Many artists would suggest that photography does not belong in the art community.
So, what is it really?
Good candid photography is an art form on its own. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to capture the perfect moment in time.
Yes, sometimes luck is on your side, but often the talented photojournalist can consistently pull off amazing candid shots.
But here are some tips to help you make it big in candid photography and create some real dazzling photos.
Try to develop a keen sense for the best places to be for the right image — and often it is just common sense.
If you are capturing moments from an event, then it will be very helpful to research about the even and the people who will be attending. This will at least give you an idea or anticipate where and when special moments are going to happen.
For wedding photography, if you know the bride and groom are seeing each other for the first time right before the ceremony, make sure to be there, in the spot they meet.
Nothing freaks people out and makes them act weird than knowing a camera is pointed right at them. Leave your wide-angle lens at home and keep your telephoto mounted to your camera. If you can shoot from a distance, it is more likely that people will forget you are there and will have genuine emotions and reactions that you can capture.
Your presence might make it awkward for your targets to move naturally. So, if your subject knows you are there, even with a long lens, walk away for a few minutes and sneak back over. Just a few minutes can be enough time for them to forget about you and to allow you to shoot candidly.
Get to know your subjects so you can be ready to make a great story.
War photographers, for example, know who the key players are, what the divisive issues are and what motivates the armies. You may not be in a war zone, but it is important to know what motivates the people you photograph. This will give you a clue when the subjects may react. Additionally, this will help you anticipate how they will react, whether it be laughing, crying, shouting or smiling.
Try to figure out the relationships between everyone and who has the biggest personalities. These people are most likely to have memorable candid photos.
You should know your camera inside and out if you want to get good at candid photos. You should be able to look at a scene and estimate your settings. You should be able to change your exposure quickly and know which knob or button changes your shutter speed, which changes your aperture, and which changes your ISO. These should be second nature operations.
Special moments happen quickly and it is not likely that you can manually focus in time. Rely on your autofocus system to gather a sharp image. Set your autofocus mode and points for the situation you are in, whether the subject is moving and what part of the frame you expect them to be in.
Many times, candid photos are not completely candid. Often the photographer will set the subject up for the shot. You don’t have to direct your subject, but if you know that a good candid opportunity is coming, you can ask them to move toward some window light. You can even set up your own lighting, knowing that the subject will be facing a certain way.
Being prepared does not take away from the candidness. It just gives you a leg up when it comes to quality.
Practice all these tips as you join Award-winning photographer Colin Smith on Taming Light Photography’s Tuscany Photography Adventure 2019. Register now and fly to the world of Renaissance to capture the greatest works of art and take a lot of candid shots on the most inspiring streets of Tuscany.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or a budding hobbyist, one of the many challenges you might face is choosing the perfect subject for landscape photography. Below are some of the tips on finding the greatest landscape photography subjects.
It’s easy to take a great picture of a beautiful destination, but what about places that don’t seem interesting at first glance? Is it possible to take an unforgettable shot of an industrial plant, a small-town street corner, a trailer park, or a motel somewhere along the empty highway?
Have you ever heard of conceptual photography? If you’re not familiar with the term, you’re sure to have seen conceptual images. Conceptual photography is an exciting genre that involves creating a staged setup that conveys an idea or message. These photos are preconceived rather than spontaneous.
Conceptual photography is a style of photography where the main subject of the image is an idea or concept, rather than a physical subject. The photo must be carefully thought-out and composed so that the concept being depicted is obvious to the viewer.
Documentary photography, in its most narrow definition, is the practice of making a photograph which is an accurate representation of its subject. But the practice of shooting documentary photography is much richer than its definition would lead you to believe.
When photographing a starry night with a fixed tripod, use the 500 Rule to guesstimate the slowest possible shutter speed to avoid star trails.
The rule is part of a larger family of empirical rules that have been developed, mostly in the days of film photography. These help photographers quickly set up their cameras for the most common situations.
With film, in fact, the pressure was on to get it right in camera as much as possible. You could only see the results once you’ve developed the film.
In the digital era, however, we can check the results in real time. We can afford to be a bit sloppy and to adjust settings on the fly. Nonetheless, by learning those rules we can work better and faster even when shooting digitally.
Notable examples of such empirical rules are the sunny-16, overcast-8 and sunset-4 rules. These deal with setting a proper exposure in specific daylight conditions. And for your nighttime photography, the looney-11 rule will help you to properly expose the Moon.
The idea behind the 500 rule is to provide you with an easy-to-remember formula to freeze the stars movement and to get star trails free images.
Of course, if your goal is to do star trails, you should ignore this rule. Otherwise, you need to use it so that you can capture clean images of the Milky Way and the starry sky in general.
But why are you getting star trails in the first place? That’s because the Earth is rotating on itself once every day. This rotation creates the rather fast 15º/hour apparent motion of stars.
In astrophotography, we make a big deal out of freezing the stars. To be rigorous, the length (in mm) of a star trail on your image will depend on the field of view of your camera-lens combination, the sensor size, the image resolution, the exposure time and the star angular speed and declination.
While this is not rocket science, the formula that links all those variables together is not the simplest one to remember and to use in the field.
If you are an occasional star shooter, knowing how to use the much simpler 500 rule will let you capture reasonably trail free starry skies.
The rule reads like this: SS = 500 / (FL * CF)
SS is the shutter speed in seconds, FL the focal length expressed in mm and CF is your sensor’s crop factor, i.e., the ratio between the size of a full frame sensor and yours.
Common crop factors, CF, for different types of camera are:
As far as I know, while it can be loosely related to image resolution and field of view at a specified focal length, the use of the number “500” doesn’t have an actual meaning. It is an arbitrary constant chosen so that the rule will work decently in most cases.
With a 50mm lens, for example, the 500 rule will tell you the exposure time for which the stars will not trail is:
SS= 500/(50*2)= 5 seconds.
With a full frame camera with the same lens, the exposure time will be:
SS=500/(50*1)= 10 seconds.
By using the 500 rule you can even get decent results when photographing bright deep sky objects such M42 (The Great Orion Nebula) using a telephoto lens, particularly if you allow stars to trail a bit more than usual.
While the level of details will not be impressive, it will be a very satisfying experience and it would be great to give it a try.
There are two common variants of the 500 rule; the 400- and 600-Rule, respectively.
In the 400-Rule, the number 500 in the formula above is replaced by 400. This results in an even shorter exposure time. With the 600-rule, the number 600 is used instead, resulting in slightly slower shutter speeds, i.e., longer exposure times.
If you want better results, you should switch to other rules, such as the NPF rule. These are more accurate and rigorous than the 500 rule.
Nowadays, you can find many star trail calculators online. These can help you choose the best exposure time for your camera-lens combination.
The first thing to do to improve your images is to use RAW instead of JPEG. This will ensure you have the maximum flexibility when you need to edit your images.
If you are not tracking the sky movement with a tracking head, the stars will always move across the sensor. The light you can collect for each pixel depends solely on how long the star will stay over the same pixel.
You may be tempted to bump up your ISO, but this will only increase image noise, with no extra benefits.
Allowing stars to trail a bit more by using longer exposures will not help either, as the time a star will excite the same pixel will not change. You will just record a trail.
The solution is called image stacking.
By taking many photos at a fairly low ISO, each exposed according to the 500 rule, you can then combine (stack) them later on and this will dramatically improve the number of details in the final image.
The process involves masking and aligning the sky among all the exposures, but software like Deep Sky Stacker, Sequator (windows, free) and Starry Landscape Stacker (Mac OS X, commercial) will make the whole procedure faster.
If you find yourself struggling to capture that starry night sky photography, using the 500 rule (together with image stacking) will dramatically improve your results, at no extra cost.
For more low light photography tips check out our online courses! Enthusiastic astrophotographers should check them out here on our site www.taminglightphotography.com.
Millions of people want to try photography. Over 80% of this population chooses to hone their skills to a more professional level by enrolling to photography schools or joining photography courses. A hefty 60% of them then discover the potential in photography to generate income. But many of them are actually clueless on how they can start a business using their cameras.
In a generation where professional photography has already become highly competitive, there are actually a number of ways on how you can earn money in image-making apart from starting a photo studio. Taming Light Photography’s owner and director Colin Smith compiled an ebook to help photographers like him discover other opportunities where they can stand out in a crowded market.
Award-winning photographer, Mr. Smith, published this ebook where he shares 5 other ways on how photographers can make money with their art.
Where most photographers are opening their own studio or dive into the saturated market of events photography, corporate photography or selling photographs in a gallery, they actually have more other options where they can get a higher possibility to make MORE money! Our list includes:
Like our Tuscany Photography Adventure 2019, photographers can also organize their own event where they take a small group of participants to a location where they can get tons of photo ops.
It is important, though, that the leader has knowledge of the area like a local so he can truly show them around to the most photogenic spots where they can practice the different styles and strategies in photography.
You know so well that not all photographers have the eagerness to become professionals. However, they are keen enough to learn as they use their photography to stand out on social media or to use their photography in their business to save from hiring a pro.
These people wouldn’t waste time going to a whole year of photography course so they will look for a more convenient setup where they can learn strategies.
Apart from consulting Youtube, they will most likely search for online courses which are cheaper than photography schools but are more detailed than Youtube tutorials.
While you can’t build your own school, you can still do workshops to facilitate learning. Come up with a unique or highly interesting photography course to teach and get at least 20 enrollees to start with.
Like photography classes, you can tutor a photographer who seriously wants to become a pro in a private setting.
There might be people who are shy to share a class with others or simply wants full attention from an instructor for them to learn more quickly. Take advantage of this opportunity, some are willing to pay higher rates just so they can speed things up.
This is business with lesser effort. Be a reseller of photography accessories and equipment like lenses, filters, flash, or even ebooks, and a lot more!
You simply have to set up your own e-commerce or have a web development company configure and design it for you. Make sure to check and fulfill orders every day as customer experience is the number one factor that determines your success in the e-commerce business.
These businesses might take some time to generate ROI, but you’ll have lesser competition in these fields and it also means a higher probability to succeed as a professional photographer – without having to sell your soul!
Find out more details of these photography business opportunities by downloading our ebook “How To Make Money From Photography Without Selling Your Soul.”
Action-packed wildlife scenes are the most recognized ones, but even with an action shot of a mouse you could win the next nature photography competition.
This article will take you through the role your camera equipment plays, camera settings, and many other tips and tricks to capture that perfect moment.
In order to take action shots of wild animals, you have to find them first. It’s not as hard as you’d think. If you take a walk through the local forest, you’ll be surprised by how many different animal species you can find.
Another great way to find wild animals is to go to the nearest public park. Wild animals in public parks are usually less timid since they are used to humans.
You have two ways to approach action photography with animals. You can freeze the animal’s action or create an artistic depiction of the animal’s motion.
Animals don’t stay in one place very long. They constantly migrate from one place to another during the course of a day. Sometimes they move very slowly, such as when they’re grazing. At other times, they may move swiftly, such as when they’ve been startled by a predator. And if the predator takes up the chase, he’ll be moving very fast as well.
So to freeze the animal’s motion, here are some tricks you can try:
To create an artistic photo of an animal in motion, use the same technique, with the exception of the shutter speed.
Choose a shutter speed that’s 1/15 of a second or slower. If you pan steadily, the animal’s head will be relatively sharp, but the legs will be a blur of motion. If your lens has horizontal image stabilization, enable it. This compensates for any up-and-down motion when panning with the animal.
Supplement these tips with additional reading on nature photography. Check out our ebooks today and catch more photography strategies from a world-renowned photographer! Easy-to-download and cost-effective, click this link to see our ebook offerings – https://taminglightphotography.com/photographic-bookshop-2/.
Have you ever wondered how landscape photographers take spectacular sunset photos that look so magical that they’re almost unearthly? Or how portrait photographers are able to find angelic, blemish-free models for their subjects?
Chances are they used post-processing methods to refine their images.
Post-processing is an integral aspect of digital photography. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, you need to edit your photos to balance hues, remove blemishes, improve saturation, create special effects, and more. Image alterations and enhancements can be done with the use of photo editing programs.
A lot of photo editing programs exist in the market, each with its own advantages, capabilities, and limitations. If you are a beginner photographer, you don’t need an overly complex editing program. In fact, you only need one that:
Based on these basic requirements, we have come up with a list of some cool photo editing tools for novice photographers.
Ideal for beginner and intermediate photographers, this photo editing software is a simpler version of its big brother, the industry-grade Adobe Photoshop. It has all the necessary features you need to organize, edit, and share your photos.
One convenient feature of Adobe Photoshop Elements is its set of simple-to-use editing tools. Standard and clean-up tasks, which used to take a lot of time and effort, can be done quickly and easily. In addition, the software allows you to create photo books, scrapbooks, and greeting cards.
This no-nonsense image processor has become a standard editing tool for novice and professional photographers. Primarily, it enables photographers to adjust the tonality, exposure, and color of a digital image. Keep in mind, Lightroom is limited in its abilities to manipulate photos such as removing spots, changing colors, or composting it with other images. Image manipulation is in the realm of Adobe Photoshop.
Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and other Adobe applications are available as a bundle through Adobe Creative Cloud.
One of the favorites of both novices and professionals, Corel Paintshop has a myriad of photo editing functions and tools that are easy to use. With this software, you can change white balance and color levels, color gradients, correct perspectives, and more. It also has a cool feature that helps you detect faces in a collection of photos and utilizes GPS data for geo-tagging. HDR (High Dynamic Range) merging is also available.
Affordability is its greatest strength, and with its vast collection of tools, you are sure to get your money’s worth.
GIMP, a bitmap based image manipulation program, can do around 80 percent of what Adobe Photoshop can do. It is perfect for simple and quick editing and retouching tasks although its user interface is not as polished as other programs.
Best of all, GIMP is open-source software, thus, it’s free! It is platform independent, which means it can run through Mac, Linux, and Windows OS systems. Finally, you can enhance its capability through free plugins and scripts.
Serif PhotoPlus features a user interface that is ideal for fast and easy fixes. However, it also has innovative tools for more advanced and creative edits. For instance, you can use its Smart Selection features to auto-select interesting sections of your images. Those sections can then be manipulated to look like oil and watercolor paints.
Serif PhotoPlus is an excellent tool to restore scanned old photos. It has functionalities that enable you to remove scratches, creases, marks, and other defects.
As photo editing technology advances, along with customer demands, look for more tools to be offered in the photography community. Remember, this list is just for starters!
Find out more about post-processing and image editing techniques when you enroll in Taming Light Photography classes and online courses. You can also watch free tutorials on our Taming Light Photography Youtube channel.
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Most newbie photographers struggle with the complexities of their new cameras. “Professional photographers” tell the newbie that they needed to start shooting in Manual mode—choosing shutter speed and aperture for each shot—and that they should never use the automatic modes. They were advised that they were “giving up all creative control” of their photography by not shooting in Manual mode.
Yes, you might be giving the camera control of shutter speed and aperture, but does this mean that you will not get a good photograph?
When you shoot in full-auto mode, you are telling the camera to pick what it thinks are the best settings. That means your camera decides everything concerning light sensitivity (ISO), aperture and shutter speed, focus, white balance, and even when to fire the flash. Auto mode is easy to use and convenient, but it isn’t foolproof.
There are a few simple tips can help you make the most of it. Here’s how to shoot great-looking photographs, even when the camera is doing all the work.
Camera shake causes blurry images. The slightest vibration to the camera as it’s capturing an im age can affect how sharp the photo looks. Keeping still is even more important in low-light situations because the camera keeps the shutter open longer to take in as much light as it can. Some new cameras offer image stabilization to help compensate for shaky hands, but it isn’t perfect. Here are some things you can do to prevent blurry photos:
Use a tripod
A tripod keeps a camera steady. However, it’s not always a convenient accessory to lug around. As an alternative, find a level, non-moving surface to stabilize the camera, like a kitchen counter, a ledge, or a stack of books.
A tripod keeps a camera steady, but it’s not always a convenient accessory to lug around. As an alternative, find a level, non-moving surface to stabilize the camera, like a kitchen counter, a ledge, or a stack of books.
Keeping your body still before, during, and after pressing the shutter button will help minimize image blur. Because a digital camera continues to process the image after clicking the button – especially if it’s gathering light in dark environments – you want to remain motionless for a few seconds afterward. Of course, no person can stay completely stiff, so look for extra support to stabilize yourself.
Use the camera’s self-timer
By using the self-timer, you give yourself time to position yourself and avoid any movement from pressing the shutter button. This feature is useful when using a tripod or stable surfaces, as it eliminates any vibration caused by your body.
Bring the camera closer to your body
If you’re using the camera’s LCD screen to frame a picture, hold it with two hands and bring it as close to your eyes as possible (without affecting your vision), tucking your elbows and arms all the way in. You can minimize body movement this way, as opposed to having your arms stretched out.
Before you press the shutter button, you need to focus on the prize: your subject. Nearly every digital camera utilizes autofocusing, but here’s how to use it properly.
Press halfway and hold it
To tell the camera where to focus, lock in on the subject by pressing the shutter button halfway without letting go (you can feel when the button is physically at the halfway point). The camera will signal when something is focused with an audible beep or green indicators on the LCD display, for example. When you are ready to shoot, press the shutter button all the way. Never let go of the shutter button from the halfway point, unless you want to refocus or reframe your shot.
Point the camera at what you want to be in focus
A digital camera doesn’t always know what to focus on in the frame. If you want to focus on a subject in the side of a frame, for example, your camera might focus on something dead center in the background instead. The easy way to fix this is to center your subject in the frame and then focus. Without letting go of the shutter button, you can pan around until you are happy with the shot, keeping your intended subjects focused wherever they end up in the frame.
Most of the aforementioned tips require the subject to remain stationary, but what if you are trying to capture your kid playing ball or some sort of action scene? Most digital cameras that lack user controls, especially entry-level models with slow autofocusing, have a hard time capturing these types of scenes. To achieve this, autofocus on a point where the object in motion will end up, then snap the photo when the object reaches that point. With some luck, you’ll get that shot.
Through software enhancement, fixed-lens cameras use digital zoom as a way to get closer to a far-away object. Cameras with an optical lens go beyond the physical max zoom when used with digital zoom. When should you use it? Never, because the resulting image taken with a digital zoom will always be pixelated. If you can, you should physically get up-close to a subject instead of zooming in digitally.
Digital cameras tend to fire the built-in flash when in auto mode, whether it’s necessary or not. But camera flash is not always a bad thing. The best way to know your camera’s ability is to experiment by taking photos in various conditions with the flash on and off.
In dark scenes, the camera activates the flash to compensate for weak low-light performance, but this could cause your subjects to look way too intense when lit. Without a flash, your photos could look fuzzy due to the lack of light.
You can achieve better results by deactivating the flash and using all available light in the room. Hold the camera as still as possible until it has finished taking the photo.
Believe it or not, the flash works well for bright conditions. For example, shadows on a subject’s face that’s caused by strong sunlight can be compensated with the use of the flash in “forced flash” mode.
Learn more about your camera settings and how to use them by downloading our ebook, “Set Yourself Free – How to Really Use Your Camera” and discover what kind of images each mode can create by enrolling to our photography courses. Learn them today!
Being a street photographer is quite an exhaustive experience when you are not on top of your game. Even the seasoned professionals feel this way during their long and successful careers. The best way to cope up with that pressure is to narrow down your vision to only certain things.
That’s where street photography projects come into play and this article is all about executing these project ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Working on projects lets you think more clearly. You are more vigilant while looking for certain subjects. This attention to detail really makes a difference in your photographs.
Sometimes, as compared to single images, they let you express bigger stories by presenting your images in a specific way and tell a complete story in a more conventional way.
And biggest of all, these projects come in handy when you stuck in a photographic block and you didn’t know how to get out of it.
There is no hard and fast rule for starting a project. For beginners, you can do two types of projects. You can select a specific story for your project. You can combine multiple images that collectively tell a complete story.
Covering a specific story is too demanding sometimes. Alternatively, you can just select a single design or compositional element for your project.
Shooting all your photographs on that same principle will not only much simpler, but it will evolve you aesthetically as a photographer. You can still get beautiful and soulful individual images out of these types of projects.
Following are few of street photography theme ideas that you can use to get you going. You can come up with your own creative ideas and can apply it to other genres of photography as well.
As mentioned above, you can tell a story with a set of individual images that collectively tell a story in no specific order or you can present your images in a specific order.
If you are telling a story sequentially than 5 or 7 images is a sweet spot. Anything more than that will be difficult for a viewer to keep track of what’s happening. For example, for a 5 images story, give a beginning statement in the first photograph, some action in next three and a conclusion in the last photograph.
If your story is not action-based and it’s more conceptual, make a collection of 10-15 images in no particular order, but all should tell a similar or different angle of the same story. Consistency is key.
You can focus on just one specific emotion and build your entire series of images on it. For example, you can capture ‘Waiting’ on bus stations, ‘Reunion’ on airports, ‘Happiness’ in parties, ‘Loneliness in the alleys, etc. The benefit of this is, you know exactly when and where you need to look for your subjects.
We all love portraits, but making an environmental portrait is difficult and challenging. Try to balance between subjects versus environment. The center of attention should still be your subject, but with enough environmental context, that tells further about your subject and its life.
This project is purely artistic in nature. You need to look for interesting lights and shadow patterns in various parts of the streets and alleys. Take a casual walk and look for shadows. Their length, direction, and nature will vary throughout the day. So visit the same place several times and observe people while they are moving and other stuff hanging around. Look how light is filtered through various obstacles to create unique patterns.
This project easy! It’s rewarding. It’s fun. All you have to do is to look around for interesting faces – people who are really expressive. With great smiles, interesting emotions or having fun.
Even people who are shy and hiding emotions also brings a level of mystery to your street photographs. Challenge yourself by asking tough guys. You know your camera settings well, all you have to do is to ask for permission and bang. You are done.
Silhouettes always bring a sense of mystery to your photographs. Since they don’t have the details, you need to emphasize on their shape to make it easy for viewers to recognize them. Try photographing silhouettes on streets, but put enough context in the background for viewers to relate to your subject.
Honestly speaking, humor is difficult in street photography, but if you keep your eyes open, you can find it in abundance. It can be the most mundane thing that all of us witness on a daily basis, but your observation and timing make it humorous and ironic.
Introducing intentional blur really adds a sense of motion in your photographs. But it should not be random in nature.
Firstly, your photograph should be mostly tacked sharp and only certain elements should be blurred so it gives the idea that it’s an intentional blur and not a camera shake. Secondly, the moving elements should still retain enough of their details to know what or who they are?
This project surely requires luck and a lot of practice. Try to photograph people when they are in action. You will find plenty of these opportunities on a street. Make sure the moment you captured should be decisive and enough context should be present for the viewer to relate the freezing moment with its surrounding.
Juxtaposition is presenting two separate things together in a way that it’s contrasting with one another, but still somewhat related. It provides a very interesting point of view.
It’s a difficult genre of street photography and you will not find ample opportunities, but that makes it more rewarding as well. Look for posters, road signs, and graffiti closely and you will know which element can give contrast to it and then simply wait for that element to fill in.
Join our photography workshops and photo tours to get more photo ops that will teach you everything you need to know about street photography! Enroll in one of our photography offers today!
There are many categories in photography. And each of them has subcategories, and below these, sub-subcategories. So finding your place in photography isn’t easy—there are so many places to find. It often takes years before a photographer finds a style. But how will you know when you’ve found the right field for you? You might find the answer in today’s article—which contains a bit of philosophizing.
There are so many photographic fields and genres that it can be hard to even tell which is which, let alone picking one to focus on, or one that suits you best.
In our article on beginners’ mistakes, we mentioned that many professionals and passionate photographers had roughly the same beginnings. Learning photographic skills takes time. Either you have incredible talent, the kind rarely seen, or you have to walk the walk—enormous work and years of practice before the results are worth it.
When starting out, a digital camera owner photographs everything. They photograph a lot. And they don’t think too much about it, because they like everything and they want to capture everything. Whether it’s a flower, a bug, a landscape, reportage, a portrait, a nude, or fashion, capture it since they are all great subjects for photography.
If you’re taking pictures of almost everything, it’s too early to find your field.
As time goes by and your mountain of deleted photos grows, you’ll stop taking certain kinds of pictures. Maybe, because they’re not where you excel. Or maybe, because you don’t enjoy them as much. You don’t do every category anymore; you have one or two less. Over time this will narrow your photographic space down to one or two categories, or perhaps photographic styles. You’re now getting close to the field that fits you best.
Let’s say you have this first phase behind you. Now there’s a second phase. This one is for photographers with a real thirst to become better at all costs. If you’ve already picked a genre—let’s say it’s reportage photography—then ask yourself: what kind of reportage do I want to do? Documentary? Sports? Weddings?
The subcategories that you like most will come to you automatically. Or rather, will select themselves automatically. Ultimately, over time you’ll surely be able to choose a specific category you want to focus on.
But how can you tell which field fits you best?
You’ll find your place after thousands, or tens of thousands, of photos taken, edited, and published.
Just because you’ve found your place in photography doesn’t mean that you should automatically turn against other genres.
For example, professional photographers also focus on the areas they do best. They’ve got their subcategories within a photographic genre they are pursuing or their livelihood.
But they also need to just take pictures for fun sometimes. And so, even professionals will oftentimes grab their cameras and do some hobby photography in a completely different field.
If you’re an enthusiast or a complete beginner who hasn’t yet found their field, that’s OK.
The main thing is to always keep taking pictures. And another thing: maintain the joy in your photography. It will shine through in your photos, and both you and your fans will notice it. And then in time, you may find you enjoy one type the most—and that means you’ve gently, naturally found your field.
Try the different fields of photography in the guidance of a proficient photographer like Colin Smith who can help you find where you excel. Check out the photography classes he offers today!
Panorama Photographs are produced by stitching together photos to create one high-resolution image.
But in creating really great panoramas requires a combination of solid field techniques and post-processing techniques.
Here are five simple yet effective steps to use when taking panoramas on your travels.
Make sure that the tripod head mounting plate is perfectly level. Some people only level the camera when setting up for a panorama, but this is actually the wrong approach. If the base is not level and you rotate the camera from left to right, then the scene will actually be tilted and the panorama’s horizon will be off kilter.
The best panoramas are made by rotating the camera around the lens’ mid-point. Technically, you should rotate around the no-parallax point for the best results.
If you are mounted on a tripod, then try to position your camera on a rail slide so that when you rotate the camera, it rotates around the lens rather than the camera body. You can find the no-parallax point through trial and error by panning your camera from left to right and noticing if things like poles or bushes change in perspective with the background.
If the pole does move left and right as you pan the camera, then try moving your camera backward or forward a little bit. Once the camera is positioned correctly, you won’t see any relative movement between foreground objects and background objects as you rotate.
If you are hand-holding, then position your camera above your front foot, and rotate around your foot. This is much better than rotating around your waist, since that is most likely to cause parallax errors.
Since a panorama by its very nature captures a very wide area, you’ll need to be especially careful about how you meter for the scene so you don’t blow out the highlights. Today’s modern cameras actually have a fairly wide dynamic range, so you can pull out shadow detail in programs like Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.
A general approach to metering for a panorama scene – not just for landscape scenes but for other subjects too – can be to find the brightest area, such as the clouds, and then meter there so they don’t blow out. You can then lock that meter value into your camera and proceed with shooting the panorama. Once back at your computer, you can merge the panorama together and then pull out the shadow detail with the shadow slider or other tools in Lightroom and Photoshop.
In order to successfully merge all of your images together in a single panorama, you’ll need to provide the software with a little bit of overlap from image to image. With the really wide angle lens like a 14mm or 16mm, then you’ll need to overlap as much as 50% from photo to photo. With longer lenses like 70 mm or 200 mm, you only need to overlap by 10% from photo to photo. Longer lenses have less distortion and therefore it is easier for the software to merge all of the images together.
In order for the panorama to merge properly in software, you have to make sure you lock all the appropriate camera settings while you are in the field. These include:
If you don’t lock these things, then your final image might look a bit funny with shifting colors (white balance), exposure changes, or even regions of the photo out of focus that appear directly next to regions that are in focus.
Still can’t get it right? Join into one of our online courses or workshops to learn more about shooting better panoramas. Check out our available classes today!
Night photography is full of challenges. One of the biggest for beginners and pros alike is the difficulty of achieving accurate focus in very dark scenes. However, autofocus systems are constantly improving and many of today’s modern DSLR cameras can focus in the darkness that would have short-circuited the autofocus systems of cameras made just a few years ago.
Yet, the downside of most autofocus lenses is that they do not have hard stops at the infinity focus point. This hard stop was a boon to night and day photographers familiar with the pleasures of old-school manual focus lenses.
So, what are some helpful ways to focus in the dark?
The quick remedy for a confused autofocus focus is to switch to manual focus. On a DSLR, if you can see the image clearly in the viewfinder in the dark, you should be all set. For critically precise focus, you might have to use some other techniques that we will get into below. One more thing to mention, manual focus lenses for night photography are usually more pleasurable to focus than autofocus lenses—they have a better feel, and the precise focus ring movement will assist you in getting accurate focus.
Depending on your subject, the scene before your camera may be well past the focus range of your lens and into the “infinity” distance. In that case, setting your lens to infinity will allow anything past a certain distance to be in focus in the shot. Of course, as mentioned earlier, not all lenses have hard stops at the infinity mark, so that can make finding the true infinity point problematic. Keep on reading.
One trick is to focus your camera at a distant (infinity) object during the day using your trusty autofocus. Then, switch the camera to manual focus and use a piece of gaffer tape to keep the focus on the lens from moving. This technique could also work for objects that are closer than the infinity distance, but only the most dedicated photographers focus on something close-up during the day and then wait for darkness without moving their rig! Obviously, a pre-focused infinity setup will give you more versatility on a night outing unless you are doing a very specific shot.
Distance is defined as the distance when the lens is focused at infinity, where objects from half of this distance to infinity will be in focus for a particular lens. Alternatively, the hyperfocal distance may refer to the closest distance that a lens can be focused for a given aperture while objects at a distance (infinity) will remain sharp.
Many older lenses, and some newer lenses have hyperfocal markings on the lens barrel. Basically, this allows you to set your lens so that, at a given aperture, you can determine at what distance objects in the frame will be in focus. So, without even looking at the viewfinder, you can set your focus.
Many modern DSLR cameras feature a live-view function where the mirror flips out of the way and the camera acts like a digital mirrorless or point-and-shoot camera—showing the image on the LCD screen. This technology has been a blessing for night photographers because they now may be able to zoom in on the image on the LCD screen and manually focus with precision.
Once common in videography, focus peaking is part of some live view systems, mirrorless cameras, and point-and-shoot cameras, as well. Basically, focus peaking shows you regions in the frame where the highest contrast exists by highlighting them in a bright color.
The real advantage of focus peaking is when you are using manual focus lenses. Instead of relying on your eyesight to determine when the scene is in focus, focus peaking lets you determine the plane and depth of focus very quickly.
If there is a region of high contrast in the image, usually near a relatively bright object, you can aim the camera’s autofocus at that area, and then, by moving the camera or by changing the autofocus point, see if the autofocus will lock on that region. Be sure you have your camera set to single autofocus and not continuous focus. If the autofocus locks on that area, keep the shutter depressed half-way or use the autofocus lock button, recompose and take the shot you want.
Is the moon up? Guess what? The moon is likely past the infinity focus distance of your lens. Point your lens at the moon, autofocus, and lock in that focus. If there is no moon you may be able to do the same trick with a bright star or planet depending on how advanced and sensitive your camera’s autofocus sensors are.
If you are not photographing a very distant scene, you can do two tricks with a handy flashlight or headlamp. The first trick is to use the light to illuminate your scene to give the autofocus system enough light and contrast to operate. The second trick is to place your flashlight into the scene at the distance you are trying to achieve focus. Focus on the flashlight, lock in focus, and then remove it before taking the photo.
Just like the first flashlight trick above, you can hit a target in your scene with a laser pointer and train your camera’s autofocus sensor on that spot. The laser has the advantage of being more concentrated and therefore possibly less obtrusive than a wide beam of a flashlight. It will also be brighter and may be able to help get accurate focus at a longer distance. Astronomical laser pointers are useful for this.
Of course, you should always scrutinize your images for accurate focus by viewing them on the LCD and zooming in to the maximum extent possible. If you are shooting high ISO test shots of the scene, use these throw-away images to verify accurate focus as well as exposure—especially if the “real” exposure is very long. There is nothing quite like reviewing a 15-minute exposure to find out that your focus is off. Check your focus with your 15-second high ISO test shot instead!
But to upgrade the beauty of your night photographs, learn post processing techniques from Taming Light Photography. Online courses and Youtube tutorials are available to guide aspiring astrophotographers in their night photography post-processing. Check them today!
Getting into astrophotography can be done relatively inexpensively if you already have a DSLR camera and a telescope on a good equatorial mounting.
If you know how to accurately polar align the mount, and don’t mind pressing the shutter button manually every 5 minutes, you would only need a T-mount and 2-inch adapter to hook the camera up to the telescope and start shooting.
You don’t absolutely need everything listed here, but these accessories will make your life much easier.
First and foremost, a tripod is a must-have for astrophotography and nighttime landscapes. Even the slightest bit of movement can cause enough instability to make the stars in your photo blur or to obscure the landscape.
It’s impossible to remain completely still for seconds or minutes on end and, while a strategically placed wall can replace a tripod in a pinch, a tripod is the most portable and customizable way to ensure a completely uninterrupted night photo.
Your lens can make or break an otherwise perfect astrophoto or night landscape. A wide-angle lens has a large field of view. In other words, it allows you to frame more of your subject like the Milky Way, a planet, or the night sky at large.
Your field of view is determined by your lens’s focal length, as illustrated in the image above. Two simple rules can help you understand the importance of your lens’s focal length:
The shorter the focal length of your lens, the more you can fit into your frame.
The longer the focal length the more sensitive the sensor is to the movement of the earth and the harder it is to get clear star photos.
For astrophotography and night landscapes, look for something that offers a focal length of 35mm or less. The smaller the focal length, the less sensitive your camera’s light sensor will be to the movement of the earth. For ultimate versatility, choose a lens with a focal length range of at least as wide as 15-32mm.
Timers and remotes aren’t just fancy gadgets for family photos. Once you’ve got your photo framed, focused, and ready to go, setting the timer on your camera or using a remote shutter release totally removes the human element from the photo and makes it less likely that camera shaking or movement will cause blurs and light trails in your photo.
Your camera’s light sensor will be especially sensitive to all sources of light when the world around you is dark. To mitigate issues like lens flare, invest in a lens hood. These block light from outside your field of view so that light doesn’t compromise your photograph.
Generally speaking, the night is not the time to employ filters. Any filter will make it harder for light to reach your sensor, which means you’ll need longer exposure times to compensate and might set yourself up for light and star trail disasters. However, there are a couple that can be a boon when you’re after very specific effects.
A fog filter is typically used to create a mysterious, ominous, or otherwise dramatic effect in landscape photography. At night, however, fog filters can sometimes make stars appear larger, which makes it easier for viewers to pick out the constellation or stars in your image.
When you’re taking a photo that includes stars as the only source of light in the frame, star filters create a “pointed” effect on the stars, making them appear pronounced and luminous like in the image below. Of course, you can use the filter even when the moon or artificial lights are present in your frame as long as you accept that they, too, may take on the appearance of a pointed star.
You might think, “of course I’ll need a flashlight to see in the dark,” but that’s not their only purpose in night photography. If you’re using a tripod and a remote shutter release, you can also use a flashlight to illuminate a specific focal element in extremely low-light situations. If you need your hands free to operate the camera, lay the flashlight on a stable surface and point it toward your focal element.
The more light you need, the larger and more powerful the flashlight will need to be. To illuminate larger areas of darkness, consider battery-powered portable studio or strobe lights.
The more photos you take, the quicker your camera’s battery will run out. However, it’s also true that long exposures will drain batteries more quickly. Bring at least one extra battery to avoid a mid-shoot shutdown.
If you’re reading this guide, you’re probably wondering if your current camera (or your dream camera) will do the trick for the shots you want to capture. The camera settings available to you are much more important than the particular camera you choose.
However, some camera types are better than others at making your job easier. Generally speaking, full frame DSLR cameras are the ones that make it easiest to get a satisfactory photograph at night.
That’s because they have larger sensors and larger pixels, so they tend to create images with less noise and better image quality. Both of these issues are important in long exposure photography and in star photography in particular.
However, if you’ve never used a full frame camera for nighttime photography, you won’t feel limited if you go for a more compact and budget-friendly micro four thirds or APS-C camera. Full frame cameras are simply designed for the needs of a professional photographer and, as such, tend to offer the highest possible image quality and the widest range of options in their class.
Join Colin Smith on his outdoor workshops and photography tours. Learn photography in an exciting way where you’ll see a pro create photos that standout, live in action! Check our photography tours and workshops today!
To a photography beginner, the gleaming complexity of a new camera seems to demand an arsenal of expensive equipment and a long legacy of training. This is a common misconception – beautiful, professional-grade shots are within reach to any with a mastery of the basic mechanics of photography. More
Sometimes, a bit of color is all a picture needs to help capture the mood and the moment. In this tutorial, we’ll show you a quick and effective method to add a warm glow that can help bring a picture to life with the tones of summer or autumn.
Photographers and camera manufacturers do a lot of boasting these days about the high pixel count of their new DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. But how often have you heard anyone wax rhapsodic about the awesome dynamic range of a camera? More
It’s no wonder that landscape photography is so popular…
For starters, it’s accessible given that we’re surrounded by landscapes big and small that we can photograph. More
Everyone loves the cool technique of time-lapse photography, where time appears to be manipulated by using a frame rate lower than the rate used to play the sequence back. And while it required so much effort to record such in the past, shooting time-lapse has got a lot easier with today’s DSLRs. More
Night photography is a fascinating genre of landscape photography. You’re standing outside in total darkness, but the camera display shows something else: a starry sky and the beauty surrounding you.
Photographing the night sky isn’t quite as straightforward as one might want, though. In fact, it is in many cases quite opposite of ‘regular’ landscape photography. Using the ‘wrong’ settings might lead to complete black images, and from experience, a lot of frustrations.
To capture beautiful images of the night sky, you need to choose the right aperture, ISO and shutter speed. These are the settings you want to use:
Use an Open Aperture
While we tend to shoot with a narrow aperture for regular landscape photography (in order to achieve front-to-back sharpness), night photography requires a faster aperture.
Wide-angle lenses with a fast aperture such as f/2.8 are preferred for night photography but, unfortunately, they are often double the price of lenses with a maximum aperture of f/4.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t get good pictures with a f/4 lens, though. It just means that you need a higher ISO or slower shutter speed to get a similar result.
You Need a High ISO
Night photography is in many ways the opposite of regular landscape photography. During daytime, a low ISO is preferred due to less noise and grain. During the night, however, it’s often pitch black and using the same settings as in the daytime will result in, you guessed it, pitch black images.
That’s why we need to make some compromises.
Using a higher ISO means that the camera sensor is more sensitive to light and allows for a shorter shutter speed in order to get the same exposure. A high ISO also means introduces a significant amount of noise and grain to the image; which is why we tend to keep it as low as possible.
Depending on the moon phase and artificial light, I typically use an ISO between 1600 and 3200. In certain scenarios, I might get away with using a lower ISO such as 800 or 1000.
The Shutter Speed Shouldn’t Be Too Slow
Right now you might be asking: why can’t I just keep a low ISO and narrow aperture, but a very slow shutter speed instead?
The answer is quite simple.
A too slow shutter speed will result in blurry stars. Shutter speeds of several minutes, or even hours, are often used to create star trails.
To keep the stars sharp you need to calculate the maximum shutter speed for your lens. Luckily, there’s a formula! Take the number 500 (for full-frame sensors) or 300 (for crop sensors) and divide it by the focal length:
14mm: 500/14 = 35 seconds (300/14 = 21 seconds)
16mm: 500/16 = 31 seconds (300/16 = 18 seconds)
20mm: 500/20 = 25 seconds (300/20 = 15 seconds)
24mm: 500/24 = 20 seconds (300/24 = 12 seconds)
Use the formula above to calculate the maximum shutter speed for your lens to keep stars sharp. The use of a slower shutter speed will result in the stars appearing as blurry oblong trails.
By now you should have a fair idea of what settings to use the next time you’re out photographing the night sky, but let’s summarize:
While the exact settings will change from picture to picture, the ideal settings for night photography is a high ISO (typically starting at 1600), an open aperture (such as f/2.8 or f/4) and the longest possible shutter speed as calculated with the 500 or 300 rule.
Do you need to know more about your camera? Download an ebook from Taming Light Photography and discover the structure and settings of your DSLR.
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All of these photography mistakes have something in common. They are easy mistakes to make, and they are all easily preventable.
Why do we make such common mistakes over and over again? Either we’ve never been told why these issues are mistakes, or we simply forget when we’re in the excitement of taking photos.
The easiest way to prevent mistakes is to slow down, pay attention and make deliberate captures. No more spray and pray.
Forgetting to set your white balance causes color casts on your photos. They may be too blue or too orange. Skin tones look awful.
We’re often reminded that you can easily fix this if you shoot in RAW, and that’s mostly true. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
The easiest way to fix white balance in post processing is if you have a photograph with a neutral grey color in the same light. Then all you have to do is grab the eyedropper tool in Lightroom or Photoshop boom – you fix your white balance.
Of course, not every photo has a perfect neutral grey color in it. So we click something that we think looks close to a neutral color and then that’s close enough.
It’s much easier if you just set the correct white balance before you start taking photos. That gets you in the range. If you want to be more specific, start carrying a grey card with you.
You can create a custom white balance in-camera using this grey card, or at least use it in post processing with the eyedropper. Just remember to set your white balance or take a photo of this grey card when you change lighting conditions.
Nothing can ruin a travel, landscape or architecture photo faster than a horizon line that isn’t level.
It doesn’t matter whether you place your horizon high or low in the photo, but having a horizon that dips down to one side or another just screams amateur snapshot.
Your DSLR should have a mode to turn on an overlay inside the viewfinder. Most people use these for the Rule of Thirds. These lines give you a ruler to use for your horizon. Line it up. Make sure the horizon is level.
If you don’t have the guidelines enabled in your viewfinder, check your manual.
At the very least, use the top or bottom of your display or viewfinder to get the horizon level, and then lower the camera until you have the
composition you want.
Can you fix this in post processing? Sure. Lightroom makes it very easy. However, that will also crop out part of your photo, so be prepared to lose some detail if you wait until after the shot to level your horizon.
There are three aspects about light that photographers should understand:
You can’t always change these attributes, but you can pay attention to them.
The Direction of Light ought to be the easiest one to recognize. You can tell if it’s coming from the left or right, above or (oddly) below. You can see how the light falls on your subject and where it casts shadows based upon the direction of light.
So please, use that knowledge and observation to make better photos.
It’s annoying for your viewer when you take a photo of a person and there is more light on an ear or shoulder than on their face. You can fix this by moving your subject a few inches to take advantage of the light.
Maybe you’re photographing something besides a portrait and you can’t move your subject. That’s fine.
Can you walk around your subject to get to better light? Can you wait for a time when the light looks best on your subject? Hint: there’s a reason why so many photographers like to shoot at sunrise or sunset. They’re waiting for great light on their subject.
What happens when you can’t move your subject and the light never moves into a good position for your subject?
Then bring some off-camera flash or lighting.
If that can’t happen, then you don’t have a decent photo. Without good lighting on your subject, you don’t have a good photo.
Pay attention to the direction of light and you can create much better photos. Don’t think that you have to shoot everything head-on form the light. It’s fine to get creative with backlight, sidelight, and different angles.
If you aren’t sure what angles look great, start studying photos that you like. Pay attention to where the source of light is relative to the subject. You’ll develop a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Sometimes, you’re in a hurry and you don’t quite nail the focus. Maybe you’re shooting an event and there isn’t a chance to do it over. You got a shot, but the focus isn’t sharp.
What do you do?
Many people think they can fix it later in post processing with some extra sharpening. You know what that does?
It creates a blurry photo with some crunchy bits around the edges. In other words, it sucks.
Despite what you see on TV, you cannot add detail to a photograph after you’ve taken the shot. You can remove it, such as by adding blur. You just can’t make it in-focus.
Sharpening is a process that adds blacks to the edges to provide more contrast, a pleasing effect that we think makes photos look sharper. The problem is that it only works if those edges are clear and in focus when you capture the photo.
Adding blacks, or sharpening, a blurry photo just makes it look crunchy. There’s no saving it. Throw it away.
In some cases, you may be able to fix this while you’re still taking photos. Trying to zoom in to a photo on the LCD screen of your camera is often misleading.
If you can’t be sure while you’re looking at your subject on the LCD, take another photo. And then another one. Take a few. Your odds of getting a usable photo increase and your photography mistakes decrease when you have more choices. Check your focus with each shot.
As for those fleeting moments, you either catch them or you don’t. If you’re trying to photograph a breaching whale and you didn’t get the focus, then you don’t have a shot. Delete it and try again, or pretend you never got anything in the first place.
There are three elements you can combine to make a beautiful photograph:
Screw up any of those and you may have a snapshot, but you don’t have a photo that makes you proud.
The most common thing to screw up is the background. So, pay attention to your backgrounds and surroundings.
Distracting elements will draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject. You want to eliminate distractions and distilled your photo down to a little as possible. When there’s nothing left to remove, then you can take your shot.
Sometimes the easiest way to eliminate a distraction is to move. Change your position. Re-compose the photo. A few inches can provide surprising results.
Get rid of the distractions in the background. Minimalism is your friend to avoid photography mistakes.
Bad cropping happens when you cut off part of your subject or an element in your photo at an awkward angle.
Let me give you an example. If you’re going to take a full length portrait, don’t cut off your subject’s feet.
It just looks odd to crop someone at the ankles.
If you just can’t fit in the feet, then crop the person mid-thigh. Similarly, don’t crop off a hand at the wrist, or some other point that just looks awkward.
If you shoot a head and a neck, then give some more room and include the shoulders. A head and neck without a body is pretty creepy to me.
Not sure where to crop? Do your research and look at other photos and portraits. You’ll see what you like and what just seems awkward. The key here is to pay attention to the norms and avoid the awkward stuff.
What if you aren’t photographing a portrait?
The same rules still apply. A shot of a building just above the ground level is on the odd side, but you can get away with shooting up at a skyscraper from a low angle.
We have expectations of things that go together. Buildings don’t float, so we expect to see a sidewalk or something where you step inside. On the other hand, it’s not unusual to look up at a skyscraper without worrying that you can’t see the ground.
Include the things that you take for granted.
Most of us see things in 3D, but our camera can’t do that. So we have to use composition to add a sense of depth. Fake 3D.
The way you do this is to have elements in the foreground, middle and background. You don’t have to go overboard for depth. It can be quite simple, as in this photo below.
The table and reflection is my foreground. A wonderful Cuban woman who invited us into her home is the subject in the middle, and her kitchen appliances and utensils along the wall make up a background.
Simple and effective. The photo tells you who she is and delivers a sense of depth in a small space. She’s in a space where she belongs.
The people are going to either be minuscule foreground elements in front of a great photo of a statue, or the statue won’t be recognizable in the shot.
They’re too close together to capture on an iPhone.
Sometimes showing depth means adding space. Large background objects need to be far away from your subjects, who are closer to your camera. Trying to compress both subject and large background together is a recipe for disaster.
Remember, your background is there to support your subject, not dominate it.
Exposure can be a matter of taste or style. Some images are supposed to be dark and others bright. Then there are times when you just screw up your exposure.
Don’t make a mistake and call it art.
Modern DSLRs have very good light meters inside these days. Trusting them to get a correct exposure generally works, and then it’s easy to tweak the exposure to your taste.
Poor exposure happens whether you use an automatic mode or manual exposure adjustment. It’s usually because you aren’t paying attention to the meter indicator built into your viewfinder.
Let’s say that you’re shooting in manual mode and you have your exposure just right for your location. Then there’s a change in the light, but you’re distracted by your subject or something else. Basically, you aren’t paying attention to your meter.
Maybe a cloud rolls over, or you move from outside to inside. Something changes the light and you keep on clicking.
OK, so you think the better way to go is with Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Set it and forget it.
Not always. Yes, you get more range using these modes, but you also open up other potential for exposure issues. Now you’re no longer using a consistent exposure from one shot to the next. Changing your metering by moving from a face to a dark shirt will change your exposure.
In other cases, you could move into different light that is beyond the range of the automatic exposure triangle. Maybe you need more or less ISO, or a change in shutter speed.
I’m not suggesting that there is a perfect mode. You just have to watch the meter reading to make sure you’re not allowing your exposure to go wonky.
As with focus, there are some things you can recover in post processing and some things you can’t. When your exposure is so bad that you lose detail in the highlights or shadows, you’re not going to magically get it back. You can do a lot these days with a RAW photo to reduce highlights and raise shadows, but there are limits.
Let me ask you a question.
Have you ever seen a photo of a person on vacation holding an object up to the camera because they thought it was interesting? If so, did you think it was an interesting photo?
Of course not. That’s because there is nothing interesting about a person standing there holding a vase or a fish. Maybe the item was interesting to them and they wanted a snapshot memory, but it’s a crappy photo because it means nothing to anyone else.
On the other hand, let’s say the object actually is interesting in it’s environment. Would you rather see the dead fish in someone’s hands, or a shot of it as they’re reeling in the fish and it breaks the waterline? How about a shot of the person reeling in the fish, the rod bent into a curve while your subject has an expression of excitement on her face?
Now it’s no longer a boring subject.
Still photos of dead fish aren’t interesting, but an action shot grabs you and brings you into the photo. Action, motion and expression add interest to your photos. Static objects mostly just seem boring. Especially if they aren’t even visually appealing static objects.
If you want to avoid boring photos, work on adding some emotion, action or sense of character into your subjects.
Do you have a friend who gets excited showing you a photograph that’s “straight out of the camera?”
If they’re JPEG, then your camera applied some post processing presets to tweak the colors and sharpen the images.
If they’re RAW, then it’s up to you to apply those post processing tweaks and sharpening. RAW isn’t a photograph. It’s a database that’s used to generate an image. You can manipulate it in a lot of ways, but the default result is flat, boring and needs sharpening.
All RAW images need sharpening. If you do nothing else, sharpen your RAW photos before you share them.
As for color tweaks, that depends upon your taste. You can use Lightroom or Photoshop.
If you’re sharing or printing RAW photos without post processing, then you’re not showing your photos at their best. This is one of those photography mistakes you can eliminate with a few seconds in Lightroom or other post processing programs.
Avoiding Photography Mistakes Isn’t Difficult
I’ll say it again, I’ve made every mistake on this list and plenty more. These mistakes happen when you aren’t paying attention to some basic details.
The easiest way to avoid these 10 photography mistakes is to slow down. Take your time. Craft your shot.
Every photographer eventually learns that in landscape photography, it’s about the landscape, not the equipment. So during your wanderings in nature, keep your eyes open, or take inspiration from other photographers. And for the places that you know are good, come back in good light conditions—during the sunset or sunrise.
You might find taking long-exposure landscape photos during vacations at the sea better than any other setting. You have fun all day, walk on the beach, and seek the right place for a great seaside photo. Once you find it, you just have then to go back and photograph it during the sunrise or sunset.
Let’s review the essential steps you need to take to create compelling long exposure images of landscapes.
It’s All About Location
The first step in creating a gorgeous long exposure image is choosing a landscape that is conducive to this kind of photography. Long exposures are ideal for conveying movement, so whatever landscape you choose, ensure that there is something in the scene that will indicate the passage of time – a river, a waterfall, waves crashing on the beach, or passing clouds come immediately to mind as ideal subjects.
Once you’ve identified a location, think about ways that you can incorporate static objects into the shot to give the moving element a greater feeling of motion. Boulders in a stream, for example, create a nice juxtaposition with the movement of the water as it rushes by. A building set in front of a sky full of blurred clouds works nicely as well.
Consider Your Timing
Because you’ll be working with long shutter speeds, lighting is a crucial consideration for long exposures. Shooting at dawn or dusk, before the sun rises and after it sets, allows you to extend your shutter speeds to highlight the movement discussed above, but do so without overexposing the image.
Alternatively, you can use a neutral density filter to make daytime long exposures a possibility. A neutral density filter blocks out light such that you can utilize a longer shutter speed. Neutral density filters come in a variety of strengths, from those that extend the shutter speed to a few seconds to those that make hours-long shutter speeds a possibility. As a general rule of thumb, a 10-stop neutral density filter is a good starting point for daytime long exposures.
When thinking about timing, you also need to consider the best time of day or year to capture the photo you have in mind. For example, a beach shot of the waves coming in would be best at high tide, so you’d need to know the tide schedule to capitalize on that. Springtime is when most thunderstorms occur in many areas, so to get a long exposure of a passing storm, you’d need to plan to be most active during that time of year.
Get Geared Up
Aside from a neutral density filter, you’ll need a few more pieces of gear that are essential to a successful long exposure image:
Quick tip: Remove your camera strap from the camera body before mounting it to the tripod. The camera strap can catch any breeze that’s present and cause the camera to shake during the exposure.
Dial in the Settings
This is the most complicated aspect of creating a long exposure because every situation will be different. That being said, because the shutter speed is prolonged, no matter what the situation, you’ll need to adjust the aperture and ISO setting to ensure you get a well-exposed image.
Generally speaking, this means using the lowest possible ISO setting (which is usually 100 or 200). Remember that ISO determines the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light, so using the lowest value means that the sensor is minimally sensitive. Additionally, by using the lowest ISO you can minimize digital noise in the shot, which looks like grain in a photo taken with film. The less noise there is, the higher the image quality will be.
Use the Smallest Aperture Without Sacrificing Sharpness
You’ll need to step down the aperture as well. However, don’t use the lens’ smallest aperture. As you approach a lens’ smallest aperture opening, diffraction, which causes blurriness around the edges of the frame, starts to occur. Instead, opt to shoot as near the lens’ sweet spot (it’s sharpest aperture value) as you can. This is usually in the f/8 to f/11 range, which is plenty to give you a nice depth of field while maintaining sharpness throughout the photo.
Manage Movement With Shutter Speed
The movement indicated in the long exposures you create depends on the shutter speed. For greater indicated movement, use a longer shutter speed. For less movement, like in the image above, dial in a shorter shutter speed.
Of course, the shutter speed you use will depend on the subject as well. Very fast-moving subjects, like passing cars on a highway, might be blurred with just a one-second exposure. Conversely, a slow-moving stream might require several seconds just to get a little bit of movement.
The point here is that the shutter speed you use will require a good bit of experimentation. Each subject will be different, and your creative vision will change as well. Just be prepared to try a wide range of shutter speeds before you begin to get an idea of what will work best for the shot.
Shoot in RAW
Where a JPEG is a lousy format, a RAW file maintains all the information collected by the camera’s sensor. By shooting in RAW, you’re doing yourself all kinds of favors when it comes to post-processing because you’ll have much more data to work with. What’s more, you can make non-destructive edits to RAW files, so no matter what you do in terms of processing, the original RAW file will be unchanged.
Better still, RAW files open up many more possibilities for processing. You can adjust white balance, levels, curves, saturation, brightness, and correct for lens distortion, among other things, right from the RAW editor.
Mind the Composition
Once you arrive at your selected location, take a few moments before setting up your gear to think about the composition of the shot. This involves a number of considerations:
Quick tip: When composing the shot, think about how you’d compose it if it were a traditional, static image. Meaning, watch your framing to ensure there aren’t any elements like tree limbs or street signs protruding into the shot. Look at the background to ensure it isn’t distracting. Examine how any shadows fall across the scene and if they enhance or detract from the shot as well.
But, also consider how movement will occur as the shutter is open. In that regard, you have to anticipate where the object will be when the exposure ends. For example, if clouds are your chosen subject, don’t just frame the shot based upon where the clouds are at the outset – think about how far the clouds might move over the course of the exposure and frame up the shot accordingly.
Process the Image
Though you should strive to get everything right in-camera, a little post-processing can go a long way to enhance the look and feel of your long exposure landscape images. Consider enhancing colors by boosting saturation or vibrancy. Adjust the levels and curves to create an image with a more robust dynamic range. If you find areas of the shot are too bright or too dark, try your hand at dodging and burning to create a more well-exposed image throughout. A little sharpening might be in order as well.
Ultimately, however, what you do in post-processing will be a personal preference that is as much your own creative spin on photography as it is to compose the shot in the field. Make the adjustments that you feel are necessary and create the image that you want to create. By following the steps outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to making long exposure landscape photos that match your creative vision, whatever it might be.
Not enough? Learn more tips from the renowned photographer and owner of Taming Light Photography in a photography adventure like no other! This June 2019, Colin Smith takes a group to Tuscany to teach everything he knows about landscape photography and post-processing. Don’t miss the opportunity. Register now on www.taminglightphotography.com.
Road trips have been hailed as one of the greatest pastimes ever, and something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. It is a great way to experience a lot in a short span of time, and as a photographer, there will be many opportunities and moments awaiting your perspective. More