7 Photography Exercises to Take Your Nature Photos to the Next Level

The post 7 Photography Exercises to Take Your Nature Photos to the Next Level appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Do you want to improve your nature photography skills? Do you want to take stunning nature photos, consistently?

Don’t worry.

In this article, you’ll discover 7 photography exercises all designed to get you capturing unbelievable nature images.

(Plus, the exercises are a lot of fun!)

So, if you want to improve your nature photography…

…keep reading.

1. Shoot a single nature subject from 9 different angles

Here’s your first nature photography exercise (and my favorite):

Choose just one nature photography subject.

And shoot it from at least nine different angles.

This will force you to stretch the boundaries of your creativity. It will force you to start looking at your subjects in many different ways.

The first five angles might be easy enough. But the last four will be a struggle – as it should be!

A few excellent angles to try:

  • Shoot on a level with your subject
  • Shoot from directly above your subject (if you can)
  • Get below your subject and shoot upward

Then, once you’ve finished the exercise, pull up the photos on your computer. Take note of the different angles and how they gave your subject slightly different looks.

And next time you’re doing photography, use those angles!

2. Shoot a subject you normally avoid

This exercise is all about getting you out of your comfort zone.

Because if you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you’ll never grow as a photographer.

So here’s what you do:

Think about the subjects that you normally shoot.

And then…

Pick a subject that’s radically different. And shoot that subject, instead.

If you normally photograph birds, shoot flowers for a day.

If you normally photograph landscapes, shoot wildlife.

Just pick something that you don’t normally like shooting.

If you want to make this exercise extra useful, then don’t just shoot another subject for a single outing. Instead, do it for a week (or even a month).

You’d be amazed by the tricks you pick up from learning another area of photography.

3. Bring just one lens into the field

Here’s the thing:

When photographers go out for a photoshoot…

…they tend to take multiple lenses (and even multiple cameras).

And while this will give you a lot of flexibility, it won’t force you to think outside the box.

But I want you to think outside the box. I want you to think in new ways.

So the next time you go out to shoot, leave all your normal lenses behind.

Instead, bring just one lens.

And (if you’re feeling adventurous) make sure it’s a lens that you don’t use very often.

This will force you to take nature photos that you would’ve never even considered.

4. Shoot a Scene With Four Types of Light

Nature photography is all about the light.

Which means that, as a nature photographer, you must learn to master the light.

This exercise is designed to help you do that.

You start by picking a scene.

Then you photograph that scene with four types of light:

  • Cloudy light
  • Midday light
  • Sunrise/Sunset light
  • Shade

This will undoubtedly involve coming back several days in a row.

But it’s worth it.

Because once you’re done, you should look at all the photos you took.

And note how the different types of light gives you different types of nature photos!

5. Take both still shots and action shots of your subject

Oftentimes, we get in the habit of shooting the same type of subject, over and over again.

I’ve already given you one way of avoiding this problem.

But another way…

…is to keep shooting that same subject. But shoot it in a different way.

Specifically, try to take a combination of shots:

Still shots.

And action shots.

For those of you who shoot birds or wildlife, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

But for flower and landscape photographers?

This will be tough.

If you generally photograph still subjects, you may have to get creative. Try to take some intentional camera movement photos. Or see if you can get some sort of action to happen in the frame (e.g., flowers blowing in the wind, waves crashing on the beach).

And that’s it! This will force you out of your comfort zone. And get you taking some fresh photos!

6. Edit your favorite nature photo in 5 different ways

One thing that you need to know:

Post-processing is a significant part of capturing stunning nature photos.

Even small adjustments go a long way.

So for this exercise, you should start thinking about different post-processing options. And edit your favorite nature photo in five distinct ways.

You should experiment with edits in Lightroom, Photoshop, or another high-quality editing program. See what happens when you increase the saturation. See what happens when you drop the contrast.

And try to do some new edits. Things that you haven’t done before.

For instance, try some yellow/blue split toning. And try playing with the HSL options.

You’ll be amazed by what you can do!

7. Take a nature photo every single day for a month

This last exercise is a classic – but that doesn’t mean it’s any less useful!

One of the absolute best ways of improving your nature photography…

…is to photograph constantly.

Because practice really does make perfect.

And if you take a nature photo every day, you’ll find that your mind starts to open up. You’ll start to see photography opportunities that you didn’t even know were there.

Your skills will increase rapidly.

And you’ll start to take stunning nature photos, consistently.

Nature photography exercises: next steps

Now you know 7 great exercises – all designed to improve your photography skills, fast.

You don’t have to do them all at once. But try them out whenever you can.

That way, you’ll become better, faster.

You’ll soon be taking nature photos like a pro!

Feel free to share some of the photos you take with the dPS community in the comments below.


The post 7 Photography Exercises to Take Your Nature Photos to the Next Level appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Don’t Create Detail, Just Reveal It – How to Reveal the Hidden Details in Your Photos

The post Don’t Create Detail, Just Reveal It – How to Reveal the Hidden Details in Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Just as cleaning the lenses of your eyeglasses clarifies what you see, cleansing your pictures of dull lighting will put the sparkle in your photos.

Have you noticed how many individual tools are available in your favorite editing software for changing the values of pixels? The array is dazzling, and most of this editing involves “localized” procedures (dodging, burning, painting, cloning, masking, etc.) affecting specific areas.

But here’s something to consider.

Unless the image you are working on is either damaged (either completely blown-out highlights, plugged-up shadows) or just contains too much unwanted clutter, you rarely need to create specific detail with these tools. The detail is usually right there just below the surface waiting for discovery. You need only make global adjustments to the tones within the darker and lighter ends of the range to achieve pretty amazing results.

When I took this shot of my wife Barbara fifteen years ago, I put it in the reject file because it was so dark. But carefully adjusting and lightening the shadow and middle tones in the picture separated the deep shadow tones from the middle tones. Now both she and the picture are definite keepers. No local editing was necessary, and there is no tell-tale evidence of a touchup. The image contained all the necessary lighter tones – they simply had to be uncovered.

Push tones instead of pixels

Post-processing digital images is usually a process of subtraction; removing the visual obstacles that are covering the underlying detail in a photographic image. This detail will reveal itself if you merely nudge the tonal ranges instead of the pixels.

The fact is…all the detail in every subject has been duly captured and is hiding in either the shadows or the highlights, waiting to be discovered.

The digital camera’s image sensor sees and records the entire range of tones from black to white within every image it captures. What is hiding within this massive range of tones is the detail. Unfortunately, the camera sensor has no way of knowing the detail that may be under (or over) exposed within that range. It simply captures everything it sees inside the bookends of dark and light.

Camera image sensors can capture a range of tones up to 16,000 levels between solid color and no color. This doesn’t mean that all 16,000-pixel values are actually present in the picture; it just means that the darkest to the lightest tones are stretched out over the significant detail that is hiding in the middle.

Adjustments made to the image in Alien Skin’s Exposure X4.5 revealed detail in the sunlit walkway and darkened archway that appeared lost in the original capture. No painting or cloning tools were necessary.

The purpose of this article is not to get geeky about the science, but to assure you that there is an amazing amount of detail that you can recover from seemingly poor images.

A basic JPEG image can display more than 250 tones in each color. While that doesn’t sound like much, you should know that the human eye can only perceive a little over 100 distinct levels of each color. No kidding! Technically, 256 tones are too many.

The balancing act

Here’s a sobering truth. Your camera can capture more detail than your eye can detect and more tones than your monitor can display. As a matter of fact, it can capture up to 16,000 levels of tones and colors. That’s more than any publishing resource (computer monitor, inkjet printer, Internet, or even any printed publication) can reveal. Each of these other outlets is limited to reproducing just 8-bits (256 levels) of each color. The camera’s light-capture range is even beyond the scope of human vision. The range (light to dark) of your camera is immense compared to any reproduction process. What this means is that the editing part of the photography process needs MUCH more attention than the image capture process.

This introduces a complex but interesting phenomenon. Your post-production challenge is to emphasize the most important details recorded inside the tones captured by your camera and then distinguish them sufficiently for the printer, your monitor, or the Internet to reveal.

Your camera captures an incredible amount of detail in each scene that isn’t initially visible. However, with the right software, this detail can be uncovered just as an electron microscope can reveal detail buried deep inside things that the naked eye cannot perceive.

Image editing is all about discovering and revealing what is hiding in plain sight.

Image clarity

Bringing a picture to life doesn’t always require additional touchup procedures. Sometimes, just massaging the existing detail does the trick. The Highlights, Shadows, and Clarity sliders were all that were required to transpose this shot from average to special.

Clarity is the process of accentuating detail. The dictionary defines clarity as “the quality of being easy to see or hear; sharpness of image or sound.” When we clarify something, we clear it up. We understand it better. We view an issue from a different perspective.

Many image editing software packages have a slider called “clarity.” The function of this slider is to accentuate minor distinctions between lighter and darker areas within the image. Each of the other tone sliders (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, and Dehaze) all perform a clarifying process on specific tone ranges.

The real beauty of shooting with a 12/14-bit camera is the level of access you receive to the detail captured in each image. If you want to think “deep,” you can start with the editing process of your digital images. You’ll be amazed at what you will find when you learn to peel away the microlayers of distracting information in well-exposed photos.

Just as cleaning the lenses of your eyeglasses clarifies what you see, cleansing your pictures of dull lighting will put the sparkle in your photos.

Adobe Camera Raw controls reveal significant detail in the darker portions of the image by simply adjusting the Basic slider controls.

Learning to expose images correctly

The information you learn from excellent teaching resources like Digital Photography School teach you how to correctly set your equipment to capture a variety of subjects and scenes. Study the articles in this amazing collection and learn to shoot pictures understanding the basic tenets of good exposure. Poorly-captured images will hinder your discovery of detail. However, correctly exposed images will reward you with, not only beautiful color but, access to an amazing amount of detail.

Learn to harness the power of light correctly for the challenge that each scene presents by balancing the camera controls of ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. The more balanced your original exposure, the less post-processing will be necessary.


Every scene presents a unique lighting situation and requires a solid understanding of your camera’s light-control processes to capture all possible detail. Any camera can capture events and document happenings, but it takes a serious student of photography to faithfully capture each scene in a way that allows all that information to be skillfully sculpted into a detailed image.


The post Don’t Create Detail, Just Reveal It – How to Reveal the Hidden Details in Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography

The post Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

There are a lot of lighting patterns for you to use in your portrait photography. Some of these are covered quite well. Rembrandt and butterfly lighting are two that are both easy to set up and yield great results a lot of the time. Of course, you can use just one lighting pattern all of the time and build a fantastic portfolio; however, if you want to have a full skillset with a variety of techniques to use in your portraits at any time, you will want to learn and understand as many of these lighting patterns as possible.

Broad and short lighting are often clumped together because of the similarities in how they are implemented and described, but they couldn’t be more different in how they affect your images.

This article will introduce you to the broad and short lighting patterns and explain when and why you might want to use them and what you can expect to achieve while using them. These are two very easy lighting patterns that can seem confusing at first, but once you get your head around them, they give you powerful tools to help shape the light and your subjects in your photos.

What is a lighting pattern?

First, let’s start with the very basics. A lighting pattern is any named lighting setup that gives you specific results. There is a fair list of these established lighting patterns for you to learn outside of the broad and short patterns discussed here. These include Rembrandt, Butterfly, split, cross, clamshell and more. Learning and understanding these lighting patterns can act as a shortcut to helping you get great results in your portraits. These lighting patterns apply to both natural light and artificial light, so it does not matter which you prefer.

Broad and short

The names of the broad and short lighting patterns refer to which side of the subject’s face is being lit first.

Sometimes, understanding what broad and short mean in terms of lighting can be confusing. To make it as simple as possible, imagine a face turned slightly away from you. That face now has two sides divided by the nose. The side of the face that is closest to you is the broad side because you see more of it than the other. The other side, the one that’s furthest from you, is the short side.

With broad lighting, your light is going to hit the broad side (or the side that’s closest to you) of the face first.

With short lighting, your light is going to hit the short side (or the side that’s furthest from you) of the face first.

Broad lighting

Broad lighting can be used to great effect to help widen faces or give you more contrast than some other lighting patterns.

When you choose to light the broad side of the face, it has several effects on your image. These include:

  • Broad lighting widens the face.
  • Broad lighting usually throws the short side of the face in shadow (dependent on light placement).
  • Broad lighting provides more contrast than some lighting patterns like butterfly lighting.

When you want to use it

Because broad lighting tends to broaden (go figure) the face, you’ll want to use broad lighting when you’re photographing subjects with a narrow face. Using it on subjects with a wider face can exaggerate that shape and you’ll want to avoid it there.

If there’s a feature on one side of your subjects face that you want to take the emphasis away from, you can pose your subject so that feature is on the short side of their face and use broad lighting to ensure that it’s in shadow, taking the emphasis away.

How to set it up

Setting up for broad lighting couldn’t be easier. Just have your subject turn away from the key light until you have the desired effect.

While there is no one way to set up broad lighting, here is a basic method to get you started.

As in the diagram above, place your light forty-five degrees from your subject. Ensure that you have your subject’s face posed away from the light source.

It really is as easy as that. Just remember that you can control the transition from highlight to shadow by changing the distance of the light from your subject and by using different modifiers.

Next steps

Adding fill to your broad lighting can help with extreme contrast while still retaining shadows for depth.

Lighting patterns are a starting point. This isn’t a zero-sum game. To take your broad lighting setups further, feel free to experiment with fill light. You can use reflectors or a second light to lift up the shadows and reduce the contrast in your images for more flattering portraits. Conversely, you can also choose to emphasize the shadows and the contrast for darker, bolder portraits. The best advice here is to know what result you are after before you start.

With a reflector as fill, you can now control the overall contrast in the image.

Short Lighting

Short lighting (depending on variables like your modifiers) tends to lend itself to dark, shadow-heavy imagery. This makes it the perfect lighting pattern when creating low-key images.

When you choose to light the short side of the face first, it also has several effects on your portraits:

  • Short lighting narrows the face.
  • Short lighting will throw the broad side of the face in shadow.
  • Short lighting provides heavy contrast and is ideal for low-key images. It is also useful when you are trying to create images with a lot of depth.
  • Short lighting can be used to hide imperfections.

How to set it up

Again, there is no one way to go about a short lighting setup.

Short lighting is trickier to set up than broad, but take your time and be deliberate in where the light is hitting your subject.

For this example, start with your light source forty-five degrees to your subject just like you did for the broad lighting setup. This time, have your subject face towards the light. If you have a modeling light, or you’re using natural light, watch the highlights on your subjects face carefully. Either move the light or your subject until the brightest part of your subject’s face is the short side.

Tip: If you’re having trouble seeing the contrast with your eyes, you can squint. I can’t even begin to tell you why this works, but it does. Squinting makes it far easier to see the contrast in a scene with your eyes.

That’s it. While short lighting is slightly trickier than broad lighting, it is still easy to accomplish. Once you have it figured out, it will become second nature.

Next steps

Because short lighting tends to be heavy on the shadows, you can use as much fill as you want to control them. Use a reflector for a gentle lift, or a second light to bring them close to the other tones in your images.

Since short lighting is so shadow-centric, you will almost certainly want to use fill light to control the contrast in normal situations. You can use a reflector, but if your shadows are quite deep, you may want to opt for fill light. Try exposing your fill light three stops less than your key (your main light) to retain your shadows while ensuring that all of the details are still there.

Using a reflector lifts the shadows in this example, but retains enough contrast for depth.

End matter

There you have it; two basic, but powerful lighting patterns that you can use to create bold dynamic portraits. I encourage you to go out and practice with each of these set-ups. Experiment liberally with your distances between your light and subject and try as many different fill lighting techniques that you can come up with. Once you have the basics down; if you want a real challenge: use the short lighting pattern to create a high key image.


The post Understanding Broad and Short Lighting in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively

The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Wedding days aren’t just about the bride, even though it might seem that way. As photographers we must also take photos of the groom by himself and with his groomsman buddies – whether they like it or not.

Posing the groom alone

When posing the groom alone you often see stiffness and shifting eyes because most men don’t feel  comfortable having their photo taken. So it’s worth starting a conversation that has nothing to do with the wedding to relax them and settle their nerves.

Find a nice background where you can photograph the groom at three different crops: full-body, half-body, and close-up. These three crops will add variety to your portraits, and give you more options when choosing the best portrait to deliver to your clients.

For example, window lighting can add dimension and depth while the groom is adjusting his tie or watch, or buttoning his shirt. Have the groom look out the window, or at his watch or tie. This keeps his hands busy, and because he’s not looking at the camera he won’t feel as vulnerable.

When you’re outside you can have the groom lean on a wall, or simply stand in the middle of a walkway. To help him pose naturally, tell him to stand as if he was by himself and not getting his photo taken.

Also, remind him to breathe. The stiffness is often caused by the groom holding his breath. It will also help him relax his shoulders and overall stance.

Photographing the groom at three different crops is a great way to add variety to the final images.

If the groom usually puts his hand in a pocket, have him put the one furthest from the camera into his pocket. This can help make the portrait feel more natural. Having the groom look at various points beyond the camera (to the side, behind you, or even at his shoes) can reduce the nerves and stiffness, and make him feel more comfortable.

As you’re taking the groom’s portraits, feel free to joke around, talk about things they like, or simply compliment them. This can make them feel more comfortable and bring about natural smiling and laughing, as well as fill in the silence.

Sitting is another great way to pose the groom. Have him sit on steps, a short wall or a chair. It will make the groom feel less stiff, and allow you to focus on various details of his outfit such as his shoes or socks if he chose something special.

Portraits of the groom while with the bride

But the groom doesn’t have to be completely alone in his portraits. A beautiful portrait of the groom with his bride can isolate him while placing him in the overall story of the wedding day.

Pose the couple facing each other, and ask the bride to place her head on his chest or arm to bring her face out a little. Then have her close her eyes while you direct the groom to look at the camera.

Another great portrait is having the groom at a 45-degree angle, with the bride behind him. Ask her to put her head on his back/shoulders, and have him look either directly at you or off into the distance.

He doesn’t have to smile. He can even look a little more serious. But the big picture will still look romantic and show that the couple is sharing a special moment.

You can move the groom and bride from there and create variations where the groom is:

  • in focus
  • in the forefront
  • looking directly at the camera
  • the main focal point in the photo.

These will all make great portraits of the groom and help him pose with his bride.


Groomsmen are really fun to photograph. Most of the time they’re buddies and will joke around a bit, which can make for great candid photos. But it can also mean they won’t take the photo shoot seriously.

One way to get them to listen and cooperate is to let them know the faster they get through the photo shoot, the sooner they can start having fun. But don’t use this trick until you’ve captured some candids showing how they all interact, as it will be nice for the groom to have those as well.

Keep at least three different groomsmen setups in mind before photographing the wedding. You can find inspiration online and save those inspirational photos on your phone to recreate or build on them. This can save you lots of time if you’re new to wedding photography.

Try and keep the conversation light and easygoing. It will help the groomsmen relax, and you’ll get much more authentic expressions from them.

Group huddles and hugs are great icebreakers, and can lighten the mood if you feel the photos are getting a little stiff or the groomsmen are losing steam. A slow walking photo is also nice to have and having them looking at each other and talking is a great way to get them all smiling.

A staggered photo, either on a staircase or in a big area, can provide you with more varied poses for your final photos. If you have enough time, get a photo of each groomsman with the groom. Keep the photos moving by keeping the groom in the same place and having the groomsmen take turns standing beside him.

Keep everyone’s height variations in mind when taking photos of the groom with his groomsmen. Taller groomsmen may need to stand further back. If there are big height differences between the groom and his groomsmen, place those who are about the same height next to the groom, or bring the groom closer to the camera. This can help isolate the groom and make him the focal point of the photo, which is exactly what you want.

Keep everyone moving and try to get the photos done quickly. Groomsmen are usually ready for the next event pretty quickly and get sick of the camera much faster than the bride and bridesmaids.

If the groomsmen have ideas for poses, go along with them. It may be an inside joke or something that brings them closer together as buddies. And they’re usually the photos they love to remember.

Also, always ask if the groomsmen are wearing something special or have a gift from the couple – watches, socks, matching shoes, flasks, etc. These items have far more meaning when they’re photographed in the hands of those who received or are wearing them.

For example, these groomsmen all received personalized flasks from the groom, so a toasting photo was fun to create for them, along with a close-up of one of the flasks.

In conclusion

Grooms and groomsmen are fun to photograph during a wedding. But it’s best to have a few poses in mind so you can work quickly, as they often don’t like having their photos taken and may tire quickly. Keeping the mood light and fun gives them a great experience, and they’ll look back at the photos with fond memories.


The post How to Pose Grooms and Groomsmen Effectively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes

The post How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever wished you’d photographed something at night? You may not have had the time, knowledge, or gear to do it, but you still regret not getting that shot.

In some cases you may be able to return at night and have another go. But if you can’t, you can quickly turn day to night with Photoshop.

In this article I’ll show you how you to turn your daytime urban scene into a nighttime one using layers and masks. I’ll also give you a few tips on the details you should take care of for a more realistic effect.

But first I want to explain the idea behind this technique so you can apply it to all kinds of photography.

The blue night and the yellow light

You may have noticed that different lights have different colors. Sunsets are redder and warmer than the sunlight at noon. The table lamp from your bedroom is more yellow than the fluorescent light of an office building. And so on.

This is called the color temperature, and is measured in Kelvin degrees. (You can see it in full in this color temperature scale.) And you can take advantage of it to simulate night time by colorizing your image accordingly.

Make it night

First, you need to change the white daylight into a dark blue that corresponds to the night light by adding a blue layer. You can do this in various ways, although I find the easiest way it to select Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Color Lookup… from the menu and clicking OK.

From the Properties panel, open the top drop-down menu and choose any option that gives you a blue tone such as Moonlight, Foggy night, or Night from Day.

If you’re more experienced, and want to to have full control, you can work with a RAW file. At the top of the adjustment panel of the ACR window is a slider where you can adjust the color temperature. You can also enter the Kelvin degrees value you want directly according to the scale I mentioned before.

Turn the lights up

Next, create another layer that’s yellow or amber. If you’re using Adjustment Layers, remember to duplicate of the original first and then add the color one on top of it. If you’re sticking with the Color Lookup adjustment layer style choose Edgy Amber or Candlelight. Once you have it, merge the adjustment layer with the copy you created from the original.

If you’re doing it from ACR, don’t just duplicate your layer. Use the Create a New Smart Object via Copy option instead, or the first layer will go yellow too. You can find this option by right-clicking the layer and choosing it from the menu. Then double-click on the thumbnail to open ACR again and drag the slider to the yellow side.

You now need to add a mask to this yellow layer. You can do this by clicking on the Layer mask button on the bottom of the panel. Once you’ve created it, click Invert in the properties panel. We do it this way because the white mask will show all the content and the black one will block all of it. (To learn more about it, check out Getting Started with Layer Masks in Photoshop – a Beginners Tutorial.) For now you’ll want it all covered so you can paint only what you need to in the next step.

The yellow corresponds to the tungsten light from light bulbs, which you can use to paint lamp posts, windows and any other source of light that might be available during night time. Identify these sources and, using the Brush tool, start painting in the Layer Mask with the brush set to white.

For windows, I find it easier to paint the entire rectangle and then paint out the divisions with the black brush.

This also works for any corrections or detailed work. If you paint something by accident, change the color of the brush to black and paint back over it to cover it again. This is why we’re using masks. The work is non-destructive, and you can easily go back and forth.

The Giveaways

It’s up to you how much work you want to put into the transformation. But keep in mind that the more details you do, the more realistic the effect looks.

For example, the lamp will shed some light onto the wall where it’s hanging, so you’ll want to illuminate that part as well. With the same Brush tool you were using, diminish the opacity from the Options Bar and paint the wall where the light would be hitting. Keep diminishing the opacity as you get further away from the light source.

Another big giveaway is reflective surfaces because light would reflect onto them. In this example, the water in the canals needs to have reflected light. But it may also be needed for cars or puddles, so keep an eye on your scene and paint those as well.

There you have it: from day to night using nothing more than  layers and masks.

I hope you enjoyed this technique. I recommend you go out and do some night photography so you can learn how light, tones and colors behave. The more you understand it, the better you will be able to replicate it in post-production.

If you need some help getting started, check out The Ultimate Guide to Night Photography.

And to get some inspiration for your next digitally created night scenes, here are two great articles:

The post How to Turn Day to Night Using Photoshop for Urban Landscapes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

6 Advantages of Using a Tripod in Your Photography

The post 6 Advantages of Using a Tripod in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

Tripods are a wonderful accessory to have and can assist you greatly with your photography. There are a large variety of tripods available on the market at present in different shapes and sizes, ranging from compact to full-size devices. Tripods are available to suit all kinds of budgets and come in a range of materials from aluminium to carbon fibre.

With the high ISO functionality and faster shutter speed capabilities of modern cameras, you may be asking why do I even need a tripod? Depending on your genre of photography, tripods can be a versatile and beneficial support. If you don’t already have one, and are considering adding one to your photography kit bag, here are 6 reasons why a tripod can be beneficial to your photography.

1. Ability to photograph in low light

Tripod 01

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint

Whatever your preferred type of photography, a tripod is an essential tool for photography, particularly in low light. In these situations, there comes a time where you can no longer hold the camera steady in your hand. Using a tripod will greatly assist you.

2. Ability to photograph long exposures

A tripod allows you to capture a longer exposure by using a slower shutter speed of up to several seconds. This helps to minimise the risk of any movement. While capturing a long exposure the use of a tripod will allow much more light to enter the camera than would be possible if you were taking a picture hand held.

Tripod 02

Guernsey © Jeremy Flint

This way you are also capable of capturing movement in your images which would not be possible if you are holding the camera in your hands. Examples of which include movement in cloud formations or light trails.

3. Better stability

One of the most beneficial reasons for using a tripod is that it provides stability to the camera. It also avoids camera shake by the operator, especially in those situations where longer exposure times are necessary. If you are shooting anything from a sunset to starry nights, fireworks or the moon, you will need the stability that a tripod provides, particularly to keep the camera in position.

Tripod 03

The Lake District © Jeremy Flint

A tripod can also be advantageous in extreme weathers such as heavy winds. By having your camera mounted on a tripod, you can achieve a steadier shot as the tripod provides much needed stability in blustery conditions.

4. Sharper images

Tripods are a great bit of kit to help you get sharper images. One of the biggest mistakes I see newbie photographers make when shooting in low light is that they try to take too many shots hand held and end up with blurry images. A tripod will assist you in achieving more accurate mages.

5. More time to create shots

Tripod 04

Corfe Castle, UK © Jeremy Flint

The whole photography process takes a lot longer when you are using a tripod. Instead of taking instant handheld shots, the process of setting up a tripod and placing your camera on it slows you down and effectively allows you more time when taking pictures.

Using a tripod in photography forces you to take your time when setting up a shot and subsequently gives you more time to compose your image. The additional time spent on getting your tripod ready can be an investment as it helps you to focus more on your image-taking. This can, in turn, result in better pictures.

6. Ability to frame and adjust shots with ease

Once the camera is mounted on the tripod, you will find you can make subtle changes to your framing with ease. When doing this, by moving the camera in any direction, up and down or left and right, there will also be limited movement.

Tripod 05

Ljubljana, Slovenia © Jeremy Flint

In addition to these camera related benefits, another blessing with having a tripod is that the weight of the camera is literally lifted off your shoulders when placed on one. As well as holding your camera, a tripod can also double up as a stand for lights or reflectors if required.

Whether or not a tripod is right for you depends on what type of photography you do and your photographic needs. If you enjoy taking pictures of landscapes and architecture, a tripod is a must-have accessory. If you find tripods are generally too heavy to carry around or don’t necessarily need them for low light photography, a monopod is a great substitute that is lighter and can also be used as a walking stick.


In summary, tripods are a wonderful addition to our camera equipment and should be used to your advantage in low light and when photographing longer exposures.

They will help you by providing more stability, slowing you down when taking pictures and facilitating minimal movement when framing and capturing your shots.


The post 6 Advantages of Using a Tripod in Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jeremy Flint.

How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Start Charging for Your Photography?

The post How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Start Charging for Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

An image from my first wedding. One of the scariest days of my life.

How do you know when you’re ready to start charging for your photography?

When someone is willing to pay you for them.

There you go. In twenty-two words, I have answered one of the most-asked questions in photography.

In all seriousness though, that is pretty much it.

You only have to look at the story of many photographers and how they started. They simply took an offer to get paid, fearing they were not ready.

Let’s be honest right out of the gate. You will be nervous as hell – probably convinced you are a fraud – and will be fearful of delivering the images to the client. Awaiting their reaction, you may wonder why anyone would pay you to take photos. This is natural and is more commonly known as “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter syndrome

To put it simply, it is the feeling that your work isn’t very good and doesn’t deserve the attention it gets. Albert Einstein also suffered from this, so if this sounds like you, you are in good company.

The truth is, people who are highly skilled or accomplished tend to think others are just as skilled. Because you see what you do as simple, you don’t see the vast amount of skill involved in the work you do. You take it for granted because it comes so easily to you.

It is also human nature to be more critical of your own work than that of others. Put this into a world of social media where everyone is #livingtheirbestlife, and there is what appears to be a never-ending stream of amazing images you see as better than yours. Now you have the perfect storm.

The fact that Einstein suffered from this shows there seems to be no level of accomplishment that makes you able to see worth in what you do. In some cases, higher accolades and awards make things worse.

You just need to remember you are skilled in what you do and your work is good.

Unfortunately, if you suffer from imposter syndrome, you may never be able to rid yourself of it. However, there are things you can do to make it easier. Tactics include talking with others about your issues and taking note of the positive feedback you get. People don’t have to say nice things about your work; they say them because they mean it!

Most importantly, remember that almost everybody suffers from this in one respect or another. I suffer from this badly. Repeatedly, I think my work is awful and wonder why people want to pay me to take their photographs. I convince myself that unless I have taken the best photograph in the history of photography of whatever I am shooting, then it is a failure.

Luckily, I have a great family who support me through the tough times and remind me that people pay for my work because I am a good photographer.

Band portrait again grunge background

I had shot lots of bands, but few band portraits at this point. They were nervous as I had photographed artists they loved. I was nervous because they were paying me for portraits. Imposter syndrome at its finest.

Fake it til you make it – except for weddings! 

There is always a huge element of “fake it til you make it.” You sometimes need to have faith in yourself and go for it. Standing at the edge of the diving board is the worst place to be because you have time to think. Sometimes you need to jump off and try your best. At times it will be graceful, sometimes you may bellyflop. However, in reality, all that is hurt is your pride (and your belly obviously).

Let’s say a friend asks you to photograph their kids because they have seen photos on your Facebook and want some of their kids. They are happy to pay you for the photos too.

My advice is to go for it.

Let’s say the worst happens, and the photos turn out to all be awful (this is more than likely not going to happen. Even if you do not get loads of great shots, you should get a few keepers).  All you do is own up and say you are not happy with the photos and they deserve better. The only thing that is an issue is you have to give up more time to retake the photos.

Photographing a family portrait is the perfect example of when fake it until you make it is okay. Shooting a wedding, however, is not!

The fact that weddings are a one-off event and if you are not 100% certain you can deliver, then you shouldn’t do it.

I have seen (as I am sure many of you have) people on Facebook groups asking questions like “I’m photographing my first wedding next week, I have this lens and that lens. Which will be better? Also, do I need a flash?”

This is irresponsible. You need a certain level of skill and knowledge to photograph a wedding, especially if you are getting paid for it. You cannot gain the knowledge to photograph a wedding by asking questions in a Facebook group a few days before the event. You need to have it before you take on a wedding.

There are always news stories about a wedding photographer getting sued for ruining a couple’s wedding day. Please don’t become one of those. If you aren’t sure if you are ready to photograph a wedding, you probably aren’t.

With that said, your knowledge does not have to be in wedding photography. I know lots of photographers who have never photographed a wedding, but I am sure they would do an awesome job. As a starting point, you need to know how to photograph in a variety of lighting situations. You need to know how to solve exposure issues your camera may throw up, and you need some spare gear in case your main camera dies.

You need a headshot to apply to acting school? Of course, I can (I had no idea).

What equipment do I need if I’m NOT shooting a wedding?

For most photography there are three simple questions:

  • Do you have a camera?
  • Do you have a lens?
  • Do you have a memory card?

If you answered yes to the above three questions, then you have the right equipment to be paid for your photography. Will a variety of lenses and gear make things easier? Yes, but a beginner DSLR with a kit lens is more than capable of producing beautiful images people will be happy to pay you for. 

What equipment do I need if I’m shooting a wedding?

As with the knowledge requirements above, the gear requirements for shooting a wedding are different. A wedding requires a different amount of equipment. The most important is to have two camera bodies. If you have one camera body and something goes wrong, you are in a mess. A spare camera body may not be needed, but it is better not to need something and have it there than to need it desperately and it not be there.

In terms of lenses, most wedding photographers tend to go for two f/2.8 zoom lenses or two to three prime lenses. What is best for you depends on how you like to shoot. Fast lenses are always best for weddings as you can use wider apertures to get more light into the camera in low light scenarios such as dark churches.

For those of you looking for specifics, a zoom lens shooter will use a 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8. They may also have a prime lens with an even larger aperture for situations where there is really poor light.

A prime lens shooter mostly works with a 35mm and an 85mm. They may also have a 135mm or a 24mm. These are generally f/1.8 or faster.

Now again these are the basics. I have not included flashes, memory cards, hard drive backups, etc.

I will take this opportunity to remind you again; you really do need a high level of skill and equipment to be able to shoot a wedding. It is hard work if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, it is like a 12-hour waking nightmare.

camping pods in rural England

Want me to shoot your camping space. Of course, I can. It will be…The first part of the sentence was easy. Asking for the money was always harder. In this case, the client said, “I was expecting to pay more than that.”

What should I charge?

Now for those of you starting to charge, you will always wonder how much should I ask? When you are first starting, you may photograph for an incredibly low rate, and that’s fine.

No matter what some may say, you are not ruining the photography industry by charging $100 including all the images when you are starting out. The truth is, people looking for photography at that price point are not going to be purchasing from photographers who charge thousands of dollars for a photo shoot.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. My first family shoot I charged £50 including the images. My first full wedding I charged £500. Would I charge that now? Of course not. However, at the time, I got some cash, I built my portfolio, and most importantly it built my confidence.

The follow on question is how do you know when you are ready to charge more? Again this is down to you, your ability to deliver beautiful images and your confidence.

The moment I decided to raise my prices was when I was paid £600 to photograph a wedding where the couple had spent over £10,000. They didn’t book me for my price; they loved my work.

After that wedding, I doubled my wedding prices.

This led to more inquiries. Not only that, but I also received inquiries for the type of weddings I wanted to photograph. Was I convinced that raising my prices that much would mean no-one would book me? Of course, but they did, and I eventually raised them again. You just have to be confident, and remember, your prices are something you can easily change.

A photo from one of my first family photoshoots. I got paid the grand total of £50 including all images. Even then, I convinced myself I might be overcharging.


There you have it. You are now ready to start charging. Or, maybe you’re not.

The fact remains that in most situations when people offer to pay you, you are ready. The only thing that might mean you are not is you and your confidence.

You might be the type of person who will happily throw yourself off the 10m diving board and see what happens. Or, you might be the type of person who starts on the side of the pool and works your way up until you are at the 10m mark, confident you won’t bellyflop.

However, at some point, you need to leap. It will be scary, but I promise you, it won’t be as scary as it is in your head.


The post How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Start Charging for Your Photography? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Easy Beginners Tips for Long Exposure Photography

The post Easy Beginners Tips for Long Exposure Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

Learning about Neutral Density Filters and how you can use them to slow down the shutter speed was a big turning point in my landscape photography. I instantly fell in love with the soft and dream-like feeling I was able to achieve – it was like giving life to my not-so-interesting images.

I’ve learned a lot since that day, and while I don’t only do Long Exposure Photography anymore, it’s still an important part of my work and it’s something my students often like learning about. After all, it has the power to instantly transform an otherwise standard image into something more fascinating.

As with anything else, it takes a lot of practice to master a subject but I want to help you on the way by sharing some crucial tips that will make life just a little easier.

1. Prefocus when using Neutral Density Filters

There weren’t a whole lot of articles and tutorials to study when I started exploring with Neutral Density filters. This meant that it took a bit of struggle to find a solution to some of the mistakes I made. One of the things I simply couldn’t figure out was why all my images with a 10-stop filter were blurry…

After some back and forth I understood that it was because I used autofocus.

Remember that a 10-Stop ND Filter is essentially a piece of black glass. Try looking through it with your eyes when the sun is low on the sky and I’ll bet you can barely see anything. This is the case for the camera as well. Most cameras aren’t able to properly set the focus when dark ND Filters are used – just as they aren’t able to automatically focus at night.

The solution is to switch over to manual focus. I know this sounds tedious to some of you but here’s an easy workaround if you prefer autofocus:

  1. Mount the camera on a tripod and find your desired composition
  2. Focus roughly one third into the image (depends on the scene and desired look)
  3. Change to Manual Focus (read your owners manual to figure out how it’s done with your camera/lens)
  4. Place the Neutral Density filter in front of the lens
  5. Calculate the shutter speed and take the picture!

Since you switched to manual focus, the camera isn’t going to try to focus after you attach the ND filter; instead, it’s keeping the focus you set.

Note: Remember to repeat the process when you’re changing compositions and to switch back to autofocus when you’re done using the filters.

2. Avoid light leaks by covering the viewfinder

The biggest frustration I’ve ever had when working with long exposures was the mysterious purple glow that appeared in the center of my images.

It turned out that this is caused by light leaking through the viewfinder and the solution is quite simple: cover it up!

Some professional DSLR cameras have a built-in ‘curtain’ that you can close by flipping a small switch next to the viewfinder. If your camera doesn’t have this, I recommend using a piece of cardboard to place in front of the viewfinder.

It’s also possible to purchase covers custom made for your camera.

Now it should be said that these light leaks don’t always occur. It’s most common when:

  • You’ve got a light source directly behind you (such as the sun or a streetlamp)
  • You’re using a shutter speed of 1 minute or longer

I’d still make it a habit to cover the viewfinder whenever you’re using a shutter speed of 20 seconds or more.

3. Remote Shutter + Bulb Mode = Sharp Images

One of the biggest challenges you’re going to experience when experimenting with Neutral Density filters and slow shutter speeds are getting razor sharp images. There are many factors that can result in the images being unsharp; one of the most common is camera shake.

The maximum shutter speed of most DSLR cameras is 30 seconds. In order to use a shutter speed longer than this, you need to use a function called ‘Bulb’. In Bulb mode, the image is being captured for as long as the shutter button is pressed.

You can imagine (and try if you don’t believe me!) that manually pressing the shutter button for one or two minutes is going to cause a significant amount of vibration to the camera. What does that lead to? Blurry images.

A remote shutter is absolutely essential in this case. You can find a cheap version but I recommend a remote shutter that has:

  • the possibility to ‘lockup’ the button
  • an LCD display that shows time


Long Exposure Photography is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to improve your understanding of how the camera fundamentals (ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed) work together. Since we’re working with shutter speeds of up to several minutes there are many factors that might result in failure but the results can be mesmerizing.

The tips I’ve shared in this article gives the solution to some of the most common obstacles and I hope they will remove some frustration for you. If you’d like to learn everything you need to know in order to capture beautiful images using slow shutter speed, be sure to take a look at my eBook ‘The Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography‘.


The post Easy Beginners Tips for Long Exposure Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Christian Hoiberg.

Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract

If you’re any level of a photographer working with clients, you need to have a contract.

When photo jobs go awry, it’s often due to a lack of communication.

A contract protects not only you but also your client in the event of any unmet expectations.

Here are some inclusions you may want to consider.

Who is the agreement between?

First of all, you need to state clearly who the contract is between and identify each party. You can identify yourself as “the Company”, and your client as “the Client.” The photo shoot itself can be referred to as “the Event.”

Note that the agreement supersedes any prior agreements between the parties, and that the only way to add to the agreement is to do so in writing, and that this amendment must be signed by both parties.

In short, if anything changes between the signing of the agreement and shoot day, you’ll need another contract.

What are the reservations?

You should have a section on your contract about the Reservations.

This means you note the date the shoot is scheduled for, and your policies about rescheduling, postponement and cancellation.

Make sure the client is very clear on the consequences of any of these changes.

For example, many photographers require a 50% non-refundable deposit in case of cancellation, so they don’t miss out on potential work that could have been booked that day.

Photography Contract - Darina Kopcok-DPS


I recommend having a section that notes that you as the photographer/company have the right to terminate coverage and leave the location if you experience inappropriate, threatening, hostile or offensive behaviour from a person at the event that calls your safety into question. This may be a rare occurrence, but it’s worth putting into your contract so you can assert your rights in case you’re a victim in an unsafe situation.

This could be relevant to a female wedding photographer being harassed by drunken guests, for example.

Shooting time and additions

Note that shooting time commences at the scheduled start time and ends at the scheduled time, regardless of when the client shows up. If a client is very late, then the shoot goes to the agreed upon time and no later.

I also highly recommend that if you’re a commercial photographer, that you state clearly that the client or a representative from their company must attend the shoot to provide creative direction and approve the final images.

You’re not responsible for the final aesthetic if they are not there to provide feedback and approval.

Furthermore, reserve the right to cancel the shoot and retain the deposit if the client or their representative does not attend.

Seriously. This happens.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Expenses incurred

This is where you might note that there could be additional expenses incurred that may not be part of the original quote, such as parking, props on a fashion or product shoot, or groceries on a food shoot.

These kinds of expenses are usually TBD (to be determined) and not part of the initial estimate. This should be made clear up-front so you don’t end up taking a cut from your earnings to cover these things.


You are responsible for a lot on a shoot, but certain things are unforeseen and out of your control. Things such as obtrusive staff, lateness of the client and staff, the weather, schedule complications, incorrect addresses provided by the client, or restrictions of the chosen location.

Venue and Location Limits

Unless you’re shooting at your studio or a rental, the client is usually responsible for providing an appropriate place for the photographic work to take place.

If the venue is found to be limited in space or otherwise hinders you from carrying out your work in a safe manner (or one that doesn’t allow you to produce the desired result), reserve the right to request moving to another location or cancel the shoot without penalty.


Who is responsible for securing permits?

The second you put a tripod down in a public place, you can very likely get asked to move along by a police officer or other type of city official. This can be disastrous on a commercial shoot where the location has been scouted and is essential to the storyboard or narrative of the final images.

Permits can take some time to secure, so keep this in mind if this job falls on you.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Film & copyright

The photography you produce for a client still belongs to you, as the creator of those images. A lot of clients think the images belong to them because they are paying you money to produce them. They need to be educated on copyright.

In the commercial world, clients commission you to produce photos that align with their brand. They then pay you a separate fee to license those images for a specific use and time frame.

You should have a separate Usage Agreement in addition to your contract that outlines usage parameters.

Limit of liability

In the unlikely event that you are not able to perform to the guidelines laid out in the contract due to injury, illness, an “act of God,” or another event outside of your control, you should not be held responsible.

You should, however, make every effort to reschedule the shoot. If this isn’t possible, then ordinarily all payment received for the event should be returned.

If digital files are lost, stolen, or destroyed beyond your control, including but not limited to hard drive or equipment malfunction, your liability is to return all payments.

The limit liability for a partial loss of originals should be a prorated amount of exposures lost based on the percentages of the total number of originals.

Capture and delivery

You are not liable to deliver every image taken at an event or shoot.

The number of final files to be delivered is up to the photographers discretion or is based on an agreement made between the photographer and client before the signing of the contract.

In this section, you can make a note of when you’ll be delivering the files by and how they will be delivered, such as JPG or TIFF files.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Post-production and editing

The final post-production and editing styles, effects, and overall aesthetic of the image are at your discretion unless you’re working on a specific type of job where the editing will be done in-house, say by a magazine or ad agency.

Nothing is worse than working hard on editing and then having clients put crazy Instagram filters on your images. Prohibit any alteration to your photographs unless there is an agreement with the client as to what those alterations will be, like putting text on a photo.

Payment schedule

If you’re asking for a deposit (and I hope you are), make sure to put that in your contract.

How you manage payment for the remainder is up to you. Many photographers allow thirty days for receipt, however, any late payment after that is subject to interest – usually 15-18%.

Also, note a policy around any NSF charges and if there are any consequences the client needs to be aware of in terms of not paying on time.

For example, you can state in your contract that non-payment after three months is subject to legal action.


At the end of the agreement, I suggest that you lay out the agreed upon pricing.

If you don’t have a separate usage agreement, you can include the usage terms here.

For my commercial work, I typically don’t give my clients a usage agreement until the images have been paid for in full and prohibit the use of my images until then.

I find this works well for me. Clients should not be using your images publicly unless they have paid for them, or it is a violation of your copyright.

I even state this term on my invoices and draw their attention to this in my email communication upon sending it.

Some clients can take a long time to pay you unless you draw specific boundaries around payment and the use of your images.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Signature field

There should be an area where both you and the client can sign and date the contract.

It’s best if you use electronic signature software such as Hello Sign so that clients don’t have to spend their time physically downloading and scanning a signed contract back to you. Everyone is busy, right?

If you use a CRM software, it may already offer such a feature. For example, I use Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. I can send clients emails and contracts directly from within the user interface.

I have all the other features of a client management system for around the same price I would have to pay for signature software alone.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this has given you some idea of what you can put in your contract.

Be sure that your contracts are dated and signed before you consider a job booked.

Go over them with the client and make sure the terms and conditions are understood. A lot of people don’t bother to read stuff before they sign it and you don’t want to deal with any surprises.

Please note that this post is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute legal advice, as I am not a lawyer and cannot advise in that capacity.

To make sure that any or your contract or written agreements are legally binding, and will cover you in an event of a discrepancy, please contact an attorney.

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography

The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

It’s a universal truth that everyone has to start somewhere. It’s also true that when you start something new, you’ll make mistakes. All the expert writers on this site will have gone through this process – myself included. In this article, you’ll learn about 12 common photography errors that are typically made, and how you can quickly correct those mistakes. So read on if you want to avoid some of the pitfalls of photography, and fast forward to creating amazing photos!

To demonstrate that everyone has to start somewhere, the photos used here are among my earliest photos. Taken with an SLR camera, and of course in the days of film. There are plenty of mistakes in the set of images in this article. At this point, I certainly knew my way around an SLR camera, but clearly there were still things for me to learn.

1. Crop in the wrong place in pursuit of minimalism

You’ll have heard photography is the art of subtraction. That is, removing unwanted elements from your frame will give you better photos. You’ve arrived at a popular location to take photos, only to find crowds of people there. The solution is to begin your photo, where the head of the tallest person in that crowd ends.

In other words, crop your photo halfway up the side of a building. While this does remove that unwanted element, it leads to a poorly composed photo in the pursuit of minimalism. This could arise from other objects like parked cars, or wires in the wrong place in your image. So what can you do instead of this overly tight composition?

  • Arrive early – One of the best ways to avoid crowds of people or cars is to arrive early. Wake up for sunrise, and get that great angle before the crowds get in the way of it.
  • Multiple photos – Set you camera up on a tripod, and take a sequence of photos of the same scene. Ensure people are moving around. Then stack the photos in Photoshop, and use the median function to remove people from the photo.
  • Cloning – You can use clone stamping to remove elements in the photo you don’t wish to be there. This requires some skill, but can be used to remove wires, people and sometimes larger objects.

This is a photo that would benefit from more foreground being visible. There is too much dead space at the top of the image.

2. Photograph into the light

Not taking the time to plan when you’ll visit a location will lead to this mistake. Perhaps you’re on a walking tour, and your next location is a famous landmark. It just happens to have the sun behind it, with all the interesting detail of the object obscured by bad light. The same is also true when you photograph a person towards the light, unless you’re reflecting light back onto them or using external flash then the portrait is likely to be lacking. So what solutions are there for this problem?

  • Know the light – Do your research on the location you’re visiting, and make sure to arrive when the sun is in the right direction. You can use suncalc for this purpose, it shows the direction of the sun in relation to time of day and geographic location.
  • Change sides – In some cases, you can move to the other side of a building, where you’ll be able to photograph a person from the other direction. This is a relatively simple solution that can improve your results.
  • Light modifiers – The use of reflector discs and or off-camera flash can make portrait photography towards the light possible.
  • Digital blending – Photographing towards the light, when the main subject is larger than you’d be able to light with external flash? You can instead bracket your photos, and use digital blending with your image. This is an effective solution when you want to photograph towards a sunset.

A photo that’s reasonably composed but that would have benefited from being taken at another time of the day. This type of photo would work well during blue hour.

3. Never change your point of view

If all your photos are taken from a standing position, or perhaps seated position when you’re eating, then you’re missing a trick. A change in perspective is a great way to produce much more interesting photos.

That’s not to say there aren’t great photos to be taken in a standing position. A lot of street photography and portrait photography uses this perspective to great effect. There are plenty of other angles to use though, and adding variety to your photography through these angles is a great idea.

Changing your angle might be as simple as kneeling down, or as challenging as finding access to a high vantage point from a nearby building. The worm’s eye view and bird’s eye views can be used to great effect.

You don’t need to photograph straight up or straight down though. Photographing from lower down might emphasize a leading line on the road that much more, or allow plants and flowers to become a more important element within your frame.

Clearly the focus of the image is the roof tiling and the eagles. Area’s to the top and bottom of this image are not needed, and different framing should have been used.

4. Over reliance on post-processing

One of the common photography errors you can make is an over-reliance on post-processing. The aim as much as possible should be to get your result in-camera.

Your camera is, after all, an incredibly powerful creative tool. Of course, it’s important to learn post-processing. If you don’t do so, you’ll be at a disadvantage. It’s a good idea to learn how to use your camera and post-processing in conjunction with each other.

What can happen if you allow your skill in post-processing to outstrip your knowledge of the camera?

  • Fix the photo – Instead of getting the photo right in camera, the idea is to correct mistakes in post-processing. This will stall your progression as a photographer, and it makes you a lazy photographer.
  • New photography techniques – Post-processing can add that “x factor” to your image. So much so, that you may progress more slowly in learning new camera techniques.
  • Transformations – It’s possible to make some quite radical changes to your photo. Compositing images is certainly something you should learn. It’s also possible to just change the sky in a landscape scene to something more dramatic. In doing this, are you as motivated to return to a location many times, until you get a dramatic sky in real life?
  • Filters – Post-processing is all about subtle changes. Overcooking your photo by using a filter at too strong a strength might make your photo stand out, but perhaps not in a good way.

This photo needed to be taken at another time of the day when the sun lights up the building. The lamp to the left also adds nothing and should be removed by changing the angle.

5. Not learning your camera settings

Your camera is fulling of settings that affect your image. A lot of these settings are connected to one another as well. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is fundamental to photography. You need to take the time to learn each of these settings on their own, and how changing one of them can impact another setting. The first and most important thing to do here is to stop using your camera on automatic.

One setting at a time

You won’t learn everything at once, but you want to get to the point that you subconsciously know the correct settings to use. It’s a good idea to spend time getting to know one particular camera setting at a time and what it does.

A good setting to focus on is aperture.

Learn how aperture can be used to control the depth of field, blur the background, and perhaps produce a starburst in your photos. Having learnt how this setting works, move onto a new setting and learn that one.

This detail photo would have been improved by using a larger aperture. At the time this sort of lens wasn’t available to me.

6. Not using selective focus

Getting sharp images is an important part of photography. To get the sharpest images you’ll need to learn how to use the focus settings on your camera correctly. One of the most important of these settings is selective auto-focus.

Another of the common photography errors is to let your camera decide where to focus for you.

Instead, you should be in control of this process.

It’s not always the case that you’ll want to have your focus point in the center of the image. Use selective focus, so your camera focuses where you want it to focus. Your camera will have a grid array that can be seen through the viewfinder. Use your camera’s direction controls to move the focus point to the appropriate position, and you’ll be ready to photograph.

The photo uses the rule of thirds, so composition is okay. The tree on the left is somewhat distracting though.

7. Going it alone

Photography is a great past time to practice on your own. It dovetails very well with nice long walks by yourself in the country or city. Indeed you can learn a lot about your craft through self-exploration, and perhaps reading articles on sites such as this one. To only do this would be a mistake though. There are a lot of good reasons to seek out and befriend other photographers. Here are a few things you’ll gain from teaming up with other people.

  • Feedback – One of the best ways to improve as a photographer is feedback. Some of the best feedback you’ll receive is from fellow photographers.
  • Collaborations – Not all photography is easy to achieve on your own. Once you start using off-camera flash to photograph models, working as a team makes sense.
  • Learning – Tapping into the knowledge base of other photographers is invaluable. Different people learn about different things in photography, so being able to share that knowledge helps a lot.

The horizon line isn’t straight, showing this photo was taken too quickly. Another indicator of this is not waiting for the man to move out-of-frame. A rushed photo, and a poor result.

8. Not developing your own style

This is true not just in photography, but in many art forms. It’s easy to look to famous photographers, or perhaps local established ones, and look to emulate their photography. It’s a good idea to learn about how photographers take their images on a technical level. Once you know how other photographers work though, it’s then time to interpret these techniques in your own way.

There are, as mentioned, many benefits to joining a group of photographers, but one potential pitfall is developing their style of photography. Learn what makes their photography work, then spend a bit of time of your own developing a style that suits your work.

A photo that is spoiled by the wire at the top of the frame. Simply moving forward and using the same composition would have removed this wire from the photo.

9. Not learning new techniques

As you progress and become comfortable in your skin, you’ll come to one of the next big photography errors. You’ve developed a style, but then stopped progressing. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re getting attention for the photography you’re now producing.

Photography is always evolving and to stay at the vanguard of the field you need to be learning new techniques. They might not necessarily become your signature style, but learning new ideas allows you to freshen up those styles that are your signature techniques. This might lead to you combining two photography techniques. You might learn a different way of post-processing your images that allows you to improve all the photos you take in the future.

This was once a photo I liked. Today, I know that it really needed a graduated neutral density filter for the sky. This aspect of photography was something I’d not learnt at this point.

10. No main subject

How do you elevate a good photograph into a great one? To do that you’ll need a narrative to your photo, and that means a main subject.

It’s possible to take nice photos of a landscape or abstract detail photos that are very eye-catching. A silhouetted person on the brow of a hill instantly adds more story to your scene, making it a stronger composition. A detail photo with one part of the image that’s different? Now you have a photo with a subject.

Sometimes the main subject will be readily available, like a single tree in a landscape scene. At other times you may need to wait patiently for a person to walk into your scene, thereby giving your scene its subject.

This is an awkward photo that lacks a main subject, and leaves a lot of dead space on the right.

11. Too many distracting elements

In photography, you want to keep it simple. Once you’ve settled on a strong main subject, you need to frame it correctly.

Another regular in the photography errors list is a busy photo. This is often because the background has too many elements, but distracting elements can also extend to the foreground. How can you eliminate extra elements from your scene such as unwanted wires? It’s true that you could use post-processing. On the other hand, you can develop your photographer’s craft. So what options are there?

  • Angle – That means changing the angle, perhaps as dramatically as walking to the other side of your main subject.
  • Focal length – You can also use different focal lengths, longer focal lengths will compress your scene which might allow you to remove things you don’t want from the frame.
  • Aperture – Get stuck on automatic mode and you won’t learn about this. A great way of removing a busy background is to blur it out. You can do this by using a large aperture, the resultant shallow depth of field will blur the background but keep your main subject sharp.
  • Closer – Walking closer to your subject, when that’s possible, means you’ll remove elements from your frame. They’ll now be behind you, but you might need to use a wider focal length to take the photo.

The water makes some nice patterns, but the photo lacks interest. In addition to this, the bottom is overexpose. A well-placed GND filter could have fixed that problem.

12. Bad composition

There are some basic rules of composition, and it’s worth knowing what they are. These are things like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing. It’s also true that not every photo benefits by doggedly sticking to the rule of thirds, those photos that use minimalism for instance might not work so well. It is a good idea to know what composition techniques work though, and to look at how you can apply them to your photography. When you don’t do this you’ll begin your photographic journey with awkward composition mistakes.

Chloe, I miss you. This is quite a nice photo of this dog. The foot should not have been cut off though, and the angle is clearly from a standing position. Kneeling down might have worked better here.

Cut down on your photography errors!

As you’ll see, there are lots of photography errors you can make. Are there any on this list you’ve made? Perhaps there are other photography errors you’ve made while learning, and you can share them with the community here? As we all know, making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

So now it’s time to pick up the camera, and having read this article, hopefully you’ll know more of the photography errors to avoid!


The post 12 Photography Errors You’ll Make When You’re New to Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

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