to  lot of problems including getting arrested, or worse, which you certainly don’t want.
  • If you want to shoot the moon, star trails, or do light painting you’ll need to get out of the city.  You may have to drive quite a while to get far enough away so that the city lights do not contaminate your shot.  As you will be exposing for several minutes or longer, the city lights may show up on the horizon if you are not far enough away. (the city lights are a factor in my example in this article which gave me some limitations, and the orange fire in the sky – more on that later)
  • Start with a smaller subject that you can light in one exposure and work your way up to bigger ones like this firetruck or an old barn that will take a few shots and need compiling. An old bicycle is a great starter subject. Buy one at a flea market or junk yard and take your own prop wherever you want and plop it into your scene.  Just remember to take it with you as you’ll want it again later and littering isn’t cool either.



  1. Set up your camera on tripod with remote attached or set up to fire the camera
  2. Turn off any image stabilization (IS or VR) on your lens
  3. Turn OFF “long exposure noise reduction” unless you have a lot of patience. What it does it takes a second exposure of equal length of just black, then merges it with your shot to get rid of the noise. But if you’re doing a 2 minute exposure, you have to wait another 2 minutes to review your image and be able shoot again. I don’t use it, and because we’re on a low ISO noise shouldn’t be a big factor
  4. ISO low – ideally 100 or 200
  5. Aperture – start around f/5.6 - depending on your scene, then adjust from there if you want more or less depth of field.  Keep in mind the smaller aperture you use, each stop you close down doubles the amount of time you need to be painting and exposing. So a 60 second exposure at f/5.6 becomes an 8 minute exposure at f/16!
  6. Shutter speed – start around 60 seconds. I’ve done enough night photography to know that’ll get you pretty close for most moonlit scenes. You may have to adjust faster (shorter exposure) or longer depending on whether it’s a full moon, or there’s some stray light in the scene, and how bright your flashlight is.
  7. Focus using the flashlight – then lock your focus.


Basically what you do it set your camera on Bulb, open the shutter using your locking release and walk into your scene and start lighting the objects in the camera view using your flashlight. It sounds simple but can be quite tricky to get just the right amount of light in different places, not get yourself in the image, and still get a good overall exposure. Here are a few tips or starting points, then you just need to experiment and adjust as you go.

Setting up your base exposure

  • Before you start “painting” take a test shot, without the flashlight, of the scene as it is with no additional light added
  • Review that image and make sure you have a good overall exposure of the scene, with it perhaps just a little on the dark side (histogram should be mostly inclined to the left side)
  • When you are happy with the exposure, adjust your settings so that you have a long enough shutter speed to easily get into the scene and light the subject with your flashlight before the shutter closes (at least 30 seconds). You may have to go to a smaller aperture to do so.
  • Once you know your exposure and your shutter speed is at least 30 seconds long, you can get started. If you can bring a friend along they can press the shutter release for you, so you can go in and out of the scene without returning to the camera after each shot to press it again. Or a wireless remote comes in handy here too.
First shot to establish the base exposure. ISO 100, f/5.6 for 30 seconds.

My first shot to establish the base exposure. ISO 100, f/5.6 for 30 seconds.

Adding the flashlight – tips for light painting

  • To keep yourself invisible, always make sure the flashlight is aimed at the subject, and that you do not light up yourself, dark clothing helps too.  Also keep moving during the whole exposure.  Don’t stand in one place for more than a couple seconds or you will show up as a ghost in that spot.
  • Don’t aim the flashlight back towards the camera, unless you want what I call “light bugs”. Sometimes you can use that technique on purpose to create streaks of light and outline your subject, and that can work well also.  See the image of the little red wagon above for an example of light bugs. I believe I accidentally had my headlamp on while I painted and it made the light bugs – but I kind of liked it so I kept it. Happy accidents are great!
  • Keep the light moving the whole time so as not to create any harsh lines or bright spots. I like to make outlines of the shape of my subject or parts of it. Discover what works for you.
  • For a more defined and abstract look to your light painting you must come in a REALLY close to the subject!  By that I mean about 1-2 feet away from the subject. YES you are going to get right into the scene. But if you keep moving, and keep your light moving you will not show up in the photo. (see the b/w of the old shack above for an example of this look and technique). Also make sure your flashlight beam is focused to a small area – that’s why I like the Maglites, they focus down to a small spot.
  • For a broader more even light keep the flashlight beam wide and stand back from the subject a bit (4-8 feet) and light it from the side to create a nice cross light and texture on the subject. (see the color image of the old wooden shack below for an example of this affect)

Light painted from a few feet away from the shack with a wider beam flashlight


Back in the days of film, painting with light was much harder.  There was no way to determine if any of the exposures were correct or not.  To paint a whole scene you had to get it right in one frame or exposure.  Now with digital we have the benefit of testing and seeing what we’re doing and compensating on the next shot.   You can even paint a scene in stages, or sections, and build them all into one image later in Photoshop.  I’ll cover how to do that in Part Two.

The things you want to look for in your first image are:

  • How did you do with your flashlight painting? If it was too bright in one area and not bright enough in another, just be conscious of how much time you spend on one spot and adjust accordingly.
  • If it is overall too dark or light, you may need to adjust your exposure time or your aperture.
  • If the flashlight isn’t showing up well enough you might need a longer exposure time (just go from 30 seconds to 60 and try again) to allow you to paint slower and cover more areas better.
  • If you want the light more even, back up and use a wider beam.
  • If you want it more focused and like outlines, get closer.
  • Did you get any light bugs you didn’t want?  (turn off your headlamp!)
  • Did you get a ghost of yourself or a body part?
  • Generally look for any problems or areas you want to correct.  Take note and do it again, and again, and again – until you’re happy with it.
Set up showing how close I got to the firetruck

Set up showing how close I got to the firetruck


Now that you’re ready to progress to a larger subject we’ll look at how to shoot multiple images of the same subject, so that you can merge them together in Photoshop later. The ONLY thing you’re going to do different than what you just did in the lessons above – is paint the subject in sections. That’s it!

For the firetruck image I actually shot about 30 different exposures. I didn’t end up using them all but I wanted to make sure I had my based covered and had options. That’s the beauty of putting them together later – you do NOT have to get it perfect in one shot! Let’s take a look at a few of my images from that shoot.

Lighting the back area where the hoses are.

Lighting the back area where the hoses are and the back tire

Lighting the side panel and running board.

Lighting the side panel and running board, notice how I’ve highlighted certain areas

Lighting the front grill and headlights - to get headlights to look like they're on, put the flashlight right up to the glass and just rotate it around for a bit.

Lighting the front grill and headlights – to get headlights to look like they’re on, put the flashlight right up to the glass and just rotate it around for a bit.  Notice the light bugs on the right here? We’ll handle those in part two.

Lighting up the windows from the inside!

Lighting up the windows from the inside! A little of the tree branch too.

Lighting the fence behind the truck to give it separation

Lighting the fence behind the truck to give it separation

Turing on the cherry light that makes it a firetruck!  Don't forget the details like this!

Turing on the cherry light that makes it a firetruck! Don’t forget the details like this!

Lighting the "cherry" from behind to make it glow red

Lighting the “cherry” from behind to make it glow red

You get the idea right? Cover it well, then just to be sure, do it again. I think we were there (my husband was the button pusher, I ran the flashlight) about an hour an a half just doing this one shot. It was such a unique subject, and we had full permission to be there and be photographing it at night that I wanted to take full advantage of it. That it was a beautiful night and this stuff is just so much fun for me that once I get started, I lose all track of time.

Wrapping up

Well I was a bit long winded on this tutorial, I hope you are still with me. I wanted to make sure you had all the details you need to go out and try this yourself. I fully expect you to do so and be ready with some images for Part Two when we are going to take our multiple shots and combine them to get something that looks like this in the end.

Action plan steps

  1. get the right gear
  2. find a good subject, get permission if need be
  3. set up your camera using the starting settings
  4. take your base exposure test shot
  5. add your flashlight and light painting
  6. review and continue


"1956 Le France Pumper" Corpus Christi, Texas

“1956 Le France Pumper” Corpus Christi, Texas

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Light Painting Part One – the Photography

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