How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Golden hour is famous for being the most ideal lighting for portraits, especially at a beach location. Unfortunately, sometimes, the golden hour isn’t an option. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to photograph portraits at any time of the day. That way, you can always create beautiful photos for clients.

Know where the sun is at all times

First, you’ll need to know where the sun is at all times. The easiest way to do this is to use an ephemeris (I personally use this one). This is a tool that can help you see where the sun will be at any time during the day.

Here you can see where the sun will rise from, set, and the times when these will be happening during the day.

Before, or even while you’re scheduling your session, you can quickly check this tool to see the sunrise, midday, and sunset times.

An ephemeris can give you the details on the direction the light is coming from at a particular point in the world. Simply plug in the location of your session, and you can see all of the important details.

Here we can see where the sun will be on this particular day at the same time on the opposite coast in Mexico from the previous photos.

This is really helpful since no beach is alike and the direction of light differs from one side of the world to another. For example, in California, the sun sets behind the beach. Whereas on the east coast, the sun sets in the opposite direction.

Here we can see where the sun will be on this particular day at the same time on the opposite coast in Mexico from the previous photos.

Also, different beaches may face differently and therefore it’s good to know where the sun will be during your session.

Morning light

Morning light on a beach is magical. It has a whole different color temperature than that of the golden hour and can provide a nice soft glow if you have your session early enough.

The light is a little bluer, and depending on the beach where your session is taking place, the sun can rise overlooking the ocean or peaking through the trees. For example, a beach on the east coast like Cancun can mean during your session in the morning you’ll catch the sunrise behind the beach.

Alternatively, on a beach in California, you’ll catch the sun hitting the water from the land side. This will give you that beautiful yellowish-blue glow if your session is before 9 o’clock in the morning.

On the left we see the sun rising behind the bay and at right is after the sun is nearing midday.

Use a simple reflector to bounce light back onto your subject if you feel the sunrise light causes shadows. This is especially useful if sunrise is behind the water at the beach.

Midday light

Midday light at a beach is pretty harsh and therefore it’s good to have some kind of additional lighting equipment to help with shadows. You can use an external flash, popup flash, or a reflector.

Seeing the shadows in front of your clients means the sun is behind them. This family is lit with an external flash mounted on-camera pointed directly at them.

You can also go without an additional light source. However, it’s good to underexpose your photos a bit so you can bring up the shadows in your editing software. Otherwise, you’ll end up with really blown out skies. Of course, this all depends on your style of photography.

Using the sand as a natural reflector helps to bounce light back onto your clients as we can see in both of these photos.

When the sun is at it’s highest point during the day, it might be a good time to take your clients under the shade of some trees nearby or opt to have more playful photos of the family. Have your client’s walk, run, splash in the water, build sandcastles, or just have a bit of fun together.

The sun is at it’s highest at different times around the world, so make sure to check the ephemeris for your exact location to know the time.

Same session, same beach, one photo with flash and one photo without.

Once the sun passes the highest point, it will be at a bit of an angle as it starts to go down for sunset. This is the sweet spot of photographing during midday sun at the beach!

Flash was used to correctly expose the photo and fill in shadows caused by the sun.

When the sun is at a bit of an angle, you can pose your clients with the sun behind them to alleviate having the sun in their eyes. This means you’ll be in the sun, but it’s better than having your clients facing the sun. This avoids causing shadows, uneven lighting, and squinting. The sand can also work as a natural reflector, bouncing light back into their faces.

After midday light

After midday light can be different in the winter than in the summer given that daylight savings can change the amount of light you have left. Either way, the sun sits lower to be at an angle behind your clients. All while still hitting the sand to reflect some light into your client’s faces.

During this time, depending on the angle of light, you can get some really interesting light. It gets more golden by the hour as you approach sunset.

Still, if you find yourself at a beach where the light is still harsh during this time, try and angle your clients away from the sun. You can also try and use your external lighting to help fill in some light.

Golden Hour (Sunset)

Actual sunset only lasts about 5-10 minutes. However, golden hour is just that – about an hour before the sun dips behind the horizon, which means the angle of the light is pretty low and directional. It can mean flooding your photos with lots of that pretty golden light. However, it also makes it difficult to capture your clients evenly lit against the background.

This is especially troublesome if the sun sets behind the water. It can be difficult capturing the beautiful colors of the sunset while also lighting your clients.

Using a flash or external light source pointed directly at your clients can help light them while capturing the sunset behind. You can also underexpose your photo a bit to bring up the shadows later without compromising the sunset.

Try silhouetting your clients behind with the sunset light to offer a different look to the final images.

Golden hour is also a perfect time to turn your clients toward the setting sun to get that beautiful golden color cast on their skin tones and in the overall look of the photo.

Blue hour (After sunset)

Blue hour is the 20-30 minutes (sometimes less time) after the sun has completely gone from view. Blue hour is nice to photograph in because of the beautiful sunset colors like blue, orange, pink, and purples that come out after sunset. The lighting is a bit darker, so you might need a tripod.

During the blue hour, you can get some additional light on your clients by facing them where the sun has set.

During this time you can attempt some slow shutter speed photos while your clients hold still. Getting the movement in water can create a more fine art approach to beach photos!

During any time of day try these ideas:

Cloudy days are perfect for photographing at any time during the day. However, you might not get the sunset as bright as on a clear day.

It doesn’t matter the time of day, it’s good to get variety in your portraits during beach sessions. For that try some of these ideas:

  • Rock formations/caves as backgrounds and also shelter from harsh light.
  • Trees can provide shade as well if the light is harsh and the day is particularly hot.
  • Around town can also serve as a nice background for photos while you’re waiting for the midday sun to angle a bit.
  • Up high can also serve as a nice way to keep clients out of harsh sunlight. For example, a balcony in their hotel room, a higher terrace with some shade that overlooks the ocean, etc.
  • Photographing more lifestyle-type photos with the family playing, getting in the water, and just having a “beach day”.

If you are waiting for the sun to go down a bit, you can take some portraits near trees that aren’t directly on the beach. This also adds variety to the final images.

Conclusion

Photographing at the beach during golden hour isn’t the only time that you can create one-of-a-kind and amazingly beautiful images for your clients.

Taking cover in caves or using rock formations as backgrounds can also help keep your client out of direct sunlight.

It is incredibly beneficial to learn to photograph at the beach at any time of the day. Moreover, it can mean the difference between a client choosing you and another photographer.

 

better-beach-portraits

The post How to Take Better Beach Portraits at Anytime of the Day appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography

The post This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The digital age has made photography easier, cheaper, and more accessible than ever before.  Even people who wouldn’t call themselves “photographers” now carry a camera in their pocket in the form of their cellphone.

However, has the ability to snap a picture without skill or knowledge made photography too easy? Even for you reading this article who’ve come to this site to learn more about making better photos – has the ease of making digital photos with modern cameras robbed you of learning the basics?

Perhaps. Presuming you really do want to learn more, give the following exercise a try with the intent of improving your skills.

This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography

I’ll bet back when this grocery store was operating you could buy black and white film here. Now, both are relics. I shot all of the mono photos in this article with a 50mm prime lens during a photo walk, while conducting the exercise outlined.

Back to the film days

Some of you remember the film days, but with digital photography catching hold in the early 2000s, we already have a generation of new photographers who may never have loaded a roll of film.  Others may never have had to manually focus a camera, calculate exposure without a meter, or made monochrome photos in the camera.

My first “real” camera – a 35mm Hanimex Praktica Nova 1B

As the risk of dating myself, here’s a little background:

Back in the “pre-digital days” (back in 1970 when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I was 16 and in high school. I bought my first real camera – a 35mm Hanimex Practica Nova 1B. It was an East German camera built in Dresden and imported to the U.S. The Oreston f/1.8 50mm Meyer Optik Görlitz lens was fast and sharp (though I didn’t know much about such things at the time).  It was typically loaded with Kodak Plus-X film (ISO 125, previously called ASA) or sometimes Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400).

I learned how to process the film and later make black and white prints in a little darkroom in the corner of the garage.  Working under the dim glow of a safelight, and watching the image magically appear as the photographic paper bathed in a tray of Dektol, is something young photographers today have likely not experienced.

This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography 3

The orange glow of a safelight and the smell of photo chemicals. Before Lightroom, there was the darkroom.

I can’t say I miss it.

Today’s cameras are far superior. Also, the ease of working at a computer using Lightroom, where you can dodge and burn with the click of a mouse instead of with physical tools, gives so much more creative freedom.  I also don’t have a wastebasket full of failed paper prints, and money spent trying to master the art.

These were things I learned the hard way with no electronic assistance from my camera. Let’s see what you can learn. Set up your camera and take a photo-walk emulating the way it used to be.

Learning to focus manually takes some skill. Note in this shot the very closest weed at the bottom of the frame is focused, but the other portions are soft. You’ll also better learn the relationship between depth-of-field and aperture when you work in manual mode.

Camera setup

We’re going to want to go fully manual for this, putting you in charge of setting the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. So put the dial in the “M” mode.  Turn autofocus off.  You will be focusing yourself.

If you have a 50mm prime lens, that will better emulate what most of us had on those old 35mm film cameras before we could afford to buy a zoom.  Composing with the “sneaker-zoom,” (that is, using your feet to move closer or further from your subject), is good practice, especially if you always rely on a zoom lens to compose.

Working with a prime lens will help teach you to compose without relying on a zoom.

Going Monochrome

Most beginning photographers, (and all of them in the pre-color era), shot black-and-white film. So to stick to the basics, we’ll be shooting monochrome as well.

Well, sort of.

The best option in a digital camera is to shoot in RAW mode, which will create a color image.  Later in editing, you’ll make a monochrome image from that color file.  Photographing for monochrome will also allow you to better concentrate on composition – another point of this exercise.

Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography 4

It is thought the term “chimping” originated from the “ooh, ooh” sounds photographers made when reviewing their photos on their LCD screens, (not necessarily as in this case, whether the photographer had a simian-like appearance  :-D.   For this exercise, you will NOT be chimping.  – Photo of/by Rick Ohnsman.

To chimp or not to chimp?

You’ve heard the term “chimping” which refers to the practice of some digital photographers to look at the playback on their LCD screen after each shot?  Some scoff at the practice.  Others, (count me in that camp), think the ability to immediately review a shot, check the histogram, make adjustments and reshoot is the best thing to ever happen to photography.  Instant feedback, (rather than waiting days, weeks, months, whatever it was to get back the photos and only then discover your mistake?) – what a concept!

I still bow to the wedding photographers who shot film.  Those photographers knew their cameras relying on skills and experience so they could trust they had the photo before ever seeing the results.

Many cameras will do this. This is a Canon 6D. Set your Picture style to Monochrome, but shoot Raw images. The Raw file will be in color but the LCD display, (both in playback and Live View) will be Monochrome.

So… a choice for you as you do this exercise –  You have two options:

Option 1:

Shoot Raw, but set your camera so the image played back on the LCD (which is a .jpg thumbnail) is shown in monochrome

On a Canon camera, you will be using Picture Styles.  On a Nikon, Picture Controls is the term.  Look for Monochrome in the menu.  What you’ll be doing is taking a Raw color image but forcing the camera to playback a monochrome image on the LCD.

Check your camera manual for how to set this up.

The advantage is being able to see a monochrome image in playback rather than having to previsualize what it will look like.   Because your raw file will still be color, you will have more control in editing.  Should you decide you do prefer the color image, you can stick with it and not convert to black and white.

If you shoot .jpg only, your image will be monochrome with no going back.

Flexibility – it’s just one more of dozens of reasons to shoot raw images.

Or …

If you set your Image Review to “Off”, the photo will not be displayed in the LCD after you take it. Film photographers didn’t have the luxury of image review in the field and for this exercise, you won’t either.

Option 2

Turn off or tape over the LCD screen

If you really want to emulate shooting film, (and get the most from this exercise), you will not chimp at all.  There was no option to review your shots with film. The photographer had to trust their knowledge and instincts.

For those who’ve only made digital photos, (and even for those who may have used film but haven’t done so for a long time), this is harder than it might seem.  The reward, however, will be learning to analyze the scene better, make necessary camera adjustments, and trust your instincts.  You will make mistakes and not know about them until later, but lessons learned with a little “pain” attached will be those you’ll best remember.

I’m not suggesting you always work like this, instant LCD feedback is a beautiful thing. However, when practicing this exercise, see what it can teach you.  (Don’t forget to turn your LCD Review back on completion of the exercise!)

Photography exercise

With the Picture Mode in Monochrome, both Live View and Image Playback on the LCD screen will be Monochrome even though the Raw file will still record in color.

When more isn’t better

Another great thing about digital photography is how many images you can fit on a storage card.  Depending on the camera and the card size that can easily be hundreds, even thousands in some cases.  You also don’t have to worry about each shot costing you more.  If you don’t like what you see, that’s what the delete button is for.

Cards are reusable. Once you buy one, you can use it over and over.

As the saying goes, “digital film is cheap.”

Monochrome will help you better compose and concentrate on line, shape, tone, and texture. Also, note how simulating a red filter when editing allowed the blue sky to render very dark.

Shooting film wasn’t cheap.  There was the cost of the film, the cost of film processing, and the cost of printing.  Nothing was reusable, and so all the shots, both the keepers and the junk, cost money.  With digital, we also need not print if we don’t like a shot.

It was hard to view a film negative and judge what you had.  Unless you were printing your own images, you’d almost always print everything and prints cost money.  Some of us shot transparencies (slides). These were a little cheaper since you’d typically not print them. However, you had to get it right in camera as there was no editing a slide.

Beginning film photographers could spend lots of money learning with little to show for it.

There was also the limitation of how many photos could be made on a roll of film. The capacity typically measured in dozens, not hundreds or thousands of images like digital media.  If you used 35mm film, you could typically get 12, 24, or 36-exposure rolls.  With limited exposures and to save money, photographers wanted to make each shot count.

The downsides were making fewer images, (and thus reducing the odds of getting a keeper), less experimentation with new techniques, and a longer learning curve for a new photographer who’d be making fewer photos.  The upside, however, (and this is a big factor), was photographers took more time to do it right – more time to think before pressing the shutter button.

Putting it all together

Are you ready to give this exercise a try?

I’d suggest not doing this in a session that’s important to you. If you are doing it right, you’re apt to make some mistakes.  That’s okay, those will be mistakes from which you can learn.

Here are your settings and steps:

Camera in “M” – Manual Mode – You will control ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Autofocus Off – Focus with the focus ring.  Learn to see and concentrate on what you’re focusing on.  A mistake I often see new photographers make when learning to use an autofocus digital camera is letting the camera select the default center focus point when that may not be the spot they wanted in focus. Manually focusing puts you in charge of what’s in focus.   Also, consider when you might need to use your aperture to increase or decrease your depth-of-field.

Determine your lighting conditions and chose a “film type” ISO – Choose ISO 125 for bright daylight (emulating Kodak Plus-X or Ilford FP4), ISO 400 (to emulate Kodak Tri-X or Ilford FP5). If you’ll be photographing in low light, try ISO 800 and emulate “pushed” film.  The point here is set it once and leave it there for the entire session.  It wasn’t possible to change ISO with film, you were stuck with your choice for the entire roll.

Use a prime lens if you have one – Learn to compose without a zoom.

Decide how many exposures you have – Pick 12, 24, or 36.  Sure, film photographers often carried multiple rolls, but this exercise is designed to help you make each shot count.  Once you hit your pre-determined number, you’re done.

Here’s what came in a box of Kodak Plus-X or Tri-X film. Can you use this to calculate exposure and not rely on your camera meter? Give it a try!

Calculate Exposure – By the 1960s, most 35mm film cameras had light meters, but they were primitive by today’s standard.  A “match-needle” system where a needle could be centered when dialing in exposure and shutter speed was what many displayed.  If you wanted to purposely over or under-expose a bit, you’d adjust until the needle was over or under as desired.

On cameras without meters, many relied on the chart typically found in a box of film.  Often, these calculations were based on what was called the “Sunny 16 Rule.”  It said that on a bright sunny day if you put the aperture at f/16, then the shutter speed should equal the ASA, (now ISO), film speed.

For example, with Kodak Plus-X ASA 125 film a setting of ASA 125, f/125 at f/16 would give you a well-exposed image.  If you wanted to shoot at a different shutter speed or aperture, you could calculate from there. For example, f/250 @ f/11 (assuming you had the same ASA 125 film in the camera) would be an equal exposure.

If it wasn’t a bright sunny day, you were in the shade, or light conditions were different, sometimes the little printed chart could help.  Mostly, it was the practice that taught a photographer what was “about right” for a given film and a given lighting condition.

That’s another purpose of this exercise; to help teach you what’s about right for a given lighting condition.  See how you do without relying on the meter. At least pay close attention to what the aperture and shutter speed is for a given set of conditions.

Slow down

If this exercise teaches you nothing else, learning to slow down will make it worthwhile.  With limited exposures available on a roll of film, the “spray-and-pray” style of photography was rare.  Typically it was only sports and fashion photographers who had motor-drives (the mechanical version of what we now do with continuous mode).

Photographers took the time to carefully think about their composition, and what they wanted to convey with the image. What shutter speed choice might be best to freeze or blur the action?  How much depth-of-field might you desire and what aperture choice would be best?  Should you roll in a little exposure compensation?

All of these factors were given thoughtful consideration.  Bracketing shots to be sure everything was right could be done but at the expense of more quickly eating up that roll of film.  The difficulty of fixing anything in the darkroom was much greater too, and photographers didn’t have the attitude that they’d “just fix it in Photoshop.”  Consequently, the concept of “getting it right in-camera” was the norm.

Getting it right in-camera is among the goals intended with this exercise.  If you know you only have a minimal number of exposures available to you, each one has to count.  You won’t have the luxury of shooting, chimping, adjusting, and re-shooting if you’re doing this exercise as intended.

So, slow down, take your time, think about each part of the process. And then make your best shot.

Later, you will have a real advantage film photographers didn’t have – the ability to review your images with attached exposure data.

In the film days, conscientious beginning photographers carried a notebook and wrote down their settings to recall later.  Now, your digital camera keeps the notes.  Chalk up one more plus for digital photography.

Why monochrome?

We briefly touched on why monochrome was the choice for this exercise.  One, of course, is that it replicates what early beginning film photographers used and we are simulating the limitations of that time.

The more significant reason is without color, monochrome images rely much more on shape, form, line, tone, and texture.  It is also much easier to concentrate on composition without the added distraction of color.

Working in monochrome can help a photographer better key in on those elements that make a strong image and practice those techniques.

If you’ve done much monochrome photography, you’ll likely already know this.  If you’ve pretty much only made color images in the past, this part of the exercise will also be part of the process of improving your skills.

Back in edit

Film photographers typically dropped their film off at the lab, mailed it in, or sometimes did their own processing.  (I love the smell of D-76 in the morning!  It smells like… Victory.  – Not!  Sorry for the flashback, let’s resume).

You will come back with a few, (you limited your exposures as instructed, right?), Raw images on your storage card.  They will be in color, but you’ll be converting them to monochrome.  I will not spend the time in this article outlining the best ways to convert color to monochrome.  You will find a nice collection of those tutorials here on DPS.  You will find there are great ways to manipulate the tones in your monochrome conversion to create distinctive looks.

To complete the goals of the exercise, what you’ll want to give the most attention to is, were you able to make well-focused, properly-exposed, and nicely composed images with the self-imposed restrictions of the exercise?  Without the electronic assistance of a modern digital camera (auto-focus, auto-exposure), what worked?  What didn’t?

If this really had been film, what would you do differently next time?

The takeaways

This is a great time to be a photographer.  The sophistication of our cameras and the ease with which we can do amazing things in editing is fantastic.  The point of this exercise, however, is to teach you to use your brain as a photographer, to take full control over your camera, and not rely on a microchip to do it for you.  I personally would never go back to film, have no desire to get back in a darkroom, and love every electronic aid my camera supplies.

The point is, I want those things to build on a solid foundation of photo ability and knowledge.  That is the reason for this exercise.

The path to becoming a better photographer lies in using your brain, not a camera microchip, to do the thinking. Slow down, pre-visualize the image, and then use the camera as a tool to capture that vision.

I sincerely hope you give this a try.  If you make great images, wonderful!  If you struggle and make mistakes, fine – you will have learned something.

Either way, you will grow as a photographer.

Drop me a line in the comments and let me know how you made out.  Best wishes.

 

This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography

 

The post This Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise can Improve Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

If you’ve been to a great aerial fireworks display, I’m sure you’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd, captivated by the colorful spectacle. Here in the United States, the Independence Day holiday is when many of us try our hand at fireworks photography.  I’m sure if you live in other places in the world, you also have holidays celebrated with fireworks.  So how can you capture those moments in a photo and elicit those same “oohs” and “ahhs” from your viewers and achieve better fireworks photos?

Include a landmark, city skyline, or something in your fireworks photo to add interest, place, and story. This is a show over the Boise, Idaho Depot.

Great fireworks photos aren’t difficult, but you will not get them in Auto mode.  You will need to put a little thought into this and learn to take charge of your camera controls.  Try these simple tips, however, and I’ll bet you’ll come back with images that elicit “oohs,” “ahhs,” some likes, and maybe even “wows” from your viewers.

Here are the things we’ll cover for better fireworks photos:

  1. Location
  2. Equipment
  3. Camera settings
  4. Shutter speed choices
  5. Using Bulb mode
  6. Shooting technique
  7. Boom Zoom Bloom FX
  8. The “Black Hat trick”

After you’ve read this article, and made your fireworks photos, be sure to read Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

1. Location

You can make good fireworks photos with just an image of the colorful bursts in the sky. But great fireworks photos need something more – an interesting setting or foreground.

Think of displays you have seen taken with fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour, the Chicago city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  What makes those shots over the top?  A couple of things;  iconic city skylines and landmarks, and most often, water.

Not only are there interesting things in the shot besides the fireworks themselves, but often with water in the shot, there’s the benefit of colorful reflections.

If you are lucky, the spot where you plan to photograph your fireworks display will also have interesting foreground features and perhaps a body of water.  If so, scout the area ahead of time so you can find a location to best capture those things.

You can pretty much count on a crowd at a fireworks show. Get there early to stake out your spot. Then consider including the location in some of your shots.

You can count on a crowd when you go to a fireworks show.  Plan on getting to your spot early so you can “stake your turf.” Perhaps put out a blanket to ensure an unobstructed view of the show.  Then, if you have no other foreground elements, consider the possibility of making the crowd your foreground, their heads silhouetted against the sky and fireworks.

Another possibility might be to find a less obvious location, not right where the fireworks will be launched.  Perhaps there is a landmark, a tree-line, a high vantage point, or some other spot that will create an interesting foreground that while still including the fireworks, will give context, place, and “story” to your photos.  Doing some scouting long before the night of the show is a good idea.

The first few fireworks of the show will be in clearer sky conditions. As the show continues, smoke may be more of an issue and the sky won’t be as dark with the fireworks lighting the smoke.

2. Equipment

What will you need to make good fireworks photos? Let’s break down the basic equipment needs:

Camera

You can make fireworks photos with a cellphone camera if that’s all you have. However, the techniques will be different and the results likely not as impressive.

We won’t get into that here, so let’s assume you have a better DSLR or mirrorless camera with the option for manual control. Be sure to have a good-sized storage card, as well as a spare battery or two, as you’ll usually take lots of shots at a fireworks show.

Tripod

Fireworks photography will require a steady camera as you’ll be shooting in low light and taking longer exposures. Consider a tripod pretty much mandatory for this kind of work.  An L-bracket on your camera or at least a tripod that will easily allow going from landscape to portrait mode easily is a good thing too. Often you will shoot in both aspects.

Lens Selection

Lens choice largely depends on how close you will be to the fireworks launch location.  If you are really close, you may need a wide-angle to keep the larger bursts in the frame. If, however, you are a long distance from the show or want to compress the apparent distance between your foreground object and the sky bursts, a telephoto might be in order.

I typically use my go-to lens; a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as it covers a good range. You don’t need a particularly fast lens as you will be working with mid to small apertures and longer shutter speeds. Still, a sharp lens is always a good thing.

Cable Release/Remote trigger

The technique for photographing fireworks will be discussed in a minute, but trust that having a way to remotely trigger your camera will be a real help. One reason is you are presumably going to a fireworks show to enjoy the show.  Having your eye to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter button the entire time will lessen  the enjoyment of “being there.” It will also introduce camera shake, something you don’t want.

A very basic remote release can be had for under $10.00 US. This is a great item to always have in your bag for many purposes.

The tree line at the bottom of the frame adds some additional interest.

3. Camera settings

If you’ve always worked in Program or one of the Auto modes with your camera, or even if you use Aperture (Av/A) or Shutter (Tv/S) mode, this will be the time to be brave and go to full Manual mode.

Here’s how you want to set up your camera for fireworks photography:

Raw Mode

Real photographers shoot in Raw mode. There are many articles why. If you never have done so before, here’s your chance to try it. You can work in Raw + Jpg if that makes you feel more secure. However, I’m betting you won’t use the .jpg versions.

Full Manual

As described. Be brave. You can do this.

White Balance

As you’re using Raw mode, (you are, yes?), white balance can be tweaked later so it doesn’t matter much what you set for shooting. I tend to leave my white balance in Faithful mode almost all the time.

Sometimes it’s fun to zoom in tighter and get the flurry of action.

Low ISO

Working in low light with dark or black backgrounds and long exposures will tend to introduce noise in your shots. Fortunately, the fireworks are bright, so higher ISO settings won’t be needed.  Instead, use the minimum (ISO 100 on many cameras), and you’ll be fine.

Noise Reduction Off

Many modern cameras have a noise reduction feature, which after the first exposure, takes a second “black frame” exposure, detecting the noise and then subtracting that from the initial exposure. It can work well, but…

The second exposure takes as long as the first, and if you’re making multi-second exposures (for example, that 6-second exposure now takes 12 seconds to finish), your camera will be busy working, and you’ll be missing subsequent fireworks.

Turn it off.  You’ll be using a low ISO with minimal noise anyway, and the delay in being able to make more shots isn’t worth it.

Aperture

There are two things to consider here:

  1. How much depth-of-field do you need?
  2. What is the “sweet-spot” of your lens?

First, because the fireworks will be a good distance from your camera, you will be focusing on something further away and likely have a pretty good depth of field. Working at wider focal lengths helps too. Plan on being at your location well before the show starts and have an idea where you’ll need to focus and how much depth of field you need.

Secondly, most lenses are at their sharpest between f/8 and f/16.  Learn where your lens performs best, the so-called “sweet spot,” and use that aperture if you can.

Most of the photos in this article were taken at the same show. Also, most were very close in their exposure settings such as this one at ISO 100, 10-seconds at f/8.

4. Making shutter speed choices

Your choice of shutter speed will be important in capturing good fireworks photos. You know when you hear the boom of the launched fireworks from its mortar that it trails up into the sky, explodes, and a beautiful shower of colorful sparks radiates out and trails down.

Often multiple fireworks are launched close together, each doing the same thing. What you’re after is to capture the entire event which can sometimes take several seconds.

You could pick a fixed shutter speed of, say, four seconds, but would that be too short? Too long? Of course, it depends on the individual firework duration or sequence you want to capture, and that will vary during the show.

So how do you choose?

The answer is, you don’t have to because there’s a better way.

better fireworks photos

Using bulb mode you will be able to hold the shutter open and capture multiple fireworks bursts, closing it when you like.  Note this shot is in portrait orientation.

5. Use Bulb mode

If you’ve seen pictures of early photographers with their view cameras, you might have noticed them holding a rubber “bulb” which when they squeezed, forced air through a rubber tube and tripped the shutter. As long as the photographer kept the bulb squeezed, the shutter stayed open, ending when they released it.

These were the first shutter remotes, and it was that rubber bulb that gave the mode its name.

Today we have wired, and sometimes wireless triggers that can do the same thing. Putting the camera in Bulb mode allows a variable shutter speed. As long as we press and hold the button, the shutter stays open.  Let it go, and the shutter closes, ending the exposure.

This is just the ticket for fireworks photography, a variable shutter speed.

So, let’s review our basic camera settings:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Raw Capture
  • Manual Mode
  • Noise Reduction Off
  • Auto Focus Off – Focus on the anticipated fireworks spot and lock focus there
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR/IS) Off
  • ISO 100
  • Approx. f/8 – f/16  (Use aperture and ISO to adjust if images are too bright or dark).
  • Bulb mode
  • No flash – I forgot to mention this one.  Rarely, (unless perhaps to light a foreground object), will you ever need to use flash when making fireworks photos.  Also, consider whether others are nearby watching the show.  Using flash is guaranteed to make you less-than-popular with other fireworks spectators.  Unless you are alone and have a good reason to use flash, (in which case I will assume you know what you’re doing), just don’t use it.

Set up like this, you’re good to go. Remember, once the show starts, you will be busy. If you are fooling with camera settings, you’ll be missing shots. You will want to try some variations, but you don’t want to have to struggle and miss the show.

Be ready, think it through beforehand, and when the show starts, start clicking.

6. Shooting Technique

You’ve set your camera up on a tripod, figured out where to point it, made sure to pre-focus on a distant spot and locked the focus by putting it in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

If you leave your camera’s Autofocus on it’s almost guaranteed to give you images that are a bust rather than a boom. Against the dark sky and the moving fireworks the focus will hunt, fail, and… it’ll just be bad. Don’t do it.

Often the best images can be made right when the show starts as later, smoke from the previous fireworks becomes thicker, and the fireworks more obscured. So, when you hear that boom of the first firework going up, click and hold the button on the remote. You’ll be in bulb mode so hold it open while the firework goes up, explodes, and radiates out.  Then release the trigger.

Now, quickly check your shot. Is it in focus and framed properly? Is it exposed correctly? If it’s too dark, increase the ISO a click or perhaps open the aperture a stop. Too light? Do the opposite.

Try not to spend too much time doing this as, of course, the show will continue without you.

If you’re in the ballpark, the ability to edit in raw gives you the tweaking room you need. The two unrecoverable mistakes you might make would be to have things out of focus or have the highlights so blown out as to be unrecoverable. Editing won’t save you if you do those things, so be sure the focus is good and if you’re not sure with exposure, underexpose a bit. Some fireworks will be much brighter than others – especially a multi-burst or the finale. So quickly check your histogram and be sure you’ve not clipped the right (highlights) side.

Make any tweaks you need and then keep clicking. Vary the zoom if you need to, but if anything, frame a little “loose.” You can always crop in tighter later. However, if that really big and spectacular burst is so big it goes out of the frame, you’ll have missed it. Try both some portrait and landscape orientation shots. Perhaps reframe to get different things in the shot, especially if you are including foreground elements.

If things are going well, it’s going to be a fairly long show.

And if you’re feeling frisky, you might be ready for some more advanced techniques.

Note how the bright pink burst appears here, thicker streaks at the base of each trail growing thinner at the tip. This uses what I describe as the “Boom Zoom Bloom” technique described.

7. “Boom Zoom Bloom” FX

You may have seen those photos where the bursting fireworks look more like a flower, fat blurry trails with sharp points.  How is that done?

Here’s the technique, which you can vary for different results.

Know this takes practice, and luck plays a big part. So decide if you have already got enough necessary shots before you try it and whether the show will last long enough for some experimentation.

If you’re game, here’s how you do it:

  • You will need your hands free for this, and you’ll want to look through the viewfinder or perhaps use Live View, so using the remote release probably isn’t going to work. Instead, set your shutter speed for about 8-10 seconds, leaving all the other camera settings where they were.
  • With your hand on the focus ring, remember your hand position there. Then turn the ring so things are out of focus.
  • Just as the firework explodes, click the shutter and smoothly turn the focus right back to the focus point you memorized.  You have the time of the preset shutter speed to accomplish this.  If you finish early, that’s okay.
better fireworks photos

Two other images using the defocus-to-focus technique. Also note how some of the bursts, captured after the focus was performed but before the shutter closed, don’t show the same look combining two looks in one photo.

Now, try different things with subsequent shots. Go from focused to unfocused, zoom in or out during the exposure, or maybe take the camera off the tripod and move it during the exposure to make light trails. Play and see what you like.

Just remember, the duration of the show is limited, so try some experiments but also be sure you have some solid “keepers.”

8. The Black Hat Trick

I have to confess, I’ve not personally tried this but the concept is sound and could be fun. (I’ve always wanted to do a “hat trick.”)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • Have a hat, a black one or preferably of something dark enough to be opaque. You will also need to be working in an area that is quite dark.
  • Put the hat over the front of the lens.
  • Have the camera in Bulb Mode and just before the firework launches, click open the shutter locking it open with the remote.
  • Quickly, but gently so as not to bump the camera, remove the hat while the firework explodes.
  • Leave the shutter open and carefully replace the hat. Repeat, removing and replacing the hat for multiple fireworks bursts. (You may need to have a smaller aperture or lower ISO to do this as you will be building up exposure brightness with each additional firework added).
  • Unlock the remote and close the shutter when you’ve done all you want.

What you’re doing is making a multiple-exposure image in-camera. This should work. Of course, there’s also a way to do it in post-processing.  For that, and some other tips on how best to process you fireworks photo, come back for Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

There may be a frenzy of fireworks at the show finale. Keep the shutter open and capture it all if you can without overexposing.

Light the fuse

I hope you’ve decided that good fireworks photography is easy and go and have fun with it.  It’s one more way to enhance your camera skills and make some exciting images.

If there’s anything that’s a problem it’s that good aerial fireworks displays are seasonal in most places and if you really catch the bug, you may find there are not enough opportunities to practice.

So, find out when and where the shows will be near you, mark your calendar, do some scouting for the best locations, “light the fuse” and have fun!

Post your best shots as images in the comments – we’d love to see them.

 

8 tips for better fireworks photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

If you’ve been to a great aerial fireworks display, I’m sure you’ve heard the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd, captivated by the colorful spectacle. Here in the United States, the Independence Day holiday is when many of us try our hand at fireworks photography.  I’m sure if you live in other places in the world, you also have holidays celebrated with fireworks.  So how can you capture those moments in a photo and elicit those same “oohs” and “ahhs” from your viewers and achieve better fireworks photos?

Include a landmark, city skyline, or something in your fireworks photo to add interest, place, and story. This is a show over the Boise, Idaho Depot.

Great fireworks photos aren’t difficult, but you will not get them in Auto mode.  You will need to put a little thought into this and learn to take charge of your camera controls.  Try these simple tips, however, and I’ll bet you’ll come back with images that elicit “oohs,” “ahhs,” some likes, and maybe even “wows” from your viewers.

Here are the things we’ll cover for better fireworks photos:

  1. Location
  2. Equipment
  3. Camera settings
  4. Shutter speed choices
  5. Using Bulb mode
  6. Shooting technique
  7. Boom Zoom Bloom FX
  8. The “Black Hat trick”

After you’ve read this article, and made your fireworks photos, be sure to read Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

1. Location

You can make good fireworks photos with just an image of the colorful bursts in the sky. But great fireworks photos need something more – an interesting setting or foreground.

Think of displays you have seen taken with fireworks over the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour, the Chicago city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.  What makes those shots over the top?  A couple of things;  iconic city skylines and landmarks, and most often, water.

Not only are there interesting things in the shot besides the fireworks themselves, but often with water in the shot, there’s the benefit of colorful reflections.

If you are lucky, the spot where you plan to photograph your fireworks display will also have interesting foreground features and perhaps a body of water.  If so, scout the area ahead of time so you can find a location to best capture those things.

You can pretty much count on a crowd at a fireworks show. Get there early to stake out your spot. Then consider including the location in some of your shots.

You can count on a crowd when you go to a fireworks show.  Plan on getting to your spot early so you can “stake your turf.” Perhaps put out a blanket to ensure an unobstructed view of the show.  Then, if you have no other foreground elements, consider the possibility of making the crowd your foreground, their heads silhouetted against the sky and fireworks.

Another possibility might be to find a less obvious location, not right where the fireworks will be launched.  Perhaps there is a landmark, a tree-line, a high vantage point, or some other spot that will create an interesting foreground that while still including the fireworks, will give context, place, and “story” to your photos.  Doing some scouting long before the night of the show is a good idea.

The first few fireworks of the show will be in clearer sky conditions. As the show continues, smoke may be more of an issue and the sky won’t be as dark with the fireworks lighting the smoke.

2. Equipment

What will you need to make good fireworks photos? Let’s break down the basic equipment needs:

Camera

You can make fireworks photos with a cellphone camera if that’s all you have. However, the techniques will be different and the results likely not as impressive.

We won’t get into that here, so let’s assume you have a better DSLR or mirrorless camera with the option for manual control. Be sure to have a good-sized storage card, as well as a spare battery or two, as you’ll usually take lots of shots at a fireworks show.

Tripod

Fireworks photography will require a steady camera as you’ll be shooting in low light and taking longer exposures. Consider a tripod pretty much mandatory for this kind of work.  An L-bracket on your camera or at least a tripod that will easily allow going from landscape to portrait mode easily is a good thing too. Often you will shoot in both aspects.

Lens Selection

Lens choice largely depends on how close you will be to the fireworks launch location.  If you are really close, you may need a wide-angle to keep the larger bursts in the frame. If, however, you are a long distance from the show or want to compress the apparent distance between your foreground object and the sky bursts, a telephoto might be in order.

I typically use my go-to lens; a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS as it covers a good range. You don’t need a particularly fast lens as you will be working with mid to small apertures and longer shutter speeds. Still, a sharp lens is always a good thing.

Cable Release/Remote trigger

The technique for photographing fireworks will be discussed in a minute, but trust that having a way to remotely trigger your camera will be a real help. One reason is you are presumably going to a fireworks show to enjoy the show.  Having your eye to the viewfinder and your finger on the shutter button the entire time will lessen  the enjoyment of “being there.” It will also introduce camera shake, something you don’t want.

A very basic remote release can be had for under $10.00 US. This is a great item to always have in your bag for many purposes.

The tree line at the bottom of the frame adds some additional interest.

3. Camera settings

If you’ve always worked in Program or one of the Auto modes with your camera, or even if you use Aperture (Av/A) or Shutter (Tv/S) mode, this will be the time to be brave and go to full Manual mode.

Here’s how you want to set up your camera for fireworks photography:

Raw Mode

Real photographers shoot in Raw mode. There are many articles why. If you never have done so before, here’s your chance to try it. You can work in Raw + Jpg if that makes you feel more secure. However, I’m betting you won’t use the .jpg versions.

Full Manual

As described. Be brave. You can do this.

White Balance

As you’re using Raw mode, (you are, yes?), white balance can be tweaked later so it doesn’t matter much what you set for shooting. I tend to leave my white balance in Faithful mode almost all the time.

Sometimes it’s fun to zoom in tighter and get the flurry of action.

Low ISO

Working in low light with dark or black backgrounds and long exposures will tend to introduce noise in your shots. Fortunately, the fireworks are bright, so higher ISO settings won’t be needed.  Instead, use the minimum (ISO 100 on many cameras), and you’ll be fine.

Noise Reduction Off

Many modern cameras have a noise reduction feature, which after the first exposure, takes a second “black frame” exposure, detecting the noise and then subtracting that from the initial exposure. It can work well, but…

The second exposure takes as long as the first, and if you’re making multi-second exposures (for example, that 6-second exposure now takes 12 seconds to finish), your camera will be busy working, and you’ll be missing subsequent fireworks.

Turn it off.  You’ll be using a low ISO with minimal noise anyway, and the delay in being able to make more shots isn’t worth it.

Aperture

There are two things to consider here:

  1. How much depth-of-field do you need?
  2. What is the “sweet-spot” of your lens?

First, because the fireworks will be a good distance from your camera, you will be focusing on something further away and likely have a pretty good depth of field. Working at wider focal lengths helps too. Plan on being at your location well before the show starts and have an idea where you’ll need to focus and how much depth of field you need.

Secondly, most lenses are at their sharpest between f/8 and f/16.  Learn where your lens performs best, the so-called “sweet spot,” and use that aperture if you can.

Most of the photos in this article were taken at the same show. Also, most were very close in their exposure settings such as this one at ISO 100, 10-seconds at f/8.

4. Making shutter speed choices

Your choice of shutter speed will be important in capturing good fireworks photos. You know when you hear the boom of the launched fireworks from its mortar that it trails up into the sky, explodes, and a beautiful shower of colorful sparks radiates out and trails down.

Often multiple fireworks are launched close together, each doing the same thing. What you’re after is to capture the entire event which can sometimes take several seconds.

You could pick a fixed shutter speed of, say, four seconds, but would that be too short? Too long? Of course, it depends on the individual firework duration or sequence you want to capture, and that will vary during the show.

So how do you choose?

The answer is, you don’t have to because there’s a better way.

better fireworks photos

Using bulb mode you will be able to hold the shutter open and capture multiple fireworks bursts, closing it when you like.  Note this shot is in portrait orientation.

5. Use Bulb mode

If you’ve seen pictures of early photographers with their view cameras, you might have noticed them holding a rubber “bulb” which when they squeezed, forced air through a rubber tube and tripped the shutter. As long as the photographer kept the bulb squeezed, the shutter stayed open, ending when they released it.

These were the first shutter remotes, and it was that rubber bulb that gave the mode its name.

Today we have wired, and sometimes wireless triggers that can do the same thing. Putting the camera in Bulb mode allows a variable shutter speed. As long as we press and hold the button, the shutter stays open.  Let it go, and the shutter closes, ending the exposure.

This is just the ticket for fireworks photography, a variable shutter speed.

So, let’s review our basic camera settings:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Raw Capture
  • Manual Mode
  • Noise Reduction Off
  • Auto Focus Off – Focus on the anticipated fireworks spot and lock focus there
  • Lens Vibration Reduction (VR/IS) Off
  • ISO 100
  • Approx. f/8 – f/16  (Use aperture and ISO to adjust if images are too bright or dark).
  • Bulb mode
  • No flash – I forgot to mention this one.  Rarely, (unless perhaps to light a foreground object), will you ever need to use flash when making fireworks photos.  Also, consider whether others are nearby watching the show.  Using flash is guaranteed to make you less-than-popular with other fireworks spectators.  Unless you are alone and have a good reason to use flash, (in which case I will assume you know what you’re doing), just don’t use it.

Set up like this, you’re good to go. Remember, once the show starts, you will be busy. If you are fooling with camera settings, you’ll be missing shots. You will want to try some variations, but you don’t want to have to struggle and miss the show.

Be ready, think it through beforehand, and when the show starts, start clicking.

6. Shooting Technique

You’ve set your camera up on a tripod, figured out where to point it, made sure to pre-focus on a distant spot and locked the focus by putting it in Manual Focus (MF) mode.

If you leave your camera’s Autofocus on it’s almost guaranteed to give you images that are a bust rather than a boom. Against the dark sky and the moving fireworks the focus will hunt, fail, and… it’ll just be bad. Don’t do it.

Often the best images can be made right when the show starts as later, smoke from the previous fireworks becomes thicker, and the fireworks more obscured. So, when you hear that boom of the first firework going up, click and hold the button on the remote. You’ll be in bulb mode so hold it open while the firework goes up, explodes, and radiates out.  Then release the trigger.

Now, quickly check your shot. Is it in focus and framed properly? Is it exposed correctly? If it’s too dark, increase the ISO a click or perhaps open the aperture a stop. Too light? Do the opposite.

Try not to spend too much time doing this as, of course, the show will continue without you.

If you’re in the ballpark, the ability to edit in raw gives you the tweaking room you need. The two unrecoverable mistakes you might make would be to have things out of focus or have the highlights so blown out as to be unrecoverable. Editing won’t save you if you do those things, so be sure the focus is good and if you’re not sure with exposure, underexpose a bit. Some fireworks will be much brighter than others – especially a multi-burst or the finale. So quickly check your histogram and be sure you’ve not clipped the right (highlights) side.

Make any tweaks you need and then keep clicking. Vary the zoom if you need to, but if anything, frame a little “loose.” You can always crop in tighter later. However, if that really big and spectacular burst is so big it goes out of the frame, you’ll have missed it. Try both some portrait and landscape orientation shots. Perhaps reframe to get different things in the shot, especially if you are including foreground elements.

If things are going well, it’s going to be a fairly long show.

And if you’re feeling frisky, you might be ready for some more advanced techniques.

Note how the bright pink burst appears here, thicker streaks at the base of each trail growing thinner at the tip. This uses what I describe as the “Boom Zoom Bloom” technique described.

7. “Boom Zoom Bloom” FX

You may have seen those photos where the bursting fireworks look more like a flower, fat blurry trails with sharp points.  How is that done?

Here’s the technique, which you can vary for different results.

Know this takes practice, and luck plays a big part. So decide if you have already got enough necessary shots before you try it and whether the show will last long enough for some experimentation.

If you’re game, here’s how you do it:

  • You will need your hands free for this, and you’ll want to look through the viewfinder or perhaps use Live View, so using the remote release probably isn’t going to work. Instead, set your shutter speed for about 8-10 seconds, leaving all the other camera settings where they were.
  • With your hand on the focus ring, remember your hand position there. Then turn the ring so things are out of focus.
  • Just as the firework explodes, click the shutter and smoothly turn the focus right back to the focus point you memorized.  You have the time of the preset shutter speed to accomplish this.  If you finish early, that’s okay.
better fireworks photos

Two other images using the defocus-to-focus technique. Also note how some of the bursts, captured after the focus was performed but before the shutter closed, don’t show the same look combining two looks in one photo.

Now, try different things with subsequent shots. Go from focused to unfocused, zoom in or out during the exposure, or maybe take the camera off the tripod and move it during the exposure to make light trails. Play and see what you like.

Just remember, the duration of the show is limited, so try some experiments but also be sure you have some solid “keepers.”

8. The Black Hat Trick

I have to confess, I’ve not personally tried this but the concept is sound and could be fun. (I’ve always wanted to do a “hat trick.”)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • Have a hat, a black one or preferably of something dark enough to be opaque. You will also need to be working in an area that is quite dark.
  • Put the hat over the front of the lens.
  • Have the camera in Bulb Mode and just before the firework launches, click open the shutter locking it open with the remote.
  • Quickly, but gently so as not to bump the camera, remove the hat while the firework explodes.
  • Leave the shutter open and carefully replace the hat. Repeat, removing and replacing the hat for multiple fireworks bursts. (You may need to have a smaller aperture or lower ISO to do this as you will be building up exposure brightness with each additional firework added).
  • Unlock the remote and close the shutter when you’ve done all you want.

What you’re doing is making a multiple-exposure image in-camera. This should work. Of course, there’s also a way to do it in post-processing.  For that, and some other tips on how best to process you fireworks photo, come back for Part Two – Creatively Editing your Fireworks Photos.

There may be a frenzy of fireworks at the show finale. Keep the shutter open and capture it all if you can without overexposing.

Light the fuse

I hope you’ve decided that good fireworks photography is easy and go and have fun with it.  It’s one more way to enhance your camera skills and make some exciting images.

If there’s anything that’s a problem it’s that good aerial fireworks displays are seasonal in most places and if you really catch the bug, you may find there are not enough opportunities to practice.

So, find out when and where the shows will be near you, mark your calendar, do some scouting for the best locations, “light the fuse” and have fun!

Post your best shots as images in the comments – we’d love to see them.

 

8 tips for better fireworks photos

The post 8 Tips for Better Fireworks Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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.

Conclusion

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

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.

dps-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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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