Tag: Exposure

How to Fix Overexposed Photos in Lightroom

We’ve all been there: attempting to capture the heart of a photo shoot in a limited amount of time, coming home with a heart full of wild excitement, and being disappointed with the results. Maybe you shot on a sunny day, creating bright photographs that somehow managed to conceal your subject completely. Perhaps you shot during the golden hour, resulting in beautifully warm – yet unbearably bright – images.

Photographer friend, I have some good news for you: fixing these lighting errors is possible using a number of editing programs. The program we’ll be focusing on today is Lightroom. After installing the Lightroom presets, you will see that Lightroom presets is filled with a plethora of handy little tools like exposure, highlights, shadows, clarity, and more. These tools – which can be altered by using sliders – can fix both dramatic and minor issues. If you’re refusing to share one of your favorite shots due to overexposure, the tutorial below will help you fix your dilemma. In no time, you’ll be able to find potential in photographs that, at first glance, seem impossible to fix. This will give you more opportunities to add great photos to your portfolio and make your shots less stressful.

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Before you begin, it’s very important to remember the power of shooting in RAW mode. The value of RAW lies in the amount of image data it collects; JPEG stores less image data, resulting in photographs whose quality isn’t the best it can be. Thus, editing RAW files enables the photographer to alter things dramatically without instantly ruining the overall quality. When it comes to images that are too bright or too dark, this is especially valuable.

Preset-loving folks, please keep this in mind: In Photoshop, it’s possible to use an action after editing your image and not lose any of the minor details you fixed. In Lightroom, however, this is possible but not easy to achieve. When presets are applied, any changes you made before the application are completely altered to fit the preset’s inbuilt adjustments. To avoid losing precious work, apply your desired preset first and then work with the sliders. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Now that you’re aware of these points, let’s begin!

The Basic panel contains the most important sliders – if you were to use only those during the editing process, you’d get an abundance of great images. Imagine how wonderful your work can be if you master the basics, apply stunning presets, and understand how to use Lightroom’s other panels (such as Tone Curve and Split Toning). It would be great also if you could master how to remove blue cast photos in Lightroom.

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  • Exposure: dragging the slider to the left will darken your image significantly. Use this tool carefully as it will affect every part of your image. Of all the sliders, exposure is the most sensitive to changes. Keep this in mind as you experiment with it. Since the eye isn’t always sensitive to small changes, use the before & after tool as often as you can.
  • Contrast: this is as important as exposure, though playing around with it won’t result in overly exaggerated shots (especially if your photograph is very flat). Even a contrast of +100 could work! Drag the Contrast slider to the right until you’re satisfied with the results.
  • Highlights and Whites: the brightest parts of your photo can be fixed using these sliders. Blown out highlights in photos can be softened by dragging the highlights slider to the left. To help your shot reclaim its beautiful contrast, increase the whites by dragging the slider to the right. This will help maintain a balance and prevent any clipping from happening. (Clipping is the loss of image data – this is common when working with photos that require much editing.)
  • Shadows and blacks: to recover the strength of shadows in an overexposed image, drag the shadows slider to the right and the blacks slider to the left. Similarly to the previous point, this balance will get rid of unnecessary clipping and let your image naturally stand out.
  • Clarity: if you feel that your image has the potential to look even better, increase its clarity. Too much clarity will result in very unnatural looking photos, so be careful as you drag the slider to the right.

Once you’re done with the basics, feel free to experiment with other panels. Now you’re ready to make the most of any shoot, no matter how bright it may be outdoors. Be proud of yourself for learning something new!

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Happy shooting, and don’t forget to never stop learning.

Tips and Tricks for Using a Light Meter

Light meters might seem like an intimidating piece of equipment, but they can be one of the most important tools a photographer has at their disposal. The information provided by a light meter can help you set your exposure properly to achieve the mood you’re looking to capture in your image. By using the reading from a light meter, you can set your camera to shoot the image correctly exposed, or under or overexposed to suit your artistic style.

Cameras have a limit to the level of brightness they can capture, called dynamic range. A good light meter gives you an idea of where these areas of brightness fall. It shows you which areas will be either too light or too dark to contain any details.

measure exposure

That way, you can adjust your camera’s exposure to capture the most important parts of the image. You can also see if you need to expand the dynamic range of the scene by switching to a high dynamic range technique.

However, your camera can often produce inaccurate light readings. This happens especially often if you’re shooting a scene with a lot of black or a lot of white, to influence the perceived brightness. This confuses the computerized meter, and if you trust your camera to adjust the exposure for you, you’ll end up with a disappointing result.

Types of Light Metering

Built-in light meters aren’t capable of measuring incident, or ambient, light. This is the light that falls directly onto your subject and is measured through the meter’s lumisphere, which looks like a white dome. With an incident light meter, you can correct exposure errors that can occur when your subject is backlit.

exposing backlit photo

Reflective light metering picks up the brightness of the light bouncing off your subject and can be set to measure the light using several different patterns. Evaluative metering uses a precise algorithm to measure the exposure in several zones within the frame. Center-weighted metering will prioritize the middle of the frame when judging exposure. Finally, spot metering reads the light in just a small part of the frame.

By measuring the intensity of both ambient light and reflective light, a hand-held light meter can give you a much more accurate reading. Once you’ve input your ISO, and your shutter speed in certain instances, the meter tells you what f-stop setting to use on your camera to achieve the perfect exposure.

Shooting Landscapes

You probably only need an incident meter reading to accurately set your exposure for capturing landscapes. Hold out your meter and check to see that the light hitting your lumisphere is the same light falling on the scene you hope to shoot. Make sure you don’t have the lumisphere in direct sunlight – you want to measure the incident light in the shadowy parts of the scene, to retain as much detail as possible in your image. Once you’ve pressed the meter button to see the f-stop reading, set your camera’s shutter and aperture and get shooting.

landscape exposure tips

A reflective meter reading will be more accurate if you use your meter’s memory button to capture readings from a number of areas with differing brightness. Use the average button to get an appropriate exposure value, and use that average reading to set your camera.

Shooting Portraits

Using an incident light meter when shooting portraits helps you to retain the details and tones of your subject’s skin and face, creating a more accurate and interesting portrait. Use the lumisphere to get a reading of the light falling on your subject’s face and adjust your camera’s settings accordingly. Portraits are generally more flattering when they are shot slightly overexposed. Once you’ve got your reading, bump your camera up one more stop for a bright, attractive head shot.

light metering portrait tips

Again, take several readings from important parts of your subject – highlights on their cheeks, shadows in their hair and clothes. Press the average button to see the final exposure value to input on your camera.

Shooting Still Life

A light meter is a very valuable tool for shooting professional quality still life product photos. Capture a reading of the light hitting your subject by using your meter’s lumisphere, no matter how bright or dark your subject is. The reading from your meter will give you a good base exposure to set your camera, but feel free to bump it up or drop it down a few steps to achieve the effect you’re looking for.

still life exposure settings

By now, you should have an idea of which areas are most important to get a good reading with a reflective spot meter. The average of these readings will give you a solid exposure value, but again, adjust it however you like to capture the mood you hope to achieve.

Using a light meter will take a bit of practice, but the more you use it, the more you’ll understand how helpful this tool can be for any kind of photography. Save yourself tons of post-processing work and retain the important details in every shot by investing in a professional light meter to shoot properly exposed images every single time.

A Photographic Journey around San Felipe, Mexico

I have had the opportunity the past four months to live and photograph around San Felipe, Mexico. San Felipe is located in the Baja California and located about 2-3 hours south of the border along the side of The Sea of Cortes. San Felipe is filled with color, culture, great food, and beautiful desert land. Pack all of the correct gear for your travels and take an adventure to gather some great photographs. San Felipe SignOn your way to downtown San Felipe, you will first spot The Arches, a very popular monument of San Felipe. They call the arches “The Gateway To The Sea” The arches offers many angles. However, the only problem photographing the arches are all of the distractions around such as signs and wires, which you can Photoshop out later. Around and past the arches you will also find a hillside where you can explore to gather some more cultural photographs of the areas. This area is where you will find all of the best authentic food with local taquerias and is always a great photo op in itself by practicing your food photography. Down at the end of San Felipe is The Malecon, which sits next to The Sea of Cortes. The Malecon is lined with restaurants, shopping, and with a great view of the sea. This is where all of the events happen in towns such as food festivals, music festivals, and parades. This is a great place to take some iPhone street photography. San Felipe ArchesSan Felipe Culture

San Felipe Food Truck

San Felipe TacosSan Felipe TortaSan Felipe DowntownSan Felipe MaleconSan Felipe MaleconSan Felipe Shrimp FestivalSan Felipe is also a great place to gather some night photography. One of the best spots for night photography is down at The Shipyard, which you will find at the end of The Malecon. The Shipyard used to be a marina but was flooded, and they could not move the ships, so they are left there are part of a San Felipe gem. Up on a hill, you will find a building, The Boom Boom Room, a place that has also been abandoned and a very interesting location to photograph during the day or evening. Up on a mountain, you will find a little yellow chapel that looks over the town of San Felipe and right next to it is the lighthouse, which you can shoot from ground level or up at the top where the prayer building is. This is a great place to work with your angles. If you are in town during the full moon make sure to catch the moon rise over The Sea of Cortes: I was there for supermoon, and it was an incredible experience and a really good opportunity to try my moon photography skills and also work with some post editing. San Felipe Tampico ShipSan Felipe BoomBoom RoomSan Felipe MexicoSan Felipe ChapelSupermoon in MexicoThere are many smaller day trips you can take from San Felipe for some great opportunities including more water and desert land. On a note of transportation, you will need some form of 4-wheel drive out in the desert. It is a famous landmark in the area is The Valley of The Giants and a photo opportunity you will not want to miss. The valley holds cardon cacti that stand nearly 50 feet high. You can also drive further south to Percebu where you will find a little more surf in the water and also a great location to find treasures along the beach. Along the way, you will find more abounded buildings and interesting homes and land to photograph. The desert land has a lot of beauty to offer, and San Felipe is surrounded by beautiful desert land. You can take a drive out west closer to the mountains for some more variety in your desert landscape. The desert also offers some interesting finds such as bones, rocks, and maybe even a carcass or two. If you are going out in the middle of the day, you will have problems with harsh lighting in your landscapes, but you can always enhance your lighting in post production with landscape Photoshop actions or Lightroom Presets and Brushes. Valley of the GiantsValley of the GiantsPercebuSan Feipe DesertSan Felipe Mexico DesertSan Felipe Mexico DesertI hope you have the opportunity to visit San Felipe in your future travels or even Baja California to discover color, culture, and beautiful desert land by the sea or ocean side. As they say in the Baja “No Bad Days!”

Histograms: get to understand them and improve your photography

Today I want to talk about one of the most helpful features of the camera- the histogram. Don’t think I always liked histograms. When I started, I found them complicated to understand and in fact, I totally ignored them for a while.  However, once I saw the point of the histogram, I started checking them on the screen of my camera every time I was taking a shot. Trust me; the time invested in understanding histograms is totally worth it. They will become one of the best tools you will have, both in the field and in post-processing.

Histogram

What is a histogram?

The histogram is a graph that shows the range of tones in your photo, in other words, it tells you which shades you have in the photo you just took.

Check the histogram in the field

You can set your camera to show you the histogram in its screen each time you take a photo. This is quite handy, especially at the beginning when you are still not used to checking it and you might forget to ask for it. In my Nikon camera, in order to see the histograms in the playback, I needed to check the Histogram in the menu of the Display mode. If you have another type of camera, have a look at the Manual and check how you can set it. It will probably be something similar to what I explained for the Nikon.

Most cameras also have the option to show you the RGB histogram. In fact, this is a group of three histograms, each one showing you the histogram of colors Red, Green and Blue. Today I am going to focus in the general Histogram, but I just want you to know that you have the option to use it by the 3 colors as well, should you choose to do so.

Histogram

Check the histogram in Lightroom

Once you import a photo to Lightroom, you can automatically check the histogram from the Library and Develop modules.

Histogram

Getting familiar with the histogram

Histograms can look a bit scary at first, but once you know what to look for, they are quite friendly. The histogram is a graph with a horizontal axis which represents the shades you have in your photo. On the left edge you have the pure blacks and as you go to the right on the axis you have lighter and lighter tones until you reach to the pure white in the right edge. I have a little trick to remember where are the blacks and whites in the histogram. I always think the histogram is like “B&W photography”, black is first (in the left) and whites after them (in the right). For this trick to work you have to think from a left-to-right writing mode.

OK, so now we know what the horizontal axis means. What about the height of the histogram? It tells you how much of each shade you have in the photo. The basic principle of reading the histogram is the same; the more peaks you have in one area on the horizontal axis and the higher they are means that these are the tones and shades that are the most dominant in the photo.

Histogram

Let’s see this in a real photo:

Histogram

 

The histogram is a great tool for getting well-exposed images. A general rule of thumb is to have the histogram stretched all over the horizontal axis and avoiding having strong peaks (spikes) at the extreme left and/or right of the axis.

Histogram
This photo is quite balanced, you can see that the histogram stretches almost all over the horizontal axis, the most dominant colors here are bright and for that reason, we see higher peaks on the right side of the histogram (but not at the edge)

A photo with too many picks in the blacks means that it is too dark or underexposed. To correct the exposure, you will need to increase the light of your image by, for example, using a wider aperture or increasing the ISO.

Histogram
This photo was under-exposed, that is why it is so dark and the histogram stretches only over the left-hand side of the axis, and we see that the peaks (which are high enough to be called spikes) are concentrated at the left-hand edge

On the other hand, if the photo has a lot of high picks in the white, it means that it is overexposed or even burnt. This time, to correct the exposure, you will need to decrease the light of your image by, for example, using a smaller aperture or a lower ISO.

Histogram
This photo has been over exposed and parts of it are even burnt, the histogram shows just that; we see the graph is very low the most part of the axis and only towards the right-hand edge of the axis the histogram rises sharply

 

Now you know! If you see that your histogram is too much in the blacks or in the whites, this means that you MIGHT need to correct the exposure of the image. Notice that I said MIGHT. Why? Because as photography is a creative craft, it might happen that having a underexposed or overexposed photo is exactly what you are aiming for. You need to think what do you need in your final image and then see if the histogram you have matches what you are looking for. I will show you with a little game!

Let’s play the histogram game!

I am going to show you a histogram and you need to decide which kind of photo might correspond to it. Spoiler alert! Don’t scroll down too far or you will see the answer! Let’s see the first one:

Histogram 1

 

 

histogram-correfocs

Options:

  1. A boiled egg on a white table
  2. A night photography of a street event
  3. A chess board
  4. A multi-color chicken

Solution: Number 2! In night photography you will get histograms with a lot of pick in the blacks area. But this is normal because night is dark and black is what we expect to find in the frame.

Histogram

Histogram 2

 

histogram-egg-white

Options:

  1. A boiled egg on a white plate
  2. A beach at night
  3. A chess board
  4. A gray cat on a brown sofa

Solution: Number 1! We got a histogram with a lot of whites because the image is mostly white!

Histogram

Histogram 3

histogram-egg-black

Options:

  1. A polar bear in the snow
  2. A groom in black sitting in a black car
  3. A multicolor bouquet of flowers
  4. Eggs in a white plate on a black table

Solution: Number 4! Here the histogram shows picks in both blacks and whites and almost no middle tones because the photo has high contrast: white and black are the main colors.

egg-in-black-1

Histogram 4

Histogram

  1. A cat in the middle of the night
  2. A bride in the snow
  3. A colorful house with a sunburst
  4. A colorful patchwork blanket

Solution: Number 3! The beautiful Gaudi House and the most part of the photo is well exposed, so the histogram has a lot of middle tones. However, the sun-star makes the whites in the histogram quite high. Exactly what I wanted!

Histogram

What do you think about histograms now? Still scary? I hope not! It takes a bit of practice to get used to them, but believe me, it is totally worth it! Grab your camera and tell me how it goes! Have a happy shooting!

Exposure for Beginners: Playing with the Shutter Speed

In my last post I talked about exposure and I gave you some ideas of how to play with the aperture of your camera. In this post I will talk about another one of the 3 elements that control exposure: shutter speed.

What is Shutter speed?

Your camera has a shutter, which is a curtain in front of the sensor. When this curtain is closed the light can’t reach to the sensor. This curtain opens and let light into your camera only when you press your camera’s shutter bottom. It is open just for a certain time (usually for fractions of seconds or one/few seconds). The amount of time that it is open is the time that the camera’s sensor is exposed to light, it is known as “shutter speed”.

Shutter speed is measured in either seconds or fractions of seconds. Keep in mind that in the second case, the bigger is the denominator of the fraction, the shorter is the time that the camera shutter is open. For example, 1/4000sec is a much shorter time than 1/250sec.

What is shutter speed scheme

 

Shutter speed can be used creatively because short shutter speeds (also known as fast speeds) freeze action while long speeds (also called slow) can create motion blur. In the latter case, moving objects appear blurry along the direction of their movement. It is useful to know which shutter speeds are good for freezing or blurring some common actions. These numbers will give you a good starting point for your own experimentation.

Shutter speed table
The numbers in this table are an approximation.

When you are shooting at slow shutter speeds you can get blurriness even if you don’t want it. This happens especially when you are taking pictures holding the camera in your hands. When the shutter speeds are slow the slightest movement of your hands makes the picture blurry (I mean the unwanted “OMG this mountain looks blurry”, not the creative blurriness we were talking in the previous paragraph). For that reason it is recommended to use a tripod when the shutter speed is slow. Where is the threshold between using tripod and not? It is said that you need to use a tripod when your shutter speed is less than 1/focal length. The result of the equation is expressed in seconds. Focal length is the measure of how much you are zooming. It is easier to understand with an example: if you are using a focal length of 35mm, then you need a tripod when the shutter speed is 1/35sec. For myself, I know that I need a tripod when I shoot slower than 1/80sec, doesn’t matter the focal length I am using.  I guess there is a personal factor here. If you don’t have a tripod, look for alternatives that can help you to stabilize your camera. For example, you can lean onto solid and stable things (trees, walls, light posts, tables…).

Exercise 1: Understand how shutter speed affects the amount of light

For this exercise you need to set your camera on Manual Mode. Then, fix the ISO to a certain value. ISO 100 or 200 is a good way to start. After that, fix the aperture. You can try a value of f/5.6. Find a subject for your photos and set the camera on a tripod (or any alternative means of stabilization). Take a photo using a slow shutter speed (for example 1/10sec). Take photos changing the shutter speed progressively. Once you are done, check what happened with the exposure of your photos. The only thing that changed between your photos was the shutter speed because you fixed the ISO and aperture. So whatever changes you see in the exposure are due to the changes in the shutter speed. You can repeat this exercise with new values of ISO and/or aperture and see what happens!

The numbers in this table are an approximation.

Exercise 2: Understand how Shutter speed mode works

For this exercise you need to set your camera in Shutter speed Mode. Set the ISO on a fixed value, for example ISO 100 or 200.  Find a moving subject for your photos (I used the same Maneki-neko from the last post. This cat turned out to be really useful for practicing exposure) and set the camera on your tripod. Take photos while changing the shutter speed progressively. As you are using shutter speed mode the camera is constantly changing the aperture in order to get what it considers a good exposure, so all your photos will look the same from the point of view of amount of light. Go over your photos and see which aperture value the camera used for each shutter speed value. The faster the shutter speed, the lower is the light going into the lens (because the lens is open just for a short time) and to compensate for that, the aperture needs to be bigger (remember that bigger aperture is expressed with lower f numbers). Have a look at your photos. Did you managed to freeze the movement? At which shutter speed? Do you have any photos with motion blur?

Exercise 2 shutter speed
When you use Shutter speed mode, you play changing with the shutter speed and the camera will adjust the aperture in order to obtain a well exposed photo.

Depending on the lens you are using, It is possible that the camera won’t be able to compensate for the shutter speed by the aperture. For example, the lens that I used today is an AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm 1:3.5-5.6G; its aperture can open to a maximum of f/3.5. Other lenses can open more and reach f/1.8. Check always which is the maximum aperture of your lens and take into account that if you zoom in, this value will change a little (for example, when I zoom to 140mm with my lens, I can open it not to f/3.5 but only to f/4.8). If you reach the aperture limit of your lens, what you can do to get a well exposed photo is use a slower shutter speed. If you still want to keep the fast shutter speed, as you can’t change the aperture (you reached its limit), you will need to play with the ISO settings. You can have a look to our college  Damon Pena’s post to see another example of ISO adjusting.

Exercise 3: Freezing and blurring moving objects

This is one of my favorite exercises! Go to the street and take photos of moving things. Cars are perfect subjects. Set your camera in the same way as in exercise 2 (Shutter Mode and ISO 100 or 200).  Use your tripod/alternative option to stabilize the camera. Pick a fast shutter speed and take a photo of a moving car. Did you manage to freeze it? Change to a slow shutter speed. Is the car blurry now? You can try also to freeze/blur bikes, runners, walking people, pets…

Shutter speed and movement
I took these two photos in a busy junction in Tel Aviv (Israel). In the left my camera was set on: ISO 100, f/9and shutter speed 1/160sec. The cars were not going too fast, so I managed to freeze them. In the right my settings were ISO 100, f/22 and shutter speed 1/6sec. At this shutter speed I got the blur motion I was looking for.

Problems you might have: when you open the shutter for long time you are doing what is called long exposure photography. This is a lot of fun and can add a new dimension to your photography. However, it can make things a bit complicated. If you don’t feel like getting into it, just keep practicing with shutter speeds that are not so slow. Take your time and have fun practicing. If you feel like you are ready to go into long exposure photography, a ND filter might be useful for you. You can learn more about this filters and how to use them in the great article “Daylight long exposure – Using ND filters” written by Leonardo Regoli.

Extra exercise

If you like night photography, you might also like playing with light trails. Light trails are the lines recorded from the movement of a point of light (like for example cars) during the exposure. Set your camera on a tripod (important). With the camera on Manual mode, set a low ISO, an aperture higher than f/8 and try different long shutter speeds until you get the light trails you like. Maybe you will need to reset ISO and aperture values to get a good result.

Night long exposure
Light trails are always fun. I set my tripod and camera on a bridge in Haifa (Israel). I tried several settings and I ended up using ISO 500 (although you can use lower ISOs too), f/22 and a shutter speed of 6 seconds. This shutter speed worked well in my case because it allowed me to capture long light trails. Shorter shutter speeds also allowed me to capture light trails, but they were short (They didn’t stretch all over the road).

I hope these exercises will help you to get familiar with shutter speed. Soon you will be able to get more creative by freezing and blurring your subjects. I will be happy to know about your experiences with shutter speed. Feel free to share with me any suggestion about other exercises! Have a happy shooting!!

Exposure for Beginners: Playing with the Aperture

If you are a photography beginner, you might feel a bit confused with all the things you need to learn. But don’t worry, I am going to make things a bit easier for you. One of the first things you should understand is exposure. Exposure is the amount of light the sensor of your camera captures when you take a photo. When you master the exposure of your images, your skills as a photographer will improve! How can you know the exposure value of your picture when you are shooting? Your camera will tell you by its camera meter.

Master exposure
This is what the camera meter looks like in my Nikon. I see it either in the viewfinder or in the live view. It can look slightly different in other cameras, but the idea behind the exposure indicator is always the same. So if you understand the principle, you will be able to work with any camera that falls into your hands.

 

In my Nikon, I activate the camera meter by half-pressing the shutter release (Maybe it will be slightly different if you are using other camera models or brands. It will be explained in your camera manual). Once it is activated,  the camera will tell you the exposure value (EV) of the scene. But why should you care about the exposure of your pictures? Because you don’t want your photos to be too dark or washed out (too bright).

Master exposure
In the overexposed picture the petals look almost white but the leaves look very vibrant, on the other hand, in the underexposed picture you barely see anything except for the petals, but you can see a lot more details on them (like the dew drops). The neutral exposure is the spot of full compromise between the two. If you are a beginner, I recommend you to focus on trying to understand how to get neutral exposures. Once you master the concept though, try to be more creative: does an overexposed picture work better for what you want to express in a particular photo? Do you prefer to use underexposed pictures in other cases? Go for it! But do it because non-neutral exposures fit your creative purposes and not because you didn’t know how to get the correct exposure.

 

How can you control the exposure? By using different combinations of the 3 elements that control exposure:

Aperture: it controls how much light goes into the sensor of your camera. It also affect the depth of field.

Shutter speed: it controls how long the sensor is receiving light.

ISO: it controls the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor towards light.

You can go really deep into technical details about exposure and how each element works. I recommend you to take it easy at the beginning. I won’t go into complicated numbers or photography terminology here, but if you want to get more information, there are other awesome blog posts explaining these 3 elements. What I want to do here is to give you some exercises that will allow you to start practicing with exposure on you own. Photography is a craft, once you feel confident with the essentials you will be ready to go into more detail.

Keep in mind that the 3 elements of exposure are connected between them, so although you can focus on just one of them, the other 2 will have their role too. Today we will focus in the aperture. My next post will be about shutter speed. For ISO, you can take a look at this great post by Kim  Suarez: The Guide to ISO in Manual Mode.

What Aperture is?

As Damon Pena well explains in his article Aperture vs ISO vs Shutter Speed – A Beginner’s Introduction to Manual Mode, aperture is the size of the opening in which the light will pass through your lens.  Aperture sizes will depend on your lens and they are written as a ratio to between the diameter of the aperture in the lens and the focal length of the lens (f-numbers or f-stops).  This seems complicated, doesn’t it? If you want to keep it simple for now, just remember one thing: the lower the aperture number, the larger the opening will be. Or in other words:  small numbers mean lots of light and the other way around.

Master exposure: aperture

 

And now that you have the aperture concept in mind, it is your turn to practice! I propose to you 3 easy exercises that will help you to start playing with the aperture of your camera. You will just need your camera and a tripod, if it is possible. If you don’t have a tripod, try to set your camera on a surface in a way that it won’t move along the exercises. If you are not familiar yet with how to change the settings of your camera, keep your manual at hand.

Exercise 1: Understand how aperture affects the amount of light

For this exercise you need to set your camera on Manual Mode. Then, you set the ISO to a fixed number. ISO 100 or 200 are good to start with. After that, you fix the shutter speed. You can try a value of 1/125sec.  Find a subject for your photos (I used my Maneki-neko) and set the camera on your tripod (or any alternative way that will keep the camera stable and immobile). Take a photo using the highest aperture number (f-number) you can. In my case, using a AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8, it was f/22. Take photos and change the aperture progressively. Once you are done, check what happens with the exposure of your photos. The only thing that change between your photos was the aperture because you fixed the ISO and shutter speed. So whatever changes you see in the exposure are due to the changes you did in the aperture. You can repeat this exercise with new values of ISO and/or shutter speed and see what happens!

Master exposure

Exercise 2: Understand how Aperture mode works

For this exercise you need to set your camera on Aperture Mode. Set the ISO to a fixed number, for example ISO 100 or 200.  Find a new subject for your photos (to add a bit of variety) and set the camera on your tripod/alternative option. Take photos changing progressively the aperture. You will see that all your photos look the same in terms of exposure. Why? Because when you are using Aperture mode the camera is constantly changing the shutter speed in order to get what it considers a good exposure. Go over your photos and see which shutter speed the camera used for each aperture value. The lower the light going into the lens (because the lens is not open so much), the longer the camera let light go in (slower shutter speed, but we’ll wait with that for the next post).

Master exposure

An interesting variation of this exercise is doing the same but holding the camera in your hands. I did it and I realized that when the camera is adjusting to slow shutter speeds my photos were blurry. Why? Because I am not able to hold the camera still for longer than 1/80 sec. My hands shake and the result is a blurry photo like the one below. The shutter speed threshold that you are able to handle when you are hand-holding the camera is important to know. Imagine you are going around in a sunny day taking photos in Aperture mode. Everything will work ok. However, if for some reason the day gets dark (clouds, shadows, sunset) your camera will start compensating this decrease in light with longer shutter speeds. If these new shutter speeds are longer that the time you are able to hold the camera without shaking…you will have blurry photos.

Master exposure
A shutter speed of 1/15sec is too long for me when I hold the camera in my hands. Result: a blurry photo.

Exercise 3: Depth of field 

For this exercise you can set your camera in the same way as in exercise 2 (Aperture Mode and ISO 100 or 200).  This time you will need several objects. 3 or even more will be great. Set your camera on your tripod/alternative option. Focus on one of the objects and take photos changing progressively the aperture. Start checking the photos with small aperture. Which objects are in focus? Are all of them in focus or just one? Does this change when you use other aperture values? This exercise will help you to understand the depth of field and know which aperture values will allow you to keep the whole frame in focus and which will not.

Master exposure

Now you are ready to go out and have fun with your new knowledge!! It will be easier for you to take well exposed photos and you can change the depth of field in order to get the effect you want. Have a look at the 2 nature photos I took using different depths of field.

Master Exposure
In this photo I wanted to highlight the young leaf. For that reason, I used an aperture f/3.5 that allowed me to have my subject (the little leaf) sharp and all the others blurry.

Master Exposure

In this photo I wanted to show how rich this landscape was: fields, mountains, clouds. I wanted to show everything, so I needed everything to be sharp. For that purpose, I set the apertures higher than f/8.

 

I hope these exercises will be helpful for you. If you try them, I will be happy to know how it went. Do you have any suggestions for other exercises to practice with aperture? I would love you to share them with me! Have a happy shooting!!

Night Photography: Tips & Tricks

Photography is about light and shadow

, but which camera settings and equipment should be used for night photography when there are low light conditions? To show you how night photography works let me teach you some tips and tricks to get the most out of your shot.

Tripod

A tripod is an absolute must

if you want to shoot in the night because you will mainly shoot with a slow shutter speed and a tripod will avoid camera shake, even the slightest bit of camera movement will result in a blurred picture. So, you will receive much sharper images while using a tripod. Just choose a basic tripod, it should be solid and stable, but it shouldn’t weight too much and it should hold up your camera equipment weight.

A tripod with a spirit level would be a nice extra, but it’s not necessary because every modern camera has a built-in digital spirit level. For example the “Hama Traveller Pro” is a great basic tripod to start with, it has a spirit level and a ball head in order to be flexible. If you, for any kind of reason have no tripod with you, just place your camera on a steady surface in order to take a sharp image, but this is not recommended, so be sure to bring along your tripod when photographing a night scene.

London eye2

Remote Control

Using a camera remote control will make night photography much easier, it will minimize camera motion, despite they are actually not very expensive. While shooting a beautiful night scene, the best option would be to choose a wireless camera remote control to get the best out of your image.

Wide angle lens

I would recommend choosing a lens with a 2.8 aperture, so you can shoot at low ISO’s. Choosing a zoom lens for night photography can help getting better results because you will become more flexible, you can easily zoom in and out depending on the focal length you need. A great wide angle zoom lens for beginners would be the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, it has a wide aperture (2.8), has an image stabilizer, a good sharpness, the 15mm focal length is very wide and overall range available in this lens is quite useful.

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albert bridge

Use live view

If your camera supports the live view function, you should turn it on. It will help you to get more control over focus because you can easily zoom in to test your image sharpness and to see where your focus point is. So in the live view mode, you can adjust your focus point precisely while using the manual focus ring of the lens.

 

The starburst effect

You can achieve the starburst effect by using a narrow aperture, set the aperture at f16 and all the city lights in your image will become nice shiny stars. But mind that you will lose a lot of light while using a narrow aperture, so you have to use a slow shutter speed in order to get enough light.

botta building Vienna

Long exposures at night

Long exposures at night will bring stunning results

, for example, if you photograph a street which has a lot of traffic at night, a Ferris wheel or simply stars which can produce beautiful light trails in a combination of a slow shutter speed and the rotation of the earth. Don’t forget to bring along your tripod, as it is impossible to get a sharp image when you take an image at a slow shutter speed.

arches Lausanne

London eye

White Balance

If you shoot RAW, which I recommend for night photography, white balance actually is not as much of an issue since you can adjust the white balance in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw. Simply use the auto white balance setting if you are unsure about which white balance mode you should choose.

Image Composition

I would recommend studying the scene you want to photograph before it starts getting dark, so you have enough time to decide on an image composition, because as we know image composition is one of the most important elements of photography.

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We hope you enjoyed this guide! Now it’s time to pack your gear and set off to take some amazing night photographs to dazzle your clients. See you next time!

All images by Phil Davson.

Shooting in RAW – An Introduction to Professional Work

The best explanation I’ve ever gotten as to why I should always shoot RAW was this:

Imagine you’re baking cookies. RAW files are the equivalent of a big sheet of cookie dough. Photoshop is the oven and the final JPEG are your small, individual, finished cookie. A good cookie depends on the cookie dough so without it, how could you bake? You now understand that RAW files are the basic structure of your soon to be completed image.

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However, there are some real technical advantages to shooting in RAW.

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Shooting RAW gives you very large files, which allow more room and compression when editing.

Shooting RAW also allows you to record all of the data from the sensor. This allows you cut out the part where your camera physically processes the image when it is in JPEG mode. This gives you better editing capabilities and versatility that your camera would not be able to achieve on its own.

RAW also means brighter images. Cameras measure brightness through “bits”. Where JPEG records roughly 256 levels of brightness or 8 bits, RAW mode has the ability to shoot in 12 or 14 bits which are anywhere between 4000 and 18000 levels of brightness.

That difference is substantial in any future adjustments you make with exposure, shadows, contrast or brightness.

Sometimes you’re going to be in low light settings or somewhere that is really bright or may simply have goofed up your settings causing the picture to be underexposed or inversely, overexposed. All the information that shooting in RAW will give you, allows dramatic recoveries in under or overexposed images without hits to the quality of the image.

For example, take this original file:

IMG_8631

One of the first things you notice is how dark the photo is. Parts of the face are a bit too shiny while others have deep shadows, also some of the colors would look better if they were a little more vibrant.

Shooting in RAW allows me to manipulate everything in this photo – brightness, highlights, colors, exposure, shadows, contrast, etc. The end result looked like this.

profile pic 1

While the finished product is certainly a testament to the wonders of Photoshop, the contrast between the beginning and end product are the result of the original file being RAW.

As you can see, I showed you here the before and after which highlights another wonderful feature of shooting RAW.

My original file has not been altered. It remains the same and untouched. However, every edit I make creates instructions on how the new JPEG file will be saved. Worry no more about losing images, accidentally ruining them or saving them without being able to make changes. This way you can do different things with the same file without duplicating the image and slowly losing quality over time, as you would with JPEG files.

This brief overview should help you understand and hopefully convince you to try shooting in RAW. For more information, check out this video on all the technicalities of RAW mode.

Hope this helps and happy shooting, y’all!

 

How to Make Your Picture Standout using Lightroom

Vignetting

a picture is often used to enhance the subject of a composition, and Lightroom has an automatic feature to create vignetting in the effects panel. However, this software’s native effect only darkens the edges of the picture, making it look very artificial for my taste. So in this tutorial, you’ll learn an alternative way to make the same effect using specific adjustments in Lightroom, improving your picture and making it stand out just like the before and after below. Let´s go!

How to make your pictures standout using Lightroom

Step 1) Open Lightroom and Import and/or Open the selected image you want to tweak. Then, go to develop mode and select the graduated filter tool on the right tools panel, that way you’ll create a new mask in your image:

Create a graduated filter maskStep 2)

When you select this tool, you’ll notice the cursor will become a cross, click at the top edge of your image and drag to the middle of the image, maintaining a straight line. This way, you’ll create a mask on your image, and can tweak with the adjustments from the right panel, just as a usual image, but it will only apply to the area highlighted by the mask. You can tweak with the values according to your style of editing, but these are the values I’ve used for this example:

Create the first mask

Lowering the temperature of the image and increasing the saturation, I could enhance the colors of the sky, and by tweaking the clarity values, I was able to increase the edge’s contrast, enhancing the details of the sky.

Step 3)

Now you’re gonna do the same thing as the previous step, but this time clicking and dragging from the bottom edge to the middle of the image. You can make the adjustments in the right panel, but for this example, I’ve used the same values from the first mask.

Create the second mask

Step 4) In this next step you’re gonna make the edges of the picture darker than the middle, just like the default vignette effect, but better! Create a radial filter by clicking the tool on the right panel, you’ll notice the cursor will become a cross also (just like the graduated filter). To create this new mask, click at the center of the image and drag all the way to one of the edges, but this time it has a rounded shape. The values I’ve used are in the images below but, again, it will depend on the image you use and the style of editing you have.

Create a radial filter mask

In my case, I like to bring colors to the picture by increasing the saturation and tweak a little bit in the clarity dial to enhance the details of the shadows. To darken the edges of the image, like the default vignette, I´ve lowered the exposure dial a bit.

Step 5)

To finalize the effect, you’ll create another radial filter just like the previous one. Click on the center of the image and drag to the edges, but this time you’re going to invert the mask by checking the box “invert mask” at the bottom of the right panel:

Create a inverted mask

To emphasize the tone at the center of the image, I´ve increased the temperature just a little bit and added a warmer color to the mask, by clicking on the color box at the bottom of the panel and selecting a color similar to the ones at the center of the image. I´ve also adjusted the exposure and sharpness to enhance the details at the center of the image.

By now you should have ended with a totally different picture from the one you had at the beginning of this tutorial. Click “Done” and you can export the picture the way you do usually.

Final Result

In this tutorial, we learned how we could make our pictures stand out using two great tools from Lightroom, the graduated and radial filters. The final result was an image with enhanced colors and a smooth vignette effect with no dark edges. If you have any suggestions or doubts you can write a comment below or contact me directly. See you next time!

A Guide to Using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

Correcting exposure, color balance, and contrast are likely how you begin editing the majority of images in Lightroom presets. Often, it might be all that is required to finish editing the image; however, to take your images a step further Lightroom has given its users a tool called the Adjustment Brush. It allows for photographers and retouchers to localize their editing by carefully selecting specific parts of the image to enhance, hide or correct. The Adjustment Brush is a fairly easy tool to master, but it comes with a few settings that need to be understood, to use this tool well. This is the complete guide to using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom.

The Adjustment Brush tool is found in the Develop module of the Lightroom panel which can be found if you have an installed Lightroom presets.  You can quickly access the Develop module by using the keyboard shortcut ‘D’. The Adjustment Brush tool is marked as a dotted circle with a brush coming out of it – make a habit of using keyboard shortcut ‘K’ to access the tool, to save time when retouching.

Adjustment Bursh

Once the tool is selected, you will see that the mouse pointer turns into a circle. It marks the area affected by the Adjustment Brush. Further, you will notice that it opens a number of options that change what affect the Adjustment Brush will have on the image.

The first two sliders control the temperature and color tint of the image. These, in short, control the white balance settings of the Adjustment Brush. For example, you could use this tool stylistically to add a complimentary color in the shadows of an image for a more saturated photo.

Adjustment Bursh2

Moving forward, the next six sliders control the exposure and tone settings of the Adjustment Brush. Exposure will change the overall tone shift of the area affected by the Adjustment Brush. The contrast will control the ratio between the black and the white values of the image, which can be the further adjusted by the last two ‘Whites’ and ‘Blacks’ sliders. The Highlights slider will control the extent to which the Adjustment Brush affects the brightest sections of the adjusted area, while the Shadows slider will control the darker areas. Adjusting these settings can help you bring certain parts of the image forward or hide other areas in shadows.

Adjustment Bursh3

The next section allows for changes in clarity (one of the features you have to consider for rating system in Lightroom), which controls the contrast of the lines in the image, and saturation, that affects the intensity of the colors in the area of the adjustment brush. Often clarity can be great in revealing the amount of detail present in the image; however, usually you want to avoid adding it to faces as it will accentuate lines and creases in the skin – to avoid that we can use the Adjustment Brush tool to only increase clarity outside those areas.

Adjustment Bursh4

The next section is responsible for correcting the issues caused by the camera sensors. First, are the Sharpness and Noise sliders that can be used to make parts of the image stand out from the rest or used to reduce noise and grain caused by the camera sensor. The Moire slider is there to compensate for the Moire effect that occurs when a frequency of pattern in the image aligns with the pixels of the sensor, resulting in a distortion of that pattern. The Defringe slider reduces the chromatic aberration caused by lens shortcomings.

Adjustment Bursh5

Further, the Color option of the Adjustment Brush allows you to select a color cast that the brush will add to the affected area of the image. Last part of the Adjustment Brush options controls the Size, Feather, Flow and Density of the Adjustment Brush. A quick way to adjust the size of the brush while retouching is to use the keyboard shortcut ‘[‘ to make it smaller and ‘]’ to increase its size. The Feather of the Adjustment Brush controls how quickly the Adjustment Brush will fade into the rest of the image. The larger the Feather level – the more gradual the fade will be.

Adjustment Bursh6

Flow affects how quickly the Adjustment Brush is applied to the image. If it is set to 100%, it means the Adjustment Brush will affect the area to a maximum level. If it is set to 50%, only half of the effect of the Brush will be seen.

The Density slider is similar to Flow and controls the amount of change that can be applied by the Adjustment Brush; however, unlike Flow, it will limit the effect indefinitely, meaning that once it is set to a specific value that area will always remain affected at that percentage, unless the Adjustment Brush settings are changed.

Last, the Auto Mask options attempts to guess, which parts of the image you aim to be affected by

the Adjustment Brush. It does so by checking for contrast ratios between pixels, meaning that if you have a subject in the image that clearly stands out from the background, it should be able to easily identify that you only want the subject affected; however, if the background is very cluttered, likely, it will not be able to distinguish the subject well.

Adjustment Bursh7

If you are finished with the first set of adjustments, you can create a new brush. Simply click the ‘New’ option in the Adjustment Brush settings panel, set the new settings for the Adjustment Brush and start applying it to the image. Note, that you will be painting on top of the first Adjustment Brush that you used. A quick way to undo the changes made by the Adjustment Brush is to hold the ‘Alt’ key while brushing the areas you want to be undone.