How to Avoid This Travel Photography Mistake: Taking Snapshots

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When I teach travel photography workshops, I am always quick to encourage people not to rely on interesting subjects. An interesting subject does not always make a good photo. A good photographer does. So, in this article, you’ll learn to avoid just taking snapshots.

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© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Travel snapshots

Taking snapshots when you travel is so easy. You find yourself in different, stimulating environments. They’re packed with exotic, compelling subjects provoking you to squeeze a quick photo as you rush by. Thinking the impressive subject is enough to create an appealing photograph is a mistake.

Pay attention to lighting, timing, and exposure. Taking snapshots without this care rarely hold anyone’s interest. You might find the most fascinating subject and not do it justice due to a lack of attention or time given to it.

Also, be careful of misconceptions about camera equipment. There are two main ones I notice.

‘I have a professional camera, so I take professional photographs’.

Just as a good subject does not make the photograph, nor does a good camera. A good photographer makes good photographs. Don’t rely on your camera to be creative. It cannot be. It is smart, that’s for sure. The artificial intelligence in modern cameras is phenomenal, but they are not creative. You are.

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© Kevin Landwer-Johan

‘I only have my phone or compact camera so I can’t take good enough photos’.

You don’t need to stick to taking snapshots with a compact camera or phone. Don’t limit your creative expression because of the equipment you use. Sure, there are limitations with that kind of camera. You can still creatively capture interesting subjects when you put your mind to it.

Take your time

Slow down a little and think about how to make whatever it is that’s interesting into a great photo. Don’t rely on the subject alone. Every place you go, from Thailand to Turkey, you’ll find compelling subjects.

Something iconic needs to be treated with more imagination because everyone photographs it. To capture a photo of a monk in Chiang Mai or the Istiklal tram in Istanbul, you need to think outside the box. Everyone who’s been there has snapshots of these subjects.

Take your time when you find something engaging to photograph. Think about the lighting. Consider the best angle to photograph it from. Check out the background and make sure it’s relevant. Look at it for a while and ask yourself why you want to take a photo of it.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Don’t take only one photo

The first composition you make will not always be the best. Often it will be the most clichéd. The one everyone else takes.

Experiment with different angles and lens focal lengths. Make horizontal and vertical compositions. Try a dutch angle or two.

Always think about filling your frame. What’s within the edges of your viewfinder or monitor? Is everything you can see relevant and supporting your main subject? If not, do something about it. Change your angle, aperture or lens. Or wait. Sometimes you have to pause for people or traffic to move out of the background space. This will help your subject will stand out.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Be in control of your camera

Relying on an auto exposure mode and averaged metering gives you predictable results. Your camera is programmed to make even exposures. It’s not going to choose to expose for the highlights and let what’s in the shadows fall into blackness. Nor is it going to selectively slow down your shutter speed and purposefully allow motion blur to happen. You have to do these things.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Knowing your camera and how to control it will help you intuitively see when you can incorporate creative techniques. This will diversify the photographs you take. If you’re happy to use your camera like a point-and-shoot, then snapshots will fill your travel photo albums.

Taking your camera off the auto settings can force you to slow down (until you become more familiar with it). You can then think about all aspects of picture-taking at a more relaxed pace. Great photos are rarely quick.

Even most of the best street and travel photos are not taken on the spur of the moment. They are planned. They are preconceived. They are anticipated before the action happens, or the light becomes perfect.

When you do see something amazing happening and must react quickly, flick your camera back to auto. Take a few photos, and then, if you still have time, pop it back onto manual mode. Now you can get creative with your aperture and shutter speed.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take a travel photography workshop rather than a tour

Many people use their camera predominantly when they travel. People have more time to take photos of interesting subjects when they travel. The problem is remembering all those settings. How can you get the most out of your equipment when you seldom use it?

Taking a travel photography workshop at the start of your vacation or journey will kickstart your creative process. You can learn to be more confident with your camera when you have a better understanding of how it works.

Picking up your camera and being stressed because you’re uncertain if it’s going to do what you want is not fun. A good tutor will walk you through the essentials of using your camera and build your confidence to do so.

A workshop will also give you hands-on experience on location. You’ll learn how to see the most interesting subjects and what to do with them. On a photo tour, all you usually get is a guide showing you interesting things to point your camera at. A workshop will equip you to take great photos wherever you go because you’ll learn how to use your camera in a multitude of different situations.

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© Pansa Landwer-Johan

Avoid photographic clichés

It’s not difficult to avoid photographic clichés when you stop and think about it – even with iconic subjects. Slow down and enjoy the moment. Create a beautiful memory of it by thoughtfully composing your photos instead of taking snapshots.

Diversify your research. Don’t rely on Instagram to show you where the best photo opportunities are to be found. These are the places everyone will go and take the same boring pictures.

Think outside the box. Infuse your photos with creativity by looking for alternatives. Even if your subject is iconic, make it fresh and new in the way you choose to photograph it.

Do you have any other tips on how to avoid taking snapshots when doing travel photography? Do you have any stories to share? Please do so in the comments section.

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Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

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Part 1 of How to Use Photoshop Adjustment Layers introduced you to the first eight of the adjustment layer type editing tools, which allow you to work non-destructively. Here, we continue to look at some of the other tools available as Adjustment Layers.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

1. Photo Filter

Did you know that there are colored filters that you place in front of your camera lens that alter the color temperature and balance of your final image? Well, the Photo Filter adjustment layer adds a color filter to your image similar to this.

There are many preset photo filters in Photoshop, but the most common are those that make your image warm or cool. You can further tweak each preset to your liking. For instance, you can change the density of the effect easily using the Density slider. There is also the Preserve Luminosity box to check so that the applied filter does not darken your image.

You can also choose an exact color that you would like to overlay as a filter by clicking on “color” and chosing from the color menu or by using the eyedropper tool to chose a color from your image.

Image: Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

2. Channel Mixer

The Channel Mixer Photoshop Adjustment Layer is another great tool to create stunning black and white and tinted images.

The principle is similar to that used by the Black and White Adjustment Layer. In each of these, you can adjust the displayed grayscale image by changing the tonal values of the color elements of the image.

There are three channels in the RGB view: red, green and blue. Note: The source channel is the one that defaults to 100%. The Channel Mixer, therefore, allows you to combine and mix the best of each channel. It does this by adding (or subtracting) grayscale data from your source channel to another channel.

Also, of note, adding more color to a channel gives you a negative value and vice versa. Hence, at the end of your edit, it is advisable that all your numbers total 100%.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

The Channel Mixer also allows you to exaggerate color and make creative color adjustments to your image.

3. Color Lookup

The Color Lookup adjustment layer uses presets to instantly color grade or change the “look” of your image. The presets are called LUTs or lookup tables. Each lookup table contains specific instructions for Photoshop to remap the colors in your image to a different set of colors to create the selected look.

Image: Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

When you choose the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, three options are available to you: 3DLUT File, Abstract and Device Link.

Most of the presets reside under the 3DLUT File option. Of note, 3D (in 3DLUT) refers to Photoshop’s RGB color channels (and not three-dimension).

Image: Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Furthermore, LUTS are available for download from various websites or you can create your own LUT.

4. Invert

The Invert Photoshop Adjustment Layer is self-explanatory. It inverts the colors and is an easy way to make a negative of your image for an interesting effect.

Image: The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

5. Posterize

Looking for a flat, poster-like finish? The Posterize Adjustment Layer gives you that by reducing the number of brightness values available in your image.

You can make an image have as much or as little detail as you like by selecting the number in the levels slider. The higher the number, the more detail your image has. The lower the number, the less detail your image has.

This can come in handy when you want to screenprint your image. You can limit the tones of black and white. This is also true of the Threshold Adjustment Layer.

Image: Posterize Adjustment Layer

Posterize Adjustment Layer

6. Threshold

When you select Threshold from your Photoshop Adjustment Layers list, your image changes to black and white. By changing the Threshold Level value, you control the number of pixels that are black or white.

Image: Threshold Adjustment Layer

Threshold Adjustment Layer

7. Gradient Map

The Gradient Map lets you map different colors to different tones in your image. The gradient fill, therefore, sets the colors representing both the shadow tones on one end and highlight tones on the other end of the gradient.

Likewise, checking the “Reverse” box swaps around the colors of your gradient. This means that the shadow colors are moved to the highlights end and vice versa.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your shadows dark and your highlights brighter for ease of reference.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

Your gradient map also makes available many presets that are adjustable via the gradient editor window. Additionally, you can also define/create your own gradients by changing the slider colors.

8. Selective Color

Use the Selective Color Adjustment Layer to modify specific amounts of a primary color without modifying other primary colors in your image. Check the Absolute box if you want to adjust the color in absolute values.

Example: If you have a pixel that is 50% yellow and you add 10%, you are now at a 60% total. The Relative box is a little more complicated as it would adjust the yellow pixel only by the percentage it contributes to the total. Using the same example, if you add 10% to the yellow slider (with relative checked), it actually adds 50% of the 10%, which brings your total to 55%. Relative, therefore, gives you a more subtle effect.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

However, when it comes to this editing tool, the potential is far beyond this simplistic edit technique. You can use it to correct skin tones and for general toning.

While selective color adjustments are similar to hue/saturation adjustments, there are subtle differences. Selective Color allows you to subtract/add color values, whereas Hue/Saturation does not.

The Hue/Saturation adjustment allows you to work with a range of hues that are included with the six color ranges in Selective Color, so there is more control there if you need it.

Conclusion

These basic examples of how to use the Photoshop Adjustment Layers tools merely scratch the surface of their capabilities. Certainly, you will appreciate editing non-destructively, whether you are just starting out or advanced with adjustment layers.

Some of the adjustment layers seem similar, but each has its differences and its pros and cons. Either way, there are many possibilities of playing around with your image, while preserving the original.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 in this series.

Do you use Photoshop Adjustment Layers? If so, which ones do you use and why? Share with us in the comments.

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Important Things to Consider When Photographing Winter Scenes

photographing-winter-scenes

Winter is a great season for photography and a magical time of year to be outdoors. Photographing winter scenes can be an exciting opportunity to capture some unique and wonderful images, particularly when a familiar scene is covered in a blanket of snow and takes on an entirely different perspective. Here are some considerations on how to photograph winter scenes:

1. Make the most of winter’s longer dusks and dawns

In spite of the colder temperatures, one of the joys of winter is that the sun tends to linger longer at dusk and dawn. It also remains lower in the sky throughout the day, providing great light.

If you can brave the elements and venture outside to capture these magical moments during the winter, you are more likely to have a productive shoot and be rewarded for your efforts. One advantage of photographing at dusk and dawn in the winter is that sunrise is much later than in the summer, and sunset is earlier.

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Winter landscape, Oxfordshire

2. Find contrast

When photographing winter scenes such as snow, there are usually displays of strong contrast between subjects and colors that can make for striking images. For example, the whiteness of snow stands out really well against the darkness of a tree silhouette and combines beautifully with a colorful sun.

Alternatively, warm winter skies work really well with the cooler tones of snow. Look to find and photograph these types of contrast in your images, and the results will be more visually stunning.

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Oxfordshire, England

3. Shoot bright and colorful scenes

Make the most of the winter light and shoot brightly-lit scenes. The bright white snow adds a certain beauty to a winter scene and can make a dull subject more interesting. A great time to shoot colorful winter scenes is when the sun is shining.

Image: Yosemite, USA

Yosemite, USA

Seek out colorful vistas that may include an animal, a tree, people, a house, a building, or even a snowman. Capture their warm colors in the glowing light. You may find you will need to overexpose a touch if your pictures are coming out slightly dark to make your images slightly lighter.

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Iceland

4. Bring plenty of batteries

Batteries tend to lose power and run out faster in colder weather, especially when photographing winter scenes.

Be sure to fully charge them before you set off to maximize your shooting time and keep spares in a warm place, such as an inner pocket.

5. Keep warm

One of the most important challenges with photographing winter scenes is keeping warm. It is amazing how quickly your body temperature can fall when standing still photographing in the cold.

Wear layers to keep the heat in (thermal and wool base layers work really well). Wrap up warm with gloves and a hat and consider hand (heat) warmers. These are great for heating your hands after they have exposed them to the elements, especially if you have to remove your gloves to navigate the camera buttons when taking photos.

There are winter gloves designed specifically for photographers. The thumb and forefinger flip back so you can keep your hands warm while photographing. Consider investing in a pair if you will be in snow and cold a lot.

Also, bring snacks and water to stay energized and hydrated.

6. How to photograph snow:

Snow brightens the landscape and makes everything outdoors look amazing. However, photographing snow does come with its challenges. Here are some useful tips worth considering when photographing snow:

  • Setting White Balance to “Cloudy White Balance” or setting your Kelvins to the warmer spectrum will help to make up for the bluish-tinge snow gets. This is particularly evident on overcast or cloudy days when you may get a blue cast to the snow in your images.
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Iceland

  • Overexpose when shooting snow so that the snow is white rather than “grey”.

Snow can trick your camera meter into underexposing when using your camera’s automatic metering system.

In order to achieve the correct exposure, you will need to compensate for this by adding positive exposure compensation (overexposure) of 1 to 2 stops. The raised exposure value (EV) will help the snow to appear whiter rather than a dull grey. Then your images will be more accurate and a better representation of the snow-covered scene that you see as a result of this.

This applies whether you are capturing falling snow or after it has settled on the ground.

Also, consider using a polarizer filter – this can cut glare and reflections off the snow when it is sunny. It can also help you to see through streams of water better because it cuts through the reflections on top of the water.

Image: Yellowstone, USA

Yellowstone, USA

Conclusion

Winter can be a brilliant season for photography, whether you are capturing photos close to home or at more distant exotic locations. Don’t be deterred by the challenges faced when photographing winter scenes. Get out there and have some fun with your camera this winter, and use these tips to capture some great photos you can be proud of.

Share your winter images with us below and any further tips you may have.

 

 

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7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

tools-for-photographing-children

When it comes to photographing children at portrait sessions, most often it’s not the gear that gets them to enjoy the session or has them laughing. In this article, we are going to share the best tools for photographing children that are not gear related and useful for every portrait session with children.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

1. The squeaky chicken (rr any noisy toy)

When it comes to tools for photographing children, there is nothing more fun than a toy that makes noise. A weird, interesting, noisy, and curious squeaking chicken is all of those things and more. They come in various sizes and offer lots of ideas for getting the attention of smaller children and laughs from older children.

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This is the chicken that I have. When squeezed, it makes a sound that is able to capture anyone’s attention. As you can see it gets used quite a bit.

Use the toy as a way to get the child’s attention toward the camera. A great tip is to bang your head with it and pretend that it hurt in a fun and interesting way. Children love unexpected reactions, and you’ll definitely get big smiles using the chicken.

You can also play hide and seek with the chicken popping it from behind you in a different direction each time. The child won’t know where it’ll pop up from next! A huge hit!

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These laughs are brought to you by the chicken hitting me on the head. Camera is on a tripod to avoid shaking.

When the children are a bit older, you can plop the chicken, or any other noisy toy, on your camera and ask “Hey, where did my chicken go? Have you seen it?” This can get a great reaction out of the child and also keep their attention as a fun way to look at the camera long enough to shoot off a few frames.

2. Bribes

This one is a staple for all children at portrait sessions, but first, make sure you consult with the parents before the session to know if bribery is okay.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Ask your clients if you should bring candy or if they can bring a favorite treat for the child when its time for the session. Only use in emergencies since children can lose interest if they have to continuously work for it.

A small lollipop or chewable candy works wonders when you need them to smile. You can bribe them with a taste or piece. Make sure to work quickly, though, because they’ll want that bribe instantly!

Tools-for-Photographing-Children-that-are-not-Gear-Related

Here we used two different games with the parents. The swing game while they walked and the tickling game. Smiles all around!

3. Play games

Games are probably not going to get you many of those photos where the children are looking at the camera, however, they will bring about some smiles and great photos of the family interacting. Luckily, you don’t need much for this other than some interesting games for all ages!

One that works great with children is to pick them up, especially for the younger age group. Have mommy and daddy tickle them too.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Another one is to ask the family to look at each other and make some silly faces! Children love to make silly faces. You can ask them to do one with silly faces and then one where they smile big at the camera!

Chase is a great game, just make sure you focus fast and can capture the motion! Children are pretty quick and mommy and daddy will also get a kick out of chasing their little one around while getting big laughs!

Peek-A-Boo is a great game to play with smaller children under the age of 3! They know it so well from playing with their parents that when you do, it will seem familiar. They might even want to play along! Play peek-a-boo from behind your camera or use a toy to hide and pop out. Both work really well to grab the attention of the child.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

A game that gets the biggest laughs is also when you get close and tickle them and then back away quickly. Only, the next time you go in to tickle you don’t actually tickle. It’s good to say “I’m gonna get you” as you play this game so they anticipate the game!

This trick works best when you have an assistant so that you don’t miss any shots. If you have to do this yourself, try and put your camera on a tripod with a wireless shutter release so you get the smiles even if you’re not at your camera. That works wonders! If the parents don’t want contact, have one of them play the game with their child and it can also work to get lots of laughs!

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

Also, children are great at making up games. So when they start to play, have everyone play along and then ask them to smile or look your way! Sometimes you’ll get the child looking at you and other times you will get great interaction among the family members. Both make great additions to the final gallery of images!

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Children are great at playing games, let them have fun and they’ll look at the camera soon enough.

4. Children’s playlist

When it comes to tools for photographing children, consider music. Children love music. So it would be a good idea to have a playlist on your phone of all the classic favorites like Wheels on the Bus, The Ants Go Marching In, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and others.

Also, ask your clients what the child likes to listen to as far as music goes and create a specific playlist for that session.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

A good plus would be to have a small external speaker so you can have it on location. That way, you don’t really have to move or hold onto your phone for the songs to hear the songs. External speakers also sound a lot louder than just your phone, which can grab the attention of the child.

5. Mommy and Daddy

One of the best tools for photographing children is Mom and Dad! Using mom and dad as a way to get the attention of the child can help because the children can recognize their voice and identify them quickly, even when they are very young!

Have the parent stand behind you or at least very close to the camera. That way, when the child looks at them, it’ll seem like they were looking at the camera.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

It’s also fun to play games while the parent is close to you and have them bonk your head or act like daddy farted. That one works best when the children are around 4 years old and usually gets a laugh out of them.

Getting the parents involved in the fun makes the child feel more comfortable around you, who is new to them or maybe not so familiar. Have the parents toss the child up into the air or just raise them up high and smile.

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

They can also go exploring, dig in the sand, and walk hand-in-hand with the parents if they’re willing to participate! It will get a lot more laughs and more authentic expressions from the child.

This tool works great, especially when the child isn’t cooperating, or it’s difficult to get their attention. The parents know their child best and can help get those smiles, and they’ll be glad to help!

6. Using the Uh-Oh method

When a child is small, typically around 3 years and under, the sound of “uh-oh” can get their attention much more than a solid “no”.

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Using “uh-oh” can be a great way to get a child’s attention and stop them from doing something that is not allowing them to look at the camera or follow instructions. Of course, they’re young, and sometimes won’t follow instructions at all, so using “uh-oh” can divert them much better.

7. Props

Props work for various reasons as they can help with the session set up and overall look. However, when it comes to children, props help keep children engaged and, most often, in one spot.

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Speak with your clients and see what props will work best for the age of their child(ren). For little ones perhaps cars, blocks, and plush toys work. For a bit older children, perhaps a kite, picnic set up, or game works best.

Look for items that add to the session rather than take attention away from your clients. Choose toys or props that are neutral in color or go with the color scheme.

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In conclusion

7 Tools for Photographing Children That Will Get You Great Shots Everytime!

While your gear is important during portrait sessions, especially with children, adding in games, toys, and noisemakers to your set of skills and gear can really change the way they experience the session. Your clients will thank you for providing a fun experience for everyone, all while capturing great images of their children!

Do you have any other tools for photographing children that are not gear related? Share with us in the comments!

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Tips for Posing Models (videos)

If you are interested in portrait photography, one of the hard parts (after learning your lighting and camera skills) is knowing how to pose your models. Particularly, if they aren’t professional models.

When you are taking portraits of men and women, their poses can be quite different because their bodies have different shapes and bend in slightly different ways. A pose that looks great for a guy, may look totally wrong for a girl and vice-versa.

So, to help you on your way to achieving better portraits by getting better poses from your models, I have compiled some videos for you to take a look at.

If, however, you don’t like to watch videos, you can grab yourself the dPS e-books, Portraits: Striking The Pose or 67 Portrait Poses (Printable).

Alternatively, see the list of articles you can read on posing models down below the videos.

Tips for posing men in portrait photography

This video is by photographer, Anita Sadowska.

This video is by photographer, Julia Trotti.

This video is from the perspective of a model agency, DLM Model Lifestyle, giving posing tips.

Tips for posing women in portrait photography

This video is by CreativeLive, featuring photographer, Lindsay Adler. These tips are for photographing people in a seated position.

?

This video by AtchatChannel Ubonratchathani, gives 60 model poses in 1 minute.

You may also like:

 

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Lamps

This week’s photography challenge topic is LAMPS!

Image: Ant Rozetsky

Ant Rozetsky

Lamps can be beautifully designed, and they can add lovely ambient light to your photos.

Whatever form they take, we’d love you to go out and capture their many looks and feels in this week’s challenge!

They can be color, or black and white. They can be a small part of a wider composition or you can focus in on their fine details. They can add light to a portrait, or a still life scene, or an interior architectural scene, or they can be street lamps in a landscape – the decision is yours!

So, check out these inspiring pics, have fun, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Image: Michelle Houghton

Michelle Houghton

Image: Roberto Lopez

Roberto Lopez

Image: Suhyeon Choi

Suhyeon Choi

Check out some of the articles below that give you tips on this week’s challenge.

Tips for Shooting LAMPS

3 Tips for Photographing Mixed Lighting in Interiors

Stealing Light – Using Street Lights for Portraits

4 Tips to Help People Photographers Shoot Interior Spaces

3 Easy Tips for Photographing Details in a Scene

Shooting Details to Tell a Visual Story

Architecture: Photographing Exterior Details

Tips for Getting Started with Still Life Photography

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites – tag them as #DPSlamps to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.

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How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

black-and-white-digital-filters-photography

When we think about black and white photographs, we generally associate them with an absence of color.

This is certainly not the case.

Like all photographs, black and white images are made from light, and light consists of innumerable wavelengths that produce the colors we see with our eyes. With black and white photography, we might not see the saturation of colors the same way, but the luminance values of these colors remain the same whether we view them in color or black and white.

This is why it’s so important to shoot digital black and white photos in RAW mode so that we can later manipulate these intact luminance values to control the contrasts within our digitally-converted black and white photos.

Black-and-White-digital-filters

All of this is based on the use of physical “color” lens filters, which filter out different wavelengths of light to produce varying contrast effects in black and white photography.

A red filter produces dark, dramatic skies in landscape photos while orange filters can radically reduce the appearance of freckles and other skin blemishes in your portraits.

Of course, this means carrying a set of filters with you constantly and also compensating for the slight reduction in light with adjustments to your exposures.

Black-and-White-digital-filters

But what if I told you that your DSLR or MDC (mirrorless digital camera) most likely has all of the color filters you will need for outstanding black and white work right at your fingertips?

I know, I was initially just as surprised as you are. Read on.

Black and white digital filters

Real black and white color filters work to filter out other wavelengths of light that don’t fall into the color spectrum of the filter. This means red filters allow red wavelengths to pass, blue allows blue, etc.

The cool thing is, many major camera manufacturers have seen fit to include digital amalgamations of these color filters. They could very well be slightly buried in your camera’s settings, but Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic all offer models which sport built-in black and white color filters.

As always, your camera user manual is your best friend. However, you may often find these filter options (if you have them) in the monochrome settings of your digital camera. In our example, I’ll be using a Canon 5D MKIII.

Black-and-White-digital-filters

I’m about to say something not usually encountered when it comes to digital photography these days – when using these digital black and white filters, it can be best to shoot JPEG…not RAW.

Sure, you’re going to lose some post-processing leverage, but seeing that you can see the effects of your filter choices and you likely intend to end up with a black and white photo anyway, there’s not much reason to save the color information with a RAW file.

The wonderful thing about digital black and white filters is that you can enjoy real-time feedback of the filter effects.

Which filter to use?

We’ve touched on a few of the circumstances where color black and white filters are best suited. In most cases, your digital camera will have a set of digital color filters from which to choose: red, yellow, orange, green and blue. These options, however, will vary. For instance, my 5D MKIII has no blue filter option.

Have a look at some examples and each of these below. I’ve used the same scene to show the varying effects of each filter. I’ve also listed a few quick scenarios that may help you choose a particular filter setting.

Here’s the original color photo for reference:

Image: Color image with no in-camera black and white filters applied.

Color image with no in-camera black and white filters applied.

Red Filter

This filter is a great way to pump in instant drama to most black and white landscape photos.

Black-and-White-digital-filters

Notice the immediate darkening of the blue sky with the red filter

The red filter drastically reduces the transmission of blue wavelengths, thus darkening blue skies and making clouds pop. Some scenes can take on an almost infrared appearance.

Orange Filter

Taking it down a notch from the heavily-apparent effects of the red filter, the orange filter produce similar, yet subdued, contrasts to its red cousin.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

Orange color filters are great “general purpose filters” for adding in contrast to your black and white photos. They darken blue skies and help to bring out the appearance of clouds.

For portraits, they work great for reducing skin blemishes like moles and freckles.

Orange filters are also great for reducing atmospheric haze and fog.

Yellow Filter

A yellow color filter produces effects even less “in your face” than the orange filter. A yellow filter is a good option for bringing out the contrasts of foliage and can also be a good choice for a general black and white photography filter when the orange filter is a bit too harsh.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

The next two filters are less useful for most shooters but still bear mentioning. Well, not less useful, but perhaps not found as commonly in black and white photography as the other color filters I’ve mentioned.

Green Filter

Of course, this filter allows the transmission of green light. This makes it a good choice for flower and foliage photography as it helps to add contrast between the often green-colored stems and leaves of the plants. All while providing separation from the different-colored flowers and blossoms.

How to Achieve Awesome Black and White Photos with Digital Filters

Green filters can also brighten blue skies but not as much as the last filter we’re about to discuss.

Final thoughts on in-camera digital filters…

Digital photography has made many things easier and more accessible for photographers. Even more fortunate, many of the same tried-and-true technical and optical principles still apply to our digital cameras. Built-in digital black and white color filters are just one of the many benefits of our brave new digital age.

Black-and-White-digital-filters

Many popular camera manufacturers have included digital black and white color filters with their digital camera offerings, so check your particular model.

Black and white color filters allow you to add instant strength and contrast to your black and white photos.

Depending on your particular scene or subject, you can produce amazingly powerful black and whites before you ever download them from your camera. Color black and white filters have long been a standby of serious photographers, and it’s great to see them still holding their own, albeit in a more modern, digital incarnation.

So go out and try these black and white digital filters, and share your photos with us in the comments section!

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2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers

We know how difficult it can be to find the perfect gift for anyone at Christmas, let alone a photographer! So, we have done the research and hard work for you, and put together this gift guide for photographers. It has a range of gifts to suit all budgets and all photographers!

We’ve included some pros and cons of each, along with some info on the products, and where applicable, a link to dPS reviews so you can get further insight.

So, take a look, and happy shopping!

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What is Shape and Form in Photography?

shape-and-form-in-photography

The words shape and form in photography are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the terms are actually two distinct visual characteristics. In this article, we’ll take a look at the difference between shape and form and their application in photography.

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What is a shape?

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In basic terms, shape describes a flat, enclosed area of space. Shapes can be constructed with colors and lines, but all shapes are limited to two dimensions – width and length.

Curves and other irregular, flowy shapes are known as organic shapes, while angular shapes like squares and triangles are geometric shapes.

Early rock art is an early example of the use of shape in visual culture. During the Renaissance (and for many years thereafter), form was the predominant characteristic of two-dimensional art. However, with the advent of modern art, artists returned to the use of shape within abstracted and minimalist artistic movements.

Artists like Piet Mondrian, Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Agnes Martin all applied the language of shape to convey a visual experience.

What is form?

shape-and-form-in-photography-forms

Forms in visual art differ from shapes because they are perceived as three dimensional – they operate on width, length and depth. Forms can be either geometric or free-form, with no specific delineation or visual boundary. In two-dimensional formats like painting and photography, three-dimensional forms are generated with aspects like line, movement and value (darkness and lightness).

Artists from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe are well known for their execution of form.

Shape in photography

carpark

From Anna Atkin’s cyanotype impressions to Grant Mudford’s flattened architectural depictions, shape has had a strong presence in photography since it’s inception.

Lewis W. Hine’s Steamfitter, an iconic depiction of the 1870s industrial labor, makes use of strong, flat shapes to emphasize the form of the subject.

And Harry Gruyaert and Ed Peters both incorporate bold shapes into their street photography.

Form in photography

shape-and-form-in-photography-color

Form has also had a consistent presence in photographic history.

Carleton E. Watkin’s Sugar Loaf Islands is an example of texture elevating form.

And Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Abandoned Theater series studies the power of light in sculpting form and time.

Philippe Halsman’s famous Dali Atomicus combines shapes and forms to create a dynamic and surreal portrait of Salvadore Dali.

And Robert Frank’s Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey appeals to our sense of both shape and form in photography to create an intriguing street perspective.

How to use shape and form in photography

There are endless photographic opportunities for both shape and form. Focusing on aspects like light, perspective, depth of field and color/black and white will help coax out shape and form in your photography.

Focus on light

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Depending on the angle of a light source, light can either elevate or flatten a subject. If you want an image made up of dramatic forms, aim for angled lighting to encourage shadows.

Silhouettes, on the other hand, render subjects as dark two-dimensional shapes. To create a silhouette, photograph a subject positioned against a light background with little or no front-lighting.

Get some perspective

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Sometimes form can be stimulated with a change in perspective. Photographing front-on to a subject can flatten forms into shapes. Approaching your subject from an angle reveals shadows that cultivate form.

Dive into depth of field

depth_field

Depth of field affects the way shapes and forms are read.

A shallow depth of field separates the subject from the background (and sometimes foreground) of an image, conveying a more dimensional picture.

The borderless nature of blurred forms also create a sense of activity within a photograph, contributing further to the perception of form.

Experiment with color/black and white

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To place greater emphasis on form, many photographers choose black and white over color. Often you’ll find that depth can be emphasized to a greater extent with the tonal sensitivity of a black and white scheme.

On the other hand, solid colors emphasize the ‘flatness’ of shape. Using blocks of bold color is a way to enhance the immediacy of two-dimensional structures.

Movement

What is Shape and Form in Photography?

Form is often visualized with fluid borders. This effect can be created through intentional camera movement (or ICM). ICM involves moving the camera during a long exposure (usually 1/125th or less). The results are abstracted forms that are unique, engaging and fun to make!

Conclusion

While shape and form in photography play different roles, each cultivates a distinct level of impact and engagement.

Through the use of light, perspective, depth of field, color/black and white and movement, we can use shape and form to enhance the construction of an image.

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The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

top-photoshop-tools-for-still-life-photography

Even if you do most of your editing in Lightroom, you’ll still find that you need Photoshop to really finesse your photos. Because it’s a pixel editor, Photoshop offers you more retouching tools and gives you further control than you can obtain from Lightroom.

In still life photography, like food and product, every aspect of your image needs to hold up to scrutiny for maximum impact. It needs to look clean and perfect.

There are certain tools in Photoshop that will help you tweak the best out of your images.

Although this article won’t go in-depth for every single tool – you’d need several articles for that – it will get you up and running in applying some basic treatments to your still life photography.

So without further ado, here are the most useful Photoshop tools for still life photography.

Photoshop for still life photography

1. Spot Healing Tool

The Spot Healing tool is one Photoshop tool that you’ll use on every still life image you retouch in Photoshop. This tool has improved greatly over the years.

Similar to the Healing Brush tool, it samples pixels from the surrounding areas to correct blemishes and imperfections. However, unlike the Healing Brush, it automatically samples the pixels without your having to specify where they should come from.

Why is this so great? Because the Spot Healing brush does this way better than it used to. This means you can remove dust and small marks very quickly.

If you’ve ever tried the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom, you’ll know that clicking on it repeatedly will quickly slow down Lightroom’s performance. Photoshop will give you better results, more quickly.

When you’re dealing with still life photography, remember that you want a clean-looking image. Zooming in on your photo at 100% and cleaning up any dust or blemishes will make a big difference in the overall aesthetic.

To use the Spot Healing tool, select it from the tool menu or hit J.

Zoom into your image and simply click on the blemish you wish to correct. It will automatically sample from an appropriate area and apply the pixels.

You can also clean up a larger area by brushing over it.

One thing to note is that if you use it repeatedly in a small area, the pixels can start looking unnatural and plastic-like.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

2. Patch Tool

The Patch tool is another Photoshop tool for still life photography that you’ll most likely use on the majority of your images.

It works great on small areas by creating a selection and replacing the pixels with other pixels of your choosing. It considers lighting, shade and texture when sampling an area.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

In the image below, I wanted to get rid of the yellow filament from my flower because I found it distracting.

There are many ways to do this in Photoshop, but I find the patch tool quick and seamless for this type of correction.

To use the tool, select it from the toolbar.

Draw a selection around the area that you wish to correct.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Click on your mouse and drag the selection to an area that you would like to replace the selected pixels with. Let go of the cursor.

Press Command D to undo the selection.

To have greater control over the final result, make sure you have Content-Aware selected in the tool menu and play with the Structure and Color to further influence the edges.

Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

3. Content-Aware Fill

Content-Aware Fill is sort of like the Patch tool on steroids.

It was first introduced in CS5 as a fill option in the Fill Dialog box. In 2019, Adobe improved this tool by leaps and bounds.

Content-Aware analyzes the pixels from a chosen area to determine what pixels it should use to remove unwanted objects. With the improvement, it allows you to choose exactly where you want it to sample the pixels from. It gives you so much more control and also allows you to rotate, scale or resize your selection, and preview the results.

To use Content-Aware Fill, draw a selection around the area you would like to correct. The Lasso tool makes a nice, versatile tool, but I often use the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tools.

Go to Edit and choosing Content-Aware Fill from the dropdown menu.

Photoshop tools for still life photography

This opens up the Content-Aware task space.

Photoshop tools for still life photography

On the right-hand side of the task space, you’ll see a Preview area that will show you how the changes are affecting your image.

If required, resize the sampling area with the Sampling Brush Tool.

You can find the tools for Content-Aware Fill in the left-hand corner of the workspace. The Brush tool is the first one on the top and the one you’ll most often use.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

You’ll also notice on the right-hand side of the workspace that you can make adjustments to the opacity.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Save your changes as a Duplicate Layer.

I often use Content-Aware Fill to even-out my still life photography backgrounds, which tend to look less even in color and texture as I would like.

In this image of a salad, I wanted to even-out the left-hand corner of the image, which was looking too dark, despite my removing vignetting. I used the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the part that I wanted to change and brushed out the parts of the image I didn’t want sampled from.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

I played around with the opacity until I got something that looked good, which in this case was 66%.

4. Clone Stamp Tool

Can anyone live without the Clone Stamp tool?

No matter what kind of photography you do, you probably use the Clone Stamp tool a lot. Great retouching is largely about cleaning up the little things, which all come together for a powerful, transformative effect. Clone Stamp is one of the crucial Photoshop tools for still life photography.

The Clone Stamp tool allows you to copy pixels to a different part of the image to another. It’s great on areas where you have texture and pattern, or an edge. However, with this tool there is no real blending, so you often have to use it with other tools to get a more seamless-looking result.

Note that if you work with the Clone Stamp tool on its own layer, you can use it with other tools such as Free Transform to make further adjustments to the cloned areas.

Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

In the image above, I used a surface that was textured and knotty, but I wanted it to look smoother. I did this (achieving the image on the right) by cloning smoother areas over the bumpy areas.

To utilize the Clone Stamp tool, select it from the toolbar by hitting S for the shortcut, or hit Cmd/Ctrl+S 

Photoshop for still life photography

Select the area that you wish to paint the pixels from by choosing Opt/Alt. The selection point will be indicted by the crosshairs.

Paint with your cursor over the area you want to correct while making sure the crosshairs don’t pick up any pixels you don’t want.

Photoshop tolls for still life photography

5. Transform

Transform is another of the useful Photoshop tools for still life photography because it allows you to make changes and adjustments to objects in your image, like straightening and shaping.

For example, I decided to make a change to the olive oil bottle in the image below. I wanted to adjust the direction the handle was facing and to make the bottle appear larger in scale. I did this easily and quickly with Transform.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Start with your background layer or your top layer. Use the appropriate tool to make a selection. In this case, I used the Lasso tool but I could have also used the Quick Selection tool.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Copy the selection onto another layer by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+J.

The 6 Top Photoshop Tools for Still Life Photography

Then hit Ctrl/Cmd+T to bring up Transform, or go to Edit and choose Transform from the Menu.

Make the adjustment by manually rotating or expanding the Transform box by clicking on the white points/squares.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Hit Enter to accept the adjustment.

Always make sure to constrain proportions when necessary.

6. Focus Stacking

If you’re shooting a product, you’ll usually need your subject to be sharp throughout. This means using a high F-stop number like F/13 or F/16. However, this requires a lot of power if you’re using flash.

You can also get lens diffraction at these higher numbers, which will degrade the quality of your photo.

The answer to shooting with a wider aperture and still getting a sharp image is to focus stack in Photoshop.

This is when you take two or three images with different focus points and blend them together to create one image file that is sharply in focus throughout. It’s a quick process and isn’t anywhere near as complicated as it sounds.

To utilize focus stacking, make sure your images have the same exposure and alignment.

Export PSD files into a folder or onto your desktop where you can easily navigate to them. 

Follow these steps:

  • Open Photoshop.
  • Go to File and choose Scripts.
  • Select Load Files into Stack.
  • Click Browse and select all the images from where you saved them initially.
  • Check the Box for Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.
  • Click OK. Each of the images will open as a new layer in Photoshop.
  • Hold down Shift and click on the top layer in the Layers panel to highlight all the layers.
  • Under Edit, select Auto Blend-Layers.
  • Check the box for Stack Images and also for Seamless Tones and Colors. DO NOT check ‘Content-Aware.’ Click OK.
  • Save the final image.

If you have uploaded a lot of images, flatten the final image by selecting Layer -> Flatten Image -> Save.

photoshop tools for still life photography

Three images focus-stacked in Photoshop

Conclusion

Photoshop is a powerhouse of a program and there are many tools that can help you retouch your photography. The tools mentioned here are my top Photoshop tools for still life photography. They are easy to learn and utilize, and will quickly take your images to the next level.

Do you have any other Photoshop tools for still life photography that you’d like to share? Do so in the comments section!

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