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Tag: photography

Gift Ideas For The Photographer In Your Life

We have just past that time of year where many people across the world celebrate Christmas. Families, friends and loved ones often exchange gifts. But now is the best time to start planning for next Christmas, right? In today’s digital age, chances are that at there is a photography lover within your family or your circle of friends. Or perhaps maybe you are in a relationship with a photographer. But what can you gift to a photographer? Are you struggling to think of gift ideas for the photographer in your life? Well no need to worry, because below are some gift ideas for you to ponder about and consider as potential gifts for that special photographer in your life.

Gift Idea – Tripod

I consider a Tripod to be a fundamental part of any photographers kit bag. It can be surprising how many people attend my photography Workshop/Training who do not have a tripod. A tripod is very useful for capturing sharp and crisp images in various shooting scenarios. But it is especially vital when shooting Product Photography, shooting in low-light or shooting long exposure landscape imagery. A tripod helps to keep the camera from moving which in turn avoids any blur or camera-shake during the exposure.

There are various models of tripods available out there. Smaller and lighter models suited towards traveling or shooting indoors. And then there are the heavier and more sturdy models which are very much needed for shooting outdoors in more adverse weather conditions. Also tripods typically can consist of either two primary materials. These are Aluminum or Carbon Fibre.  The former is normally cheaper but heavier. Whereas the latter is more expensive but also lighter. If the photographer in questions shoots a lot of seascapes or spends a lot of their time by the sea, then I would recommend going with the Carbon Fibre options. Carbon Fibre is more durable and resistant against the corrosive effects of salt water. You can get cheap tripods but I would always spending a bit of money and invest in a good one.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Camera Strap

Photographers who are constantly on the move and shooting subjects with their camera in hand, then a strap of some sort would be beneficial. You can opt for a strap that wraps around the neck or one that wraps around the wrist. I think the wrist straps are certainly very useful for smaller cameras. But I would opt for a neck strap for bigger camera and lens setups. The straps themselves can come in various materials. Leather ones can look rather nice. But I would recommend straps consisting of a Neoprene material. The flexibility of Neoprene will ensure that the strap does not cut into your neck when attached to a heavy camera setup.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Fairy Lights

These small light bulbs held together in a string like fashion are a great lighting accessory for any photographer to have in their arsenal. They can come in various lengths and colours. The string like nature of Fairy Lights provides great flexibility with regards to their usage. Photographers can use them as blurred (bokeh) foreground or background details within their Product, Lifestyle, Still Life or Portrait style images. They can really add interest to Still Life and Portrait shoots by wrapping them around objects or even your models.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Magazine Subscription

The internet is great for photographers these days. Plenty of video tutorials and blog content available for free, just like here on the Sleeklens Blog. However us photographers still like holding and reading through traditional photography magazines in our hands as well. Some magazines come out every week, some bi-weekly and some every month. Most magazine providers offer subscriptions. These are always a great gift idea. Simply purchase an annual subscription for the preferred magazine of choice and your loved one will be thinking of and thanking you every time a new issue arrives in the post!

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

 

Gift Idea – Power Bank

Power Banks are very useful indeed. There are times when our devices have run out of juice and yet we have no means of charging them. This can happen frequently when shooting at outdoors locations or when traveling out on the road for a while. These Power Banks are like portable charging units that do not require a power source of their own. Instead, you charge these up while at home or at the office. Then they hold this power for you so that you can charge your devices on location when needed. These are useful for restoring some much needed power back to your phones, cameras or laptops while out and about.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Memory Cards

Sticking with the technology side of things, another great gift idea is Memory Cards. Whether our cameras use SD card or Compact Flash type memory cards, we can never have enough of them. The come in various different capacity and speed combinations. You can get large capacity cards that have a slow speed rating. These are normally the cheapest options available. You can also get both large or small capacity cards that have a faster speed rating. These are usually more expensive. Faster speeds allow enable faster writing of the data to the card. This is useful and very much needed when shooting in burst mode or at fast frame rates. Photography genres such as Sports, Wildlife, Events, etc. spring to my mind.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Memory Card Reader

If you are going to get them some Memory Cards, you might as well get them a Memory Card Reader as well. After all, what good is a memory card if there is no means of getting the images off the card and onto the computer. Of course you can use the cable that comes with the camera to connect it to the computer. But a Memory Card Reader is much more useful. They offer slots for various different card formats. A perfect solution for the photographer who has different camera models and different card formats.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – External Hard Drive

Another form of memory but this is more of an add-on to your computer as opposed to a camera accessory. Over time the photographer in your life is going to amass a large collection of photographs. All of these digital images will consume hard drive storage. External Hard Drives are a great way of catering for these increased storage demands.  You can get various capacity external hard drives. Some models require mains power and others powered via USB. I always recommend having multiple external hard drives. Several drives will provide some redundancy for your data. A backup of the backup or so to speak. Nothing worse for a photographer than to lose their image files. External Hard Drives make for an excellent gift idea.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Glass Sphere

This next gift idea will not provide any real technological or practical assistance to the photographer in your life. However, it will provide the potential for increased creativity and even some fun! These Glass Spheres can be used with good effect to produce some interesting imagery. The Glass Sphere will reflect and refract all light that passed through it. By focusing on the Glass Sphere with a large lens aperture the photographer will be able to shoot an inverted version of the scene with the real scene outside of the sphere being blurred.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

 

Gift Idea – Drone

This is probably one of the more expensive gift ideas on the list. But one certainly worthy of inclusion. Drones are all the rage these days. You can get small inexpensive models or larger more expensive models. They capture video footage as well as still images. Some are definitely better than others. DJI provide some great industry leading models. But the increased quality does come at a higher cost. However, if you look around, there are always options to suit your needs and your budget.

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

Gift Idea – Film Camera

Film Cameras are the perfect gift idea for those in your life with whom photography is an obsession. Not only do they look cool and retro but they are great for learning too. Shooting with analogue film will teach you a lot about your photography composition, understanding of light and exposure. You only have so many exposures available to you on the camera film. It also teaches to appreciate how hard the great photographers of yesteryear had it! Digital Photography has brought along a lot of advancements in technology which really does make it easier for the modern day photographer. You can find some expensive Film Cameras online that are probably in high demands among collectors. But you can also find very affordable Film Cameras. Don’t forget the rolls of film to go with it!

Gift Ideas - Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

 

Photographer Focus – Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry Photography

In this edition of my Photographer Focus series, I am interviewing Architectural Photographer James Tarry Photography. A London-based freelance photographer who specializes in Architectural style image production.

Who is James Tarry? Tell us a little about yourself…

I am a freelance architectural photographer based in London. I specialize in Interiors and Architectural Photography. Besides my Architecture Photography, I also shoot stock photography. I am also a photographic artist making work largely out of Polaroids.

When did your love of photography begin and what was your first camera?

Apparently, I started my photography journey while I was very young, at least according to my parents anyway. I used to grab their disposable cameras and take all sort of random photos. The earliest camera I remember owning was a Kodak Disc.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

What prompted you to pursue Photography as a career?

I had always wanted to be an animator/artist/designer, generally something of a creative nature. I had taken all my GCSE’s in Art/design and then took photography which I also aced. For those how are not aware, the GCSE stands for “The General Certificate of Secondary Education“. It is a set of exams taken in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and other British territories. I took that into A-level (Advanced Level above GCSE) and that is where everything went wrong.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

My teachers at the time were not particularly supportive. I was living in a city where not many left. You picked a trade and stayed put. I was constantly told to pick something that would be possible to earn a living at. My parents were always trying to encourage me to do what I loved but I hated school. This put me off going to University. I just wanted to escape a city that I hated. I went to work, stopped taking photos, stopped drawing, stopped making art and I moved to London at age 17 or 18 as far as I can recall.

For about 10 years I bounced around from job to job. I did everything from being a PA to celebrities, a Shop Manager and even a Chauffeur. When I was made redundant from a driver delivery job, the pressure was to go back to retail as apparently, that is what I was good at. But I could not stand it! I decided to try getting back into photography, the thing I actually loved. I pieced together a rough portfolio and started looking for work. Eventually, I got offered a job photographing interiors at a Real Estate Agent. It paid out a decent enough pay packet and I figured it would be at least in the realm of what I enjoyed doing. And here I am, still doing it 14 years later.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

What type of career or jobs did you do before opting for a Photography career?

Before becoming a freelance architectural photographer, I had tried my hand at everything from working in retail to professional driving. Funnily enough, I was also a Personal Assistant at one stage. I was even a delivery driver.

When did you start your photography business and become a freelance architectural photographer?

I went from Full-Time employment to a Freelance Photographer approximately 5 years ago back in 2013.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

I see that you specialize in architectural photography – is that the main service that your business provides or do you offer more services?

Primarily I am a freelance architectural photographer. Interior photography is the only thing I offer aside from floor plans. I can also draw professional plans for clients if needed. I have been thinking the video would be a nice next step. But I am still finding that at the moment the video is not really needed or wanted.

What were the challenges you faced when starting your business?

Initially, it was fairly straight forward. I had made enough contacts while being in full-time employment. The company I was working for Full Time allowed me to go Freelance too. The transition was quite straight forward.

What are the challenges that you still face in your business today?

With competing companies offering more for less, it is getting harder and harder to compete without cutting my own prices. Brexit has also hit my business hard at the moment, with people waiting on seeing how the market reacts.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

Do you think the Photography industry has changed since you first started?

Yes. There are more of us working professionally in the industry for a start. And advancements in technology means quality has also improved. Advancement in Social Media means that you can reach more people faster and cheaper than it used to be too.

Looking back to the early days of your business with hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently?

I wish that I started out earlier. That I started Photography earlier. If I could rewind time, I would have liked to have gone to University or at least been on a course.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

What camera and lenses do you shoot with these days?

My main work camera at the moment is a Sony A7Rii. I also have Canon and Sony lenses.

Outside of the camera and lenses, what other equipment do you consider essential to your business services?

My mobile phone is the key piece of equipment that I have. Most of my work is booked through that during the day. Apart from my phone and my camera gear, then the next important would be my iMac and Adobe Lightroom.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

Can you describe a typical architectural photography shoot for us?

It depends massively on the client I am shooting for. Sometimes the designer will be on site styling things, instructing on what they need. However, often times I am on my own. London is a fast market so I tend to work fast and hard, including turning around the images in a short time. Most times the client will have the photos the next day, quite often when they walk into their office or when they wake up. More often than not, I am walking in blind and won’t know what I am going to see. Some are more hands-on and will print out sheets of what they would like.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

What advice or tips can you give to new photographers looking at becoming a freelance architectural photographer?

Work hard and focus on quality. Learn everything you can. Shooting in natural light and get comfortable using strobes. Always be as professional as possible. Most of my work comes through word of mouth, or connections I have made from other jobs. Develop your own style. I quite often hear that my interiors are very “clean”. Normally the presumption is that I have used several layers in Photoshop or deployed an HDR technique. When in reality, they are always one shot and often carefully lit. Correct and clever lighting is always the key!

Where can people see more of your images and follow your work?

My website is http://jamestarryphotography.com. You can browse my portfolio there. You can also check out my Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jt___photography/.

Freelance Architectural Photographer James Tarry

Photographer Focus – Alternative Wedding Photographer Tomasz Kornas

In this edition of my Photographer Focus series I am interviewing Tomasz Kornas – an Alternative Wedding Photographer operating in Ireland. Read along to see how Tomasz started his wedding photography journey as well as producing his unique image style.

Who is Tomasz Kornas? Tell us a little about yourself…

Polish by origin but based in Ireland for the past thirteen years. Married and I have one child. Heavily interested in self-development, a deeper meaning of life, growth and supporting others to achieve their happiness in life. Full-time Wedding Photographer for the past five years. I am also addicted to helping others pursue their dream careers!

wedding photographer

 

When did your love of photography begin and what was your first camera?

It started back in 2011. I picked up my first camera, a Nikon D3100, and a kit lens and started to shoot everything and anything. Decided that I would pursue photographic knowledge in Griffith College Dublin. Signed up to complete a BA in Photographic Media, without any idea what I was signing up to or what I would do after graduation. I started to shoot a lot of models, started to do some low paid commercial work with local businesses. I also fell in love with shooting landscapes.

wedding photographer

What prompted you to pursue Photography, specifically a Wedding Photographer career?

A pure accident. I was invited by a friend to shoot a Wedding as a second shooter. Being a second shooter is a good way for any new wedding photographer to learn the ropes. Without any expectations, I witnessed something different than what I thought Wedding Photography was about. I saw a lot of happiness, little moments, people getting together to celebrate someone’s most important day of their lives. I also saw a Wedding Photographer being treated more as a guest than a “workhorse”. As a creative that helps to live the experience. That triggered the idea that I might see what that being a Wedding Photographer was all about.

What was the “day job” before opting to become a Wedding Photographer?

I worked in retail for eight years prior to commencing my Photography Career. Thought I had made it or so to speak when I was promoted to a managerial career. But now, with hindsight and looking back, I see how easily I got sucked into a rat race within the retail industry. I can honestly say that I prefer being a Wedding Photographer!

wedding photographer

When did you start your Wedding Photography business and where do you mainly provide your services?

Started in late 2013 and offered my services nationwide straight away. Wanted to shoot everything and anything. I was hungry to quit my day job as quick as possible. I promised to myself that I will do anything in my power to achieve it. Eighteen months later I was leaving the old career and life behind me. From the very start of shooting Weddings for a living, it has been such a rewarding career!

wedding photographer

What were the challenges you faced when starting your business?

I had no knowledge of marketing or pricing. I did not really have any portfolio either. So the biggest struggles were: (1) to come up with content to promote me and (2) how to price and market myself. Both of these are essential for a Wedding Photographer. I Quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about marketing and pricing philosophy. This was something I was not aware I would ever have to do. I knew one thing, I did not want to stay in the low or mid-range of the price market. So I quickly attempted to raise my prices quite drastically. It worked out quite well. Have no fear!

What are the challenges that your Wedding Photography business still encounters today?

At the moment, the biggest challenge would be to book more work at even higher prices. I believe I am in a higher end of the market with my pricing structure. Yet I am still trying to practice and figure out how much higher can I go with it. On the other hand, I am in a happy spot where I shoot around sixty weddings per year and still have time to do other personal projects.

wedding photographer

Do you think the Wedding Photography industry has changed since you first started?

Absolutely. There are a lot of established photographers doing fantastic work in the industry. I think the industry as a whole lot closer together. Helping each other out. Meeting and supporting in day-to-day operations. On the other hand, I can see an even bigger interest from a new crew to join this craft. I view this as an opportunity to push myself harder as there are more and more creative people picking up a camera these days.

Looking back to the early days of your business with hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Nope, I believe everything I did, whether right or wrong was my learning curve. The journey is what made me who I am today and I would not change anything.

wedding photographer

What camera and lenses do you shoot with these days?

Today I shoot with a Nikon D850 and a Nikon D750 camera bodies with a series of prime lenses. The Sigma Art 35mm ƒ1.4 as my main lens. I also use a Sigma 50mm ƒ1.4, Sigma 20mm ƒ1.4 and a Nikon 85mm ƒ1.4G lens. As well as two SB700 Flashguns and a bunch of batteries. I also have two more Nikon D750 bodies as a backup. That is my complete wedding kit.

Outside of the camera and lenses, what other equipment do you consider essential to your business services?

I am addicted to Apple products. Even though I was a Windows nerd and against anything that Apple created, I have converted very quickly. I love their ecosystem and the fact that it lets me to get the job done without any complications or silly workarounds. I love how everything syncs automatically that helps me to keep a seamless workflow for editing and office organization.

wedding photographer

Can you describe a typical Wedding Day shoot for us (how do you prepare, how does the day unfold, what is involved, etc…)?

I start around two or three hours before the ceremony. If the bride and groom are close to each other, then I am able to capture both of their preparations. Usually, I start the day with the shooting of the details like the dress, shoes, jewelry etc. I prefer to shoot in a candid documentary style rather than stage every shot. However, I also make sure to capture all the important posed family portraits.

Then onto the ceremony, where I shoot mostly civil ceremonies which is much easier as the day is far more relaxed. I am allowed to do way more than in a traditional church setting. After the ceremony, I do family photos in a very efficient way, and then jump onto bridal party shots and portraits of the couple. I try to keep it all as quick as possible. Making sure my couples have a great experience while creating those memories. Then onto the speeches and usually finish around twenty minutes after the first dance. Get back home, the first thing to do is to back up the images and backup the backup!

I shoot with two camera bodies on me, and additional two lenses in a small pouch. That helps me to be super mobile and have everything under my hands. I shoot most of the day using natural light only, however if I find images quality will suffer because of poor light, I use flash.

What advice or tips can you give to new photographers looking at Wedding Photography as a career?

Do no be afraid to join the already saturated market. If you feel you can bring something new for brides and grooms, then do it. Have fun with the process. Enjoy it. It will be hard to breakthrough. Get a mentor. Get someone to help you show you the way. And be ready to learn a lot about marketing, sales, web design and many other aspects of running a small wedding photography business. Get yourself comfortable with being outside your comfort zone as this job is all about that.

wedding photographer

Where can people see more of and follow your work

The images featured here in this article as just a small sample of my work. My website is www.tomaszkornas.com and that is where you find my extended portfolio as well as my wedding photography business details. You can also check out my Instagram feed @tomasz_kornas. Lastly, you can check out my YouTube channel here.

wedding photographer

Interesting Blurred Foreground Ideas for Portrait Photographers

Sometimes, our photos end up looking dull and uninspiring. We know that something’s missing, but we’re not exactly sure what it is. Sometimes all you need to do is use blurred foregrounds to enhance your simple photos.

To put it simply, foregrounds are parts of an image that is closest to the camera. If you place an object in front of your camera and set your aperture to a small f-number, like f/2.0, you’ll get a blurry effect.

This effect is great for many reasons, some of which are:

  • Framing. If you cleverly frame your lens, you’ll end up with a unique composition regardless of what you’re photographing.
  • Adding a pop of color. Oftentimes, simple photos need an extra boost of color. Vibrant foregrounds can fix that.
  • Adding depth. A blurred foreground will add more depth and shape to detailed photos.

You can use professional equipment, DIY props, or random objects to frame your photos. In this article, I’ll focus on simple and accessible objects that will enhance every photo you take.

fence landscape photography

Gates and Fences

Fences have a constant pattern that’s ideal for creative photographs. A fence with a gap, like the one in the photo above, is fantastic for framing landscape photos and portraits.

model hand foreground

Hands

If you want to include human elements in your photos, partly cover your lens with a hand.

Stretching your own hand in front of the camera can create a melancholic atmosphere or a sense of yearning.

If you’re a portrait photographer, have your model hide parts of their face with their hand, like in the photo above. You can use this technique to shape their face, highlight specific features, or simply make your portraits look more interesting.

people foreground

People

Photographing through crowds of people is a popular technique used in street photography. Indirectly using people in your compositions will create a sense of familiarity.

In the photo above, the little girl is adding even more depth to the story. Even though she’s blurry, you can’t help but wonder if she’s just a stranger or if she’s related to the couple in the distance.

flowers foreground

Flowers and Plants

If you need to make your indoor photos look more exciting, use plants. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, chances are you own a plant or two. Flowers are perfect for enhancing simple portraits and still life shots. The more colorful they are, the better!

branches foreground

Branches

For fun outdoor shoots, use branches as foregrounds. Shooting through branches will create a contrast between your subject and the foreground. Curvy branches are great for creating striking compositions, while straight ones are perfect for photographers who want to experiment with leading lines.

window foreground

Windows

One of my favorite foreground styles is the combination of windows and reflections. When you shoot through a window, you’ll get beautiful blurred reflections that will add texture to your image.

Extra tip: when you photograph through a window, don’t stand directly in front of it unless you want to be visible in the shot. Shoot from the side to avoid camera reflections.

string lights foreground

String Lights

String lights, or fairy lights, are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the creativity of photographers like Brandon Woelfel. Hold them in front of your lens and they’ll create stunning bokeh. They can be stretched out to your subject, strategically framed around your composition, or simply held by you or your model. Each of these approaches will make your photos look soft and ethereal.

Whether you’re looking to take your compositions to the next level, brighten your photos, or become more detail-oriented, blurred foregrounds will help you improve your photographs. Remember to experiment as possible; even the simplest objects have the power to make your photos stand out.

What are your favorite foreground objects?

The Most Important Thing Photography Has Taught These 10 Photographers

The most important lesson for me has been becoming comfortable with other people, and learning how to make them feel comfortable.  When I first started photography, I wasn’t shooting portraits.  I was honestly a little scared to start photographing people, because I am not a very relaxed or “cool” person. I am a bit intense and old-fashioned.  When I made the leap to photographing people, though, I found wonderful opportunities to connect with others through shared creative endeavours.

There has been a second important lesson, though.  Photography has also taught me to look for beauty and interest in all my surroundings.  Whether I am looking at a person, a building, a plant, or a pile of garbage, I still try to perceive it the same way.  It is a wonderful and fascinating thing!

TenthMusePhotography

One of the things I’ve learned from photography and photographers is that what people chose to photograph will tell you what is important to them.

Jenn

That beauty is found in all places big and small, but you have to really look for it. Expression is a form a commutative beauty, let the world around you be a part of who you are. Photography allows you to open yourself up to your own world, and the world of others.

Rae

Look at the whole frame, elements you don’t notice in life are glaring in photograph

WRZED

To be patient. The light will come in the end. Maybe not today but soon. You can’t rush nature.

Lawrence

It taught me not to worry about looking or sounding stupid in order to get a good shot. Sometimes I’ll have to stand at a really weird angle, or give a model a million directions like “turn a little to the left… a little more… a little more… now a little less…” but all of that is worth it for the amazing shot. I used to avoid doing this because of anxiety and ended up disappointed with pictures that were almost great but not quite, but now I know that even if people think I’m weird, they’ll understand when they see the final product.

Amy

Photography has taught me that there can be infinite ways of looking at one object or a thing or a situation. And that a slight change of perspective can change everything, it can turn reality upside down (or what we think of as reality).

Also, sometimes we are unable to see the beauty of a moment because we focus on what could have been or what should have been, that we forget to focus on and appreciate and be thankful for what we already have in our lens. And sometimes to make a big change a slight change of focus and perspective is enough.

Momoksha

Probably that there’s no right and wrong solutions, as long as you try hard enough there will always be people who appreciate your approach and style.

Pavel

Looking for another point of view that makes you discover beauty.

Isabella

That time flies by quickly, at it’s important to capture the little things.

Olivia

 

What’s the most important thing that photography has taught you? Let us know in the comments!

5 Reasons Self-Love Will Make You a Better Photographer

What is self-love? The general definition is a regard for one’s health and happiness.

As photographers, we often beat ourselves up for not being creative, productive, or successful enough. This makes us insecure, resentful, and uninspired.

This can stop right now. Self-love means taking care of yourself, especially when you’re tired. It means being honest, open, and loving.

Respecting yourself will have a significant impact on your work. These five reasons will show you just how important it is to be kind to yourself and why your photographs will be affected because of it.

productive

#1. Proper Rest Will Lead to Productivity

Whether you take photos every day or work in an office, endless job tasks will tire you out. You won’t have time to focus on your other interests, sleep well, or spend time with your loved ones. This, in turn, will lead to an unproductive mindset. It’s a vicious cycle you don’t deserve to be in.

On the other hand, regular breaks and proper sleep will rejuvenate you, which will lead to productivity. Instead of dreading your obligations, you’ll embrace them.

Learn to be aware of what you need, be it a delicious snack or an extra hour of sleep. Here are a few simple yet impactful self-care routines that will make you feel better:

  • Reread your favorite book
  • Go on a date with your friends
  • Go for a peaceful walk in your local park
  • Listen to music without any distractions
  • Look through your favorite photographers’ work

learning new things

#2. You Won’t Have to Force Yourself to Learn New Things

Learning isn’t about forcing yourself to go to school, wasting hours of your time, or relentlessly working on pages of homework. Learning means being truly passionate about a subject and doing your best to master it.

When you respect your skills, you’ll want to work on them. This will make you naturally curious about a variety of topics, many of which will benefit you in the long run. The more you learn about photography, the more skilled you’ll become.

client relationship

#3. Your Relationship with Your Clients Will Improve

An important aspect of self-love is honesty. This means being honest about your feelings, intentions, and goals.

When you know what you want, you’ll be able to clearly translate your needs to everyone around you. This will make your photoshoots easier because it will prevent a lot of unnecessary miscommunication. It will also help you give the right directions, successfully fulfill your clients’ needs, and be open to admitting mistakes.

self-worth

#4. Negativity Won’t Shatter Your Self-Worth

Bring your own #1 fan is an incredible way to block out hate. Social media is filled with direct and indirect negativity without which life would be significantly easier. Self-love will encourage you to spend less time on social media, focus on your own interests, and not shatter when someone says something unpleasant to you.

support

#5. And You’ll Willingly Ask for Help When You Need It

Sometimes, we need support from fellow photographers. Self-love will compel you to humbly reach out to others and ask for help. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your feelings, being open about a struggle, or asking for constructive criticism.

When you receive support, you’ll feel heard, appreciated, and understood. This will encourage you to reach new heights and be a helper yourself.

self-love

If you continually beat yourself up, you won’t be as productive, kind, and inspired as you deserve to be. Self-love will improve your life and make you a better photographer.

Learn what works best for you and embrace it. Remember that not every self-care method will appeal to you. Experiment, treat yourself to a variety of goodies and be open to happiness.

Now go do something nice for yourself and tell us about it in the comments!

Tap Into ICM To Broaden Your Creativity

Are you currently finding yourself staring at your image portfolio and feeling underwhelmed or lacking creativity? Truth is that it can happen to the best of us. Why not tap Into ICM To broaden your creativity and get your creative juices flowing.

What is ICM?

ICM or “Intentional Camera Movement” is an image making technique whereby one intentionally moves their camera during exposure. Movement is recorded while the shutter is open and can produce some very interesting and abstract results.

The ICM technique is a great way to force yourself outside of the normal and conventional Landscape Photography restraints. Obeying the Rule of Thirds and other composition aides will help you to produce greater images. However, sometimes you just need to break outside of the box and step outside of your comfort zone.

Adding the Intentional Camera Movement technique to your photographic toolkit, will definitely get those creative juices flowing. After some experimentation and refinement of your ICM technique, your portfolio will also be refreshed with some new and exciting images.

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

What gear do I need for ICM?

Unlike most photography genres, this technique requires nothing outside of a camera and a lens. A tripod can certainly be useful for certain images but it is not essential. In fact, a lot of the time you will probably leave the tripod in the car or at home.

Apart from a camera and a single lens, all you really need is some decent light and interesting subject. One important thing to note though is that best results will be achieved when using a camera with manual controls. A manual camera will allow you to change the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, which will help to create different types of ICM images.

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

What type of lens you use does not really matter. It can be an old manual lens or the latest and greatest autofocus lens. The lens can be a prime lens or a zoom lens. Zoom lenses with varying focal length range can be useful. The tried and trusted 24-70 zoom lenses can be a great lens to have in the bag for ICM. The flexibility to switch between 24mm, 50mm, or 70mm can be liberating. Zoom lenses also provide the ability to interesting ICM images by zooming or “rolling” the lens during the exposure.

Outside of the gear, all you need is a willingness to head out with the camera and put the technique into practice.

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

How can I tell if my ICM image making efforts have been successful?

A lot of photography is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say. ICM images are probably the most subjective. Some viewers might love it and some might hate it. For me, the most important thing is whether the image satisfies me or not. I consider it a success if the image evokes some thoughts or moods within me.

Certain aspects play a stronger part in how our brain interprets and appreciates what it is seeing. For example, when color is absent from an image our brains look for strong structures and shapes instead. Which is why strong composition is so important for black and white photography. I think the opposite is true for Intentional Camera Movement images. The absent of strong structures places a stronger emphasis on color within the image. Of course, you can produce monochromatic ICM images and they might work. But in my experience, ICM images with strong color tones are more interesting than those without. But again, remember that beauty is the eye of the beholder. If you like monochromatic ICM images, then who am I to argue against it.

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

ICM Image by Graham Daly Photography

Top tips for ICM

Below are some of my top tips for producing interesting ICM images. This list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive. These are just the aspects that I have adopted into my ICM shooting technique and methodology. There are other photographers all over the planet who can add more to this list. Each will have their own routine, their own style and will have their own desired ICM results.  But this list is what works for me.

  • Try different focal lengths
  • Look for interesting color tones
  • Play around with different shutter speeds – start with 1 second and then increase from there and measure the results
  • Experiment by changing the focal length on your zoom lens during the exposure (a.k.a zooming/barrel rolling)
  • Try twisting the camera around in a circular motion during the exposure
  • Head into the woodlands – some great ICM potential all around the woods
  • Use a tripod at the coast if you want to keep the horizon level during your ICM images
  • Look for interesting shapes and patterns within the scene
  • Try panning left to right or right to left during the exposure
  • Tilt the camera up or down while the shutter is open
  • Carry larger capacity memory cards as you will end up clicking the shutter a lot in order to capture that one interesting result!

Hahnel PROCUBE2 – Great Addition To Any Photographers Kit Bag

Multiple Cameras Plus Multiple Batteries Means Tripping Over Multiple Battery Chargers!

As a Freelance Landscape Photographer, I regularly venture outside during the early hours of the morning in case of those lovely sunrise colors. And as I am often away on location for the day,  I am rarely near a power source. This can be quite problematic for me. I have several cameras each with several spare batteries that I constantly need power in. Long exposures, time-lapse, recording video and using the Live View functions on my cameras can drain the batteries rather quickly. Especially so during the colder months in winter.  Because of this, before heading away on location, I am always trying to ensure that I have charged all of my batteries sufficiently. As there is nothing worse than arriving on location only to discover that you have flat or low batteries! So to set the scene correctly in your mind’s eye, when I am heading out shooting it is normally dark, way too early, I have not had enough sleep and so I often find myself tripping over the complex array of battery chargers that lay on my office floor. Thankfully the Hahnel PROCUBE2 resolves this problem very nicely for me.

Hahnel PROCUBE2 Product

Hahnel PROCUBE2 – Providing The Power To Charge Your Batteries On The Go

The Hahnel PROCUBE2 caters for charging two batteries while at home plus it also comes with car charging abilities. The team at Hahnel were nice enough to provide a 12v charger within the PROCUBE2 box. Now, I know what you are thinking. What is so great about a car charger you ask? Well, a car charger in and of itself is nothing to write home about. However, this lovely unit allows for the charging of two batteries at a time. And not just that. The Hahnel PROCUBE2 also comes with additional charging trays for charging different battery models for a given camera vendor.

For example, the Hahnel PROCUBE2 for Canon provides trays for the main LP-E6 battery model as well as trays for the LP-E8 and LP-E17 models. As an added bonus, it also has a tray for charging four Ni-MH AA batteries and even a USB port for charging your phone! The Canon model has proved very useful for me as I have several LP-E6 and LP-E17 batteries. The LP-E6 battery model is used in most of the Canon Full Frame and even Semi-Pro/Higher-End Enthusiast camera models, such as the Canon 6D, 5DII, 5DIII, 7D, 7DII, etc.. The LP-E17 is used in the Canon M6, M3, M5 mirrorless bodies.

Hahnel PROCUBE2 Product

The Different Flavors Of The Hahnel PROCUBE2

Like ice cream, the Hahnel PROCUBE2 comes in a variety of different flavors. There are five different models, each with its own unique color. The Canon model is a Light Grey and the Nikon version is a Dark Grey. The Sony model is Orange. The Olympus is Brown and the Fujifilm/Panasonic version sports a Blue color scheme.

Screenshot of Hahnel PROCUBE2 Product Brochure

The following list outlines which batteries are supported by each version:

  • (Canon) Hahnel PROCUBE2 = LP-E6 | LP-E8 | LP-E17
  • (Nikon) Hahnel PROCUBE2 = EN-EL14 | EN-EL15
  • (Panasonic/Fujifilm) Hahnel PROCUBE2 = DMW-PLC12 | BLF19 | BLG10 & NP-W126
  • (Olympus) Hahnel PROCUBE2 = BLN-1 | BLS-5 | BLH-1
  • (Sony) Hahnel PROCUBE2 = NP-BX1 | NP-FW50 | NP-FZ100

Seeing as I just recently got a second hand Sony A7, with eats quickly through the 6 batteries that I have for it, I think the Sony version will be added to my arsenal in the not too distant future.

My First Impressions Of The Hahnel PROCUBE2

Firstly, the packaging is great. I think it really stands out. The unit is also so small and light. It really takes up no real estate within my office, my Land Rover or in my camera bag. The unit literately fits in the palm of my hand!

Hahnel PROCUBE2 Product

As mentioned earlier, I opted for the Canon version first and was impressed that it was able to charge both of my main Canon batteries. The USB and AA charging capabilities proved to be a nice added bonus. I have several rechargeable AA batteries in my bag at all times on account of the various head torches and my wireless remote shutter systems. Walking around in the dark when out shooting stars and the Milky Way can really drain the AA batteries. So it is nice to be able to charge them up in my Land Rover while I am getting warm!

The USB charging is also a really neat feature. Phone batteries seem to die rather quickly on account of all of the “smartphone” features. WiFi, GPS, Mobile Data, Bluetooth, Facebook, Instagram, Large Screen, etc… These phones are not too smart if you ask me, considering all those features are useless if the phone battery dies! Remember the good old days of the Nokia 3210?

How The Hahnel PROCUBE2 Helps My Photography Business

Hahnel PROCUBE2 Product

Delays can occur when waiting around for several batteries to charge. Instead of waiting for all of my batteries to fully charge, the PROCUBE2 allows me to charge the batteries while I drive between shoots and locations. I have four 12v charging points in my commercial Land Rover and so I can have four PROCUBE2 units running at the same time. This has been an absolute game changer for me. If driving on the road for even 60 minutes, the batteries will be charged upon arrival at the destination. That is just pure awesome sauce!

The ability to charge batteries to go while driving around is really fantastic. I am normally fairly diligent with ensuring that my batteries are charged before and after each shoot. However, if I happen to forget, I know that the PROCUBE2 will solve that problem for me.  It is much better to be out shooting, rather than waiting around indoors for batteries to charge!

Reasons Why I love The Hahnel PROCUBE2 And Why I Strongly Recommend It

  • Charge on the go – no need to be near a power supply!
  • Small and tidy units – takes up no space in my bag/car/office
  • Color coded for each camera vendor/version
  • Saves time waiting around at home for batteries to charge
  • No need to drag the camera OEM chargers around – they only charge one battery at a time anyway!
  • Charges batteries for all of my Canon DSLRs and Canon Mirrorless bodies
  • Better than the OEM charger – (in my opinion!)

You can find out additional information on this product over on the Hahnel site.

Graham Daly Photography: My Love Affair With The Milky Way

The Milky Way – I Fell In Love With Shooting It!

Since picking up my first proper DSLR camera several years ago, I was quickly drawn to shooting landscapes. And I spent many an early morning and late evening chasing after those magic sunrise and sunset colors. I still like heading out in search of those magic hour images and I am happy when I get them. But I must admit, they are no longer my first love. Over the past two years, I have been seriously attracted to photographing the night sky. I have totally fallen in love with shooting the Milky Way.

Whenever there is a slight chance of clear skies, I will drop all of my other plans, grab my gear and head out to a predetermined location in order to spend several hours admiring and shooting the Milky Way. Nothing brings me more photographic joy than standing beneath the Milky Way arching across the night sky. I am blown away by the sheer beauty of the Milky Way. I count my blessings each time I get to see it. And I can tell you, that those occasions are rare enough over here in Ireland. Our climate produces a lot of clouds!

In future articles, I will dive into more detail around my Milky Way Processing Workflow. I will also highlight other photographers who inspire me with their Milky Way images. But for now, you can read about the equipment that I use and how I plan my Milky Way images.

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

My “Go To” Equipment For Shooting The Milky Way?

Unlike regular Landscape shoots where I have to take several lenses with me, along with other gear such as my NiSi Filters in order to handle whatever lighting conditions that might arise, thankfully my Astro Photography & Milky Way shooting setup is a lot smaller and simpler.  When it comes to shooting the Milky Way, I need not worry about controlling the dynamic range with filters. Nor do I need to drag along various focal length lenses to create different image compositions.

My typical equipment for Landscape images (Canon 16-35mm ƒ/4, Canon 70-200mm ƒ/4, and NiSi 100mm Filters) are left at home and instead, the only lens that I pack along with my trusty Canon 6D is that of the seriously inexpensive but excellent value Samyang 14mm F2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical lens. In certain regions of the world, this lens is also sold/branded as Rokinon. This 14mm lens provides a very wide angle of view on a Full Frame sensor. This enables me to capture large portions of the Milky Way in the night sky. The lens is very sharp (if you get a good copy!) and handles comatic aberration (otherwise referred to as “coma”) and chromatic aberration very well. How well a lens handles comatic aberration is important for shooting the Milky Way and the night sky in general. Because if the lens does not control coma effectively, then the captured stars will result with comet-like tails. However, the lens does produce a horrible mustache-distortion and a strong vignette.

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

I also bring the following items out with me on when I head out shooting the Milky Way:

  • Rollei Rock Solid Alpha Tripod + Rollei T3S Ball Head
  • Really Right Stuff L Bracket
  • Hahnel Capture Pro Wireless Remote Shutter Release
  • Spare batteries for my Canon 6D (OEM Canon + Hahnel Extreme varieties)
  • Hahnel Modus 600RT Speedlights (for light painting + images featuring myself within the scene)
  • Various Head Torches (for finding my way around in the dark + light painting/images featuring myself within the scene)
  • Terrascape Lens Cloths (useful keeping lens clean and wiping off any condensation)
  • A thermos flask filled with strong coffee!!

Planning & Preparing For Milky Way Shoots

There are several key parts to my Astro Photography Preparation Workflow. When I am out at various locations shooting regular landscape images, I pay attention to interesting objects (man-made structures, trees, coastal rock formations, etc..) that might make good foreground interests within my Milky Way images.  I make note of these locations and objects for future Milky Way shots.

While I am at these locations, if mobile data coverage/access is available, I then use the PhotoPills app on my phone to verify how/when/if the Milky Way will line up with the desired foreground object at the specific location. The PhotoPills app is really useful as it allows me to not only to clarify sunrise/sunset times and directions on any given date for a particular location but it also tells me the moon rise/set times along with the moon phase as well for that given date. The PhotoPills app also shows me when/where the Milky Way core will rise and set as well as showing the location within the night sky relative to the location for a specified date.

In many ways, shooting the Milky Way and the night sky is a lot easier and less complicated than shooting regular landscapes on account of the fact that you do not need to worry about how the sunlight is going to interact with the landscape, what parts of the landscape will be in shadow, what the contrast and dynamic range will be like or even whether or not there will be just the right amount of clouds present in the sky in the correct location in order to capture any light/color from the rising/setting sun.

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

Clear Skies – The Vital Ingredient For Milky Way Shooting!

The main requirement for shooting the night sky and the Milky Way, of course, is that of a cloudless sky. Clouds are the enemy for the Astro Photographer and those looking to capture beautiful images featuring the Milky Way. In order to get the best images of the Milky Way and stars in general, you will need a sky that is free from clouds during a two-week window throughout the month when the moon phase is before or after a New Moon. While moonlight can be great for illuminating the landscape under the night sky and thus removing a lot of unwanted digital noise from your images when shooting, moonlight will cause luminosity of the stars in the night sky to be diminished and will thus cause the Milky Way to be washed out.

Along with using the PhotoPills app for checking the moon phase and moon rise/set times for a particular location on a specified date, I also use several weather forecasting sites to check whether or not clear skies will be potentially possible for that date. Of course, while I can use the PhotoPills app at any stage throughout the year to check out the various planning information points as I eluded to in the preceding paragraphs, I really can only verify the cloud cover and potential for clear skies within a short period of time.

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

Typically I use five-day forecasts to check for the possibility of clear skies in a given week. When I spot a potential for clear skies on the long-range forecasts, I then start to focus in on those potential days and start paying more attention to the forecasts in the forty-eight (48) and twenty-four (24) hour time periods building up to that date in question. If cloud forecasts look good on the day in question, I then grab my gear, load it into my Land Rover and then I hit the road to get to my desired location and pray for the skies to stay clear while en route!

The main weather sites that I use for identifying the potential of clear skies are:

High-Level Overview Of My Milky Way Processing Workflow

There are certainly more steps involved in my Milky Way Processing Workflow as opposed to my Landscape Processing Workflow. Not that there is any additional complexity. But rather the processing workflow just has more steps and thus requires a bit more time per image. I will write about my Milky Way Processing Workflow in more detail in a follow-up article. So I will just keep things brief and at a high level here in this article.

The following is a generic overview of the workflow that I apply when processing all of my Milky Way images:

  1. While on location, I capture several exposures of the same image composition using the exact same settings. Exif settings are typically [ 14mm | ƒ/2.8 | 20 seconds | ISO 12,800 ]
  2. The duplicate exposures captured while on location will be used for “Stacking” when processing for Noise Reduction purposes.
  3. When I get back home, I then prepare to offload the images from the camera’s memory card to my workstation. To facilitate this I create three folders within a directory specific to that shoot. A folder for the original RAW files, a folder for the processed TIFF files that will be used for the Stacking process and a folder where the final processed JPEGs will be exported to.
  4. Once the RAW files are on my workstation, I import them into Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.
  5. After importing the RAW files, I preview all of the potential image files that I want to process/keep and dump the files that did not turn out correctly for whatever reason (condensation, not sharp, stray and unwanted light pollution, etc…). I use the Lightroom Rating feature to help identity which files I think to hold the greatest potential for processing.
  6. Once I have identified the image composition I want to process first, I select and highlight the range of exposures for that given image composition. This is usually between eight and twelve exposures
  7. I apply basic adjustments to one of the selected RAW files. The adjustments are synced across the rest of the RAW files that will be used as part of the Stacking process. I will go through the exact adjustments that I apply to my Milky Way images in a future article.
  8. Next, I export all of the processed RAW files as full sized TIFF files to the designated “Image Stacks” folder on my workstation. Once exported, I select all of them and I open them within Starry Landscape Stacker. This great application then aligns all of the exposures and stacks them with just a few simple mouse clicks. The stacking process applies a “Median Noise Averaging” process which greatly reduces the amount of total digital noise that will be present in the final outputted image file.
  9. Once the stacking process has been completed, I then export the new composited TIFF file and I then import this into relevant folder structure within my Lightroom Library.
  10. Lastly, I apply some further adjustments to the stacked TIFF file within Lightroom and exports JPEGs with relevant settings.

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

Top Tips For Capturing The Milky Way

  • Plan Your Shots – Use PhotoPills to research Milky Way visibility, rise/set times for a specified location on a particular date
  • Include strong foreground interest
  • Use large (fast) aperture lenses – ƒ/2.8 would be a minimum aperture to yield the best potential
  • Shoot several RAW exposures for each image composition while on-location. These can be stacked for noise reduction purposes
  • Bring plenty of spare batteries, suitable clothing, and coffee!

Milky Way Photography Image By Graham Daly Photography

Photographer Focus: Irish Landscape Photographer Colm Keating

Are you a fan of Landscape and Travel Photography? Then check out this article.  Continuing on with my Photographer Focus series, in this edition, I am placing the focus on Colm Keating, an Irish Photographer who currently resides in New Zealand.

Who is Colm Keating Photography? Tell us about yourself

I’m a self-taught photographer from Ireland, who now lives in New Zealand. I was studying for a doctorate in chemistry when I decided I had enough and quit to pursue photography full time. I loved chemistry, but I knew I didn’t want to spend my days inside a lab working on the same problem every day when I could be out with my camera instead. That was in Sept 2017 and my life has changed dramatically since then.  In January 2018 I moved to New Zealand, and I now live in the Queenstown, surrounded by the southern Alps.

Landscape Image by Irish Photographer Colm Keating

When did you get your first camera and what was it?

Presumably, people probably answer this question with a DSLR but the first camera that really sparked my interest in photography was the first-generation iPhone. This was the first phone I had with a camera and it is definitely the camera responsible for lighting the fire. However, after a few years of iPhone photography, I did eventually get a Canon 600D in the summer of 2013 which is where the traditional photography journey started.

As an Irish Photographer, what type of photography do you mostly shoot?

Although it doesn’t earn me a large income, I will always likely be a landscape shooter over any other genre. Living near the sea, it was seascapes in particular that I mostly shot in the beginning, but photography opened up a whole new world of other interests with it, hiking being a huge one. Now I shoot more in the mountains than anywhere else. And I have fostered a love for adventure photography involving outdoor sports since becoming an avid hiker and camper myself. This is an area where I really want to steer my business over the next few years as it combines my love of landscape photography with outdoor sports. For professionals, I think this is the ultimate goal. Many begin shooting whatever photography jobs they can when they turn pro just to keep things rolling over, however, we all would love to just shoot the type of photography we love in return for an income. This isn’t always possible, but finding a niche where you can mold that genre into a profitable product for someone is the perfect compromise, for me anyway!

Landscape Image by Irish Photographer Colm Keating

What styles of photography or subjects interest and motivate you the most?

Its always been the power and beauty of nature for me. You can go to a gorgeous place over and over and it can look so different from one day to the next, all depending on the mood and atmosphere that the weather creates.

How long have you been a serious enthusiast photographer for?

As soon as I was making dedicated trips out to take photos is when I consider a photographer to be a serious enthusiast. For me, this was about six months after picking up my first camera, so the bug really didn’t take long to manifest in me!

What has been the highlight of your photography journey so far?

Meeting all the other amazing photographers I have had the pleasure of shooting with is by far the highlight. This is pretty much an ongoing thing, which is great as its something I can look forward to for as long as I am involved in photography. Many people reading will no doubt be able to relate to the friendship that can be formed with finding someone else who also has that “photography bug”. A lot of family and regular friends just cannot comprehend why we would stand for hours in the same spot, going back day after day just to catch the place at its best, but other photographers can, and I have been lucky enough to meet many I can now call very good friends.

Landscape Image by Irish Photographer Colm Keating

If you could go back in time, what advice would you provide to your younger self-knowing what you know now?

Just get going sooner. I held myself back, convincing myself the stereotypical route of getting a stable career through my degree was the right choice for me. I now know it was not and I am glad I have made the jump to full-time photography. My only regret is that I did not do it sooner.

What are the hardest parts about the type of photography that you do?

The hardest part will always be dragging yourself out of bed for sunrise. Whether the shoot was a success or not, I have never once regretted getting up for sunrise. However, that knowledge never seems to make it easier to leave the warmth of your bed when it’s still dark outside and it seems you only crawled into it 5 mins ago.

Landscape Image by Irish Photographer Colm Keating

What is in your kit bag?

Nikon D750 and D7100. Nikon 14-24 F/2.8. Tamron 24-70 F/2.8. Sigma 70-200 F/2.8. Haida Filters CPL, 6 stop ND, 10 stop ND. 6 batteries. Peak design strap and capture pro clip. Cable release. Rollei tripod. And last but definitely not least, a shower cap!

Most Photographers have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) – what gear is on your “to get” list?

To be honest I am very happy with the gear I have. My only complaint is how heavy it all is. As I do a lot of hiking, the weight can be somewhat problematic. Therefore I am considering swapping some of my fast aperture lenses for lighter variable aperture versions. I have not decided what I will do yet though. As regards GAS, I have it pretty well controlled (I think!). I have not bought anything photography related in well over a year, except for replacing a broken tripod head. Now I just have to ensure I keep telling myself that just because I have not bought anything in a year, that it does not allow me to justify a new purchase!

Landscape Image by Irish Photographer Colm Keating

You come from Ireland and are currently living in New Zealand – which satisfies your photography more?

At the moment I have to say New Zealand. My second love is wild camping/hiking and so the setup for that here is just phenomenal. Of course, there are great places to be found for this back home in Ireland too but it is just on another level here in New Zealand. There is also the appeal of a new place, seeing something with fresh eyes. New Zealand most certainly still has for me as I have only been here for six months. I will always want to continue to explore new countries though, that is something I am confident that will never stop.

What is next on your photography journey?

Recently I have begun to shoot more people in my photography, particularly with adventure-related sports. This is something I really want to move into more over the next year or so. That will entail me learning many new skills that come with the genre so there is another steep learning curve ahead. For me though, the learning is part of the fun. Dipping into other genres can open your mind to ideas that you wouldn’t have had if you stick in the one type of photography all the time. For that reason alone I really love giving every type of photography a go. Hoping it will bring something new to my staple genre that is landscape photography.

Profile Pic for Irish Photographer Colm Keating

You can view more of Colm’s Photography over on his website at www.colmkeating.com and you can follow along with his adventures over on his Facebook Page www.fb.com/keatingcolm –  and his Instagram Feed – www.instagram.com/keatingcolm

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Photographer Focus: Coastal Photography with Rachael Talibart

Ever hear of Rachael Talibart or see her photographic work? Well, when you reach the end of this article I hope you will ask yourself “why have I not heard of this amazingly talented photographer before!”. In this second edition of my Photographer Focus series, I am placing the focus on Rachael Talibart who is a Professional Photographer based in the United Kingdom (UK).

1) Who is Rachael Talibart?

I’m a full-time professional photographer specializing in fine art coastal imagery. I live in Surrey, England now but I grew up on the South Coast, in a yachting family. For the first twelve years of my life, every weekend and all of the school holidays were spent at sea. Those years left me with a lifelong fascination for the ocean. Although I now live in a landlocked county, I go to the coast at least once a week.

I first became interested in photography during my teen years when I was given a little cartridge-film camera for Christmas, one where the case folded down to make a handle. The obsession really set in when I took my first 35mm camera on a 9-week solo backpacking trip around the world. I had just qualified as a solicitor in a big City of London firm. This job allowed me to take unpaid leave before settling into the rigors of practice. When I returned, I spent my first paycheck as a qualified solicitor on an SLR. And that was it – I was completely hooked!

Photo by Rachael Talibart

2) A question we ask all photographers – What is in your kit bag?

My main camera is a Canon 5DSR. That is accompanied by the usual selection of Canon lenses, a Benro tripod, and LEE Filters. I’m proud to say that LEE Filters now support my photography and workshops. I like the flexibility of a DSLR and I’ve been using Canon for so long now that the cameras are like an extension of my hand. This means I can concentrate on creating without any distractions. While my preferred cameras have stayed the same, my preferred lens focal lengths have changed in recent years.

My Canon 16-35mm lens used to be the most often-used lens in my kit bag but now I use it the least. I like the Canon 24-70mm and even more the Canon 70-200mm, which is probably my go-to lens these days. Using telephoto lenses and longer focal lengths enable me to simplify my compositions, allowing me to think carefully about what I want to depict.

Photo by Rachael Talibart

3) How crucial is post-processing to your photography?

I try to spend as little time on post-processing as I can. This is not because I have an attitude about it or think it’s more ‘pure’ to get the shot in camera but rather because I like being outside and not on my computer. So, obviously, I am going to be more creative in a place I enjoy. However, I do shoot RAW so I must process my images and I do almost all of that in Adobe Lightroom. I rarely need to go into Photoshop but if Photoshop helps me create the picture in my mind’s eye, then, of course, I will use it.

The other important thing for me is to try to leave a decent gap between taking an image and processing it. Sometimes, if I look at the pictures on my computer too soon after a shoot, I can feel disappointed. I’m sure we’ve all had that feeling at some point in time or another. A time gap between the capture and processing stages enables the emotion of the experience to subside and that results in a more considered edit.

Photo by Rachael Talibart

Photo by Rachael Talibart

4) Do you have a favorite image?

I find it hard to choose a favorite image but if pushed, I would probably pick Poseidon Rising. This image is one of my Sirens series, the set of images that has done most to raise my profile. Although all the photographs in this series were taken with very fast shutter speeds, they were a long time in the making. I had worked it out that the beach at Newhaven in East Sussex often had good surf. I had been going there almost every week all winter, capturing the sorts of images everyone else makes there. Essentially that of waves crashing against the lighthouse.

But I was frustrated because I felt I was making photographs similar to other people’s photographs, and I hate that. However, all those visits, while yielding no ‘keepers’, were very useful because I was working out exactly what sort of image I wanted to make there. One day, I captured a photograph of a wave, with no lighthouse and no other landmarks. Next thing I knew, an idea clicked in my head. I wanted to capture a series of waves that looked like monsters and name them after mythological maritime creatures. And so my Sirens were born.

I picked Poseidon Rising in particular because it most typifies what I was trying to achieve. A wave of attitude, named after a Greek god with plenty of attitudes, in an interesting light and unlike the images made by everyone else on that stormy day. I am so glad to see that my Sirens project has been well received. They have been winning multiple awards including Black and White Photographer of the Year and the Sunday Times Magazine’s award in Landscape Photographer of the Year. The series is being published as a fine art book, due to be released in February.

Photo by Rachael Talibart

Photo by Rachael Talibart

5) Are there any challenges to being a Landscape/Nature Photographer?

I think the most challenging part of being a nature/landscape photographer is that title! I do not really see myself as such, but that’s how I am often pigeonholed. Photography struggles to be considered as an art, in the UK especially, but to a certain degree everywhere. I think that is even worse with ‘landscape/nature’ photography. People expect images in that category to be records of recognizable places or creatures. With that sort of photography, there is still plenty of scope for artistry, skillful composition, beautiful light and subtle editing. I admire and enjoy photographs produced by many excellent photographers in this genre but it is not what I am trying to do.

I am less concerned with representing a place. When I go out on location, I am not trying faithfully to show the scene as it might have appeared to you if you had been standing right next to me. Instead, I want to show you the one thing in that scene that appealed to me personally. I want to convey how it felt to me to be there in that moment. Perhaps we should call it ‘interpretative photography’ rather than ‘fine art’ but it is all semantics in the end. Some might even argue that all photography is interpretative on some level and I can hardly disagree!

Photo by Rachael Talibart

6) Any tips for other photographers?

One piece of advice I give to my workshop clients – find a place you love, and return there repeatedly! When we travel to far-flung places, that we may never visit again, we are likely to capture the obvious and clichéd shots. We become ‘photography tourists’ to some extent. It is difficult to avoid influence from photos we have seen, that were produced by others at that place. When we return to somewhere often, we can just relax. We can risk wasting time on experiments because we know that we will be back. I think that is when people start to find their own unique vision.

Photo by Rachael Talibart

7) What does your photography future hold?

I have a lot of plans in the pipeline for 2018. There is the Sirens launch, several exhibitions, and I would like more gallery representation by the end of this year. My Workshops and Photo Tour business are continuing to grow. In fact, it is becoming hard to satisfy demand! I’m also starting to lead residential photography holidays/workshops for Ocean Capture, a leading fine art photography workshops business owned by Jonathan Chritchley.

I have a full schedule of speaking engagements and I will take on writing commissions whenever they come up, as I enjoy them. The category winners of Outdoor Photographer of the Year had been announced at the time of writing this interview. I was one of the judges for that competition this year and I’m looking forward to continuing in that role. Creatively speaking, I want to continue refining my compositions to simplify them, and seeking subjects in the smaller details. However, even if I knew I would never win another award, sell another print or run another workshop, I can honestly say that I would still be out there, in the teeth of a storm, having the best time ever and I hope to be able to do that for a very long time to come.

8) Lastly, where can we see more of your great work?

Photo by Rachael Talibart Photo by Rachael Talibart

My website is www.rachaeltalibart.com. You can also check out more of my photographic work over on my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/RachaelTalibartPhotography/, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/rachaeltalibart/ and finally over on at Twitter at https://twitter.com/RTalibart.

Photographer Focus: Laura Oppelt Photography

Several weeks ago I was contacted by Sleeklens and interviewed  [ Graham Daly Spotlight Interview ]. Needless to say, I was delighted to be interviewed and allowed to share my photographic journey and insights with the Sleeklens audience. Now, I am also delighted to actually be writing and contributing content towards this very same great audience – how cool is that!

To start things off, I wanted to introduce a new “Photographer Focus” series whereby I intend to place the focus on various photographers that have caught my own attention and whose photographic work inspires me to head out with my own camera. In this edition, I am focusing on Laura Oppelt, an incredibly talented 20-year-old landscape photographer from Germany.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

1) Who is Laura Oppelt?

My name is Laura Oppelt and I was born in 1998 in a small town near Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Growing up in the countryside, I enjoyed being outdoors and discovering nature. When I was younger, I got a cheap camera and started to literally photograph everything around me. The images were poor in terms of photographic quality and just snapshots really but I kept going and later decided to save money for my first DSLR. Since that time back in the summer of 2013 I really worked hard on improving my photography knowledge (a continual work-in-progress!) and I decided to focus my attention and energy on landscape photography.

The greatest step so far in my development took place in 2016 when I switched to a Full Frame DSLR. Even though the camera is just a tool for taking pictures and by far not the most important thing, it gave me a more satisfied feeling and afforded me new possibilities. But the best teacher is practice! The importance of trial and error really cannot be underestimated. During my travels, I learned a lot, discovered stunning places and experienced the beauty of our world, which is the basis for all my pictures. I still consider myself as a learner and search for my own style but I’m very curious what will come next.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

2) Do you find that your passion for photography consumes a lot of your time?

Yes! I try to head away on photo trips as often as possible and especially on the weekends I’m really busy with photography. As it’s my biggest hobby, I love spending time with it, but that’s not always possible of course. A very time-expensive aspect of photography is also the post-processing. I’ve still got loads of unprocessed images and I don’t know if they will ever be processed!

3) A question that all photographers are asked – What is in your kit bag?

I’m shooting with the Canon 6D and the Canon wide 16-35mm f/4 lens. I also always carry a Sigma 20mm f/1.4 in my camera bag for night photography. Let us also not forget the Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens. Lastly, I use a Sirui tripod and LEE Filters.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

4) What is your general workflow when taking pictures?

That depends on the conditions and the scene. I always use the Live View function of the camera to compose the image and try to find leading lines as well as foreground interest. Then I decide if filters are necessary or not and if yes, which specific filter (e.g. a graduated hard or soft filter). Besides that, I often take three different exposures, in case that I need them later in post-production.

5) What is the key ingredient that you always look for when producing images?

I think an interesting foreground is always a great way of strengthening your image composition, especially in landscape photography. Sometimes I include people in my images as well to add some scale.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

6) How crucial is post-processing to your photography?

It’s an important issue for me because I want to make the best out of my images and with some very easy steps, such as boosting contrast or adding a vignette, you can increase the overall effectiveness of the image. But I also don’t want to spend too much time with the post-processing and I try to keep the image as natural as possible.

7) Do you have a favorite image?

That’s a quite difficult question because I’ve got different favorites due to different reasons. There are favorite images because of the experience I had when taking them and there are favorites because I’m very satisfied with the editor the composition or the light captured within the image. If I had to pick only one photo, I would choose a photo I took during a backpacking tour on the Faroe Islands in the summer of 2017 because everything just came together perfectly: the landscape (a mountain above the sea with a great view over the fjords and the villages at the coast line), the light (right before sunset) and the experience (it was pure freedom on top of that mountain peak with an incredible view). I titled the photo “Experience for a Lifetime“ because it had such a great impact on me.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

8) Are there any challenges to being a Landscape Photographer?

Yes! The constantly changing weather situations and that it sometimes takes huge power and resolve to overcome your own laziness! And of course that you manage to make the people who look at your images feel the same that you felt in the moment when you pressed the shutter. That is probably the most difficult and challenging aspect of all.

9) Any tips for other photographers?

Maybe that the most important thing about photography is that you like what you do and that you have fun. Take the images for yourself and not for somebody else. Try to develop your own style which is very challenging in its own right because I think this is a never-ending process.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

10) What inspires you?

Our beautiful world has so much to offer that I think inspiration can come from everywhere. Other photographers who have a lot of impact on my own motivation are Dennis Polkläser, Nicholas Roemmelt, and Bruno Pisani, to just name three of them.

11) What does your photography future hold?

A challenging question because there are so many possibilities. I would like to just improve my image making abilities further and to experience some new photography adventures. I would also really love to publish some of my pictures in magazines or to have an own exhibition someday … But that’s very far away from now.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

12) Is there anything else you want to say?

Go out, explore and enjoy life! Simple, but so difficult at the same time!

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

13) Lastly, where can we see more of your great work?

I have a brand new website now at www.laura-oppelt-photography.de . My 500px account is https://500px.com/laura_oppelt. You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lauraoppeltphotography and my Instagram profile at https://www.instagram.com/oppdager/.

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What to Do When Things Go Wrong During a Portrait Photo Shoot

Failure can’t always be avoided

. Crying children, uncomfortable models, and technical issues can all stop you from having a creatively fulfilling photoshoot. Even though people and situations are unpredictable, you can have control over what happens. There are things you can do to:

Below are five scenarios featuring different people and obstacles. Each scenario comes with a few solutions that will keep you grounded and make your subjects feel at home. With these tips in mind, you won’t have to panic the next time you bump into an intimidating problem. Just take a deep breath, remember what you learned, and act like the skilled photographer that you really are.

child hiding behind hands

Take a Break When the Kids Start to Cry

It’s easy for children to lose their patience, especially in the presence of a stranger. If your little model starts to cry or run around, don’t get frustrated. Most importantly, don’t show your frustration. Patience will clear your mind, allow you to find a solution quickly, and show your clients that you’re a tolerant photographer.

If your model is restless, let the entire family take a break. Even if this adds an extra hour to your session, it will be significantly better than continuing and getting highly unflattering results. Once everyone has relaxed (talking and eating always help!) you can safely continue your shoot. If you want to be very hospitable, have a few goodies ready for when your models get tired. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.

two girls covered in blankets laughing outside

When Your Model Looks Uncomfortable, Be Supportive

Feeling left out and incompetent can immediately ruin anyone’s self-confidence. To solve this problem, be open about your past experiences. Make sure your subject feels like a normal individual worthy of being photographed. Don’t let your models bring themselves down. Don’t make it seem like perfection is attainable. What you want is for them to feel their best. Once they do, everything else will fall into place.

Be kind, share funny experiences from the past, try to make them smile, and let them know that making mistakes is okay! If they get the idea that you won’t lose your temper every time they strike the wrong pose, you’ll gain their trust and boost their confidence.

photography equipment flatlay

When There’s a Technical Issue, Make Sure You Have Backup Gear

Many wedding photographers stick to this rule like their lives depend on it. Without backup gear, a full-day shoot can turn into a photographer’s worst nightmare. Here are a few things you should have (in addition to your main equipment) in case something breaks:

    • Camera body
    • Batteries
    • Lenses
    • Lens filters
    • Memory cards

If you’d like to find out more about backup gear, check out this article.

girl holding an umbrella

Prepare Lighting Equipment in Case the Weather Gets Bad

Make sure you check the weather forecast before you plan a shoot. If the weather isn’t promising and you can’t afford to postpone your shoot, bring an umbrella and a reflector to the location. An umbrella will keep you, your equipment, and your clients dry during an unexpected storm; a reflector will enhance your subjects’ faces on an overcast day.

In addition to bringing helpful equipment, make sure there’s a building nearby where you could stay during a storm. The last thing you want is to make your clients feel unsafe. Knowing what to do and where to go will save you from a lot of unnecessary misunderstandings in the future.

silhouette of girl against nightsky

Photography, like any other job, has the potential to throw you into a pit of annoying mistakes. Don’t let this trouble you. Knowing how to deal with problems will help you focus on what matters most: taking incredible photographs of incredible people. Being prepared may not completely eliminate failure, but it will definitely keep you happy, sane, and positive. That, dear reader, is how you deserve to feel.

 

Where to Find Cheap Photography Props That Will Boost Your Inspiration

Photography-related products don’t always have to be expensive. Sometimes, the cheapest and most beautiful props can be found in the most unexpected places. If you take the time to look for them, you’ll find priceless gems that will boost your inspiration and make you a more creative photographer. Being able to make unusual items look graceful in photographs will give you a chance to improve as an artist. Your skills will help you make the most of any photo shoot, regardless of your budget. This will attract clients to you, give you more room to think outside the box and make you stand out as a photographer.

If you want to be a more imaginative artist, you should expose yourself to more opportunities. What every person can benefit from is the ability to find affordable items that will help him or her create a masterpiece. These items can be found almost anywhere: in thrift stores, libraries, and more. Here is a complete list of places where you can find awesome props and boost your inspiration.

girl browsing in a thrift store

Thrift Stores

Some items simply don’t look good when they reach a certain age. Others go out of fashion, are passed down to unenthusiastic family members, or lose their spark. While these possessions may not appeal to their owners, they could catch your artistic eye. Clothing items like scarves, which may not look that beautiful on a neck anymore, can be turned into props and used as elegant backdrops, foregrounds, or materials for DIY projects. There’s no limit when it comes to the potential of used items like these.

Other things you might find in thrift stores are vintage gems ideal for conceptual photo shoots, interesting items of clothing, and materials you could use to create foregrounds/backgrounds. Such props may also inspire you to embrace photo manipulation; for example, obscure items like curtains can be transformed into mighty waves or extravagant gowns in Photoshop. If you’re a fan of editing, thrift stores will open a whole new world for you!

second-hand books

Second-Hand Bookstores and Libraries

Purchasing used books will open your mind, give you creative ideas, and encourage you to experiment with something new. A fictional character’s perseverance, for instance, may become a source of empowerment for you. If you’re into fiction, look for relatable stories and characters. Finding comfort in magical realism will provide you with an unquenchable thirst for meaningful photographs.

If you prefer non-fiction, keep an eye out for coffee tables books with inspiring visual references or how-to books related to art. These guides will teach you something new about your beloved hobby or simply give you the opportunity to find pure inspiration.

flatlay - DIY materials

Online Stores

Websites like Amazon and eBay are filled with cheap props that can significantly improve your work. When you search for items, make sure you avoid products that might hurt you or damage your camera. Safe props include:

    • Backdrops
    • Wigs
    • Costumes
    • Accessories like glasses

The quirkier an item, the more striking your results will be!

children working on a diy project

At Home

Confetti garlands, giant polaroid photo frames, flower crowns, chalk drawings, dreamy photo filters, and paper masks are all things you can make on your own. (If you have children, some of these DIY projects will keep them entertained and encourage them to pose for the camera!) DIY projects can be found almost anywhere online. The ideas are unique, affordable, and fun.

If you’re interested in any of these projects, let us know and we’ll make a separate tutorial for you! 🙂

thrift store

Though investing in valuable photography equipment is necessary, you don’t have to do it all the time. Find used items, turn them into works of art, and show others how wonderfully creative you are. Once you’re happy with the results, donate your props; someone might find them just as inspiring and create incredible art of their own. It’s a beautifully organic process. Why not become a part of it today?

What to Avoid When Posing Models: A Reference Guide

If you’re active on social media, you’re probably familiar with the perfect photo: a body-flattering pose, a breathtaking expression, and a look that speaks of pure confidence. It may seem like the models in such photos are naturally perfect and that nobody else can even dream of modeling the same way. The truth is that these individuals simply have a strong knowledge of posing which greatly contributes to their modeling success.

Certain angles can make even the most stunning models look unappealing. Every person has a variety of expressions and poses that can make or break an image. It’s up to you to help your subjects find these strengths. To do this, you can show them what not to do. The reason this approach works is that mistakes, unlike ideal poses, are universal; anyone can learn from them. Once your subjects know what to avoid, they’ll discover confidence-boosting poses that will not only make them look incredible in your photos but give you a chance to take your work to the next level. Let’s begin!

model posing out in nature

Don’t Make Them Uncomfortable

Awkwardness and posing don’t work too well together. An overload of compliments, criticism, or silence will make any model feel out of place. If you don’t want to try too hard and give the wrong impression, get to know your subject’s personality first. This will help you understand the kind of treatment they’d be happy with. Even a short conversation will reveal their personality and, in turn, allow you to reveal yours.

Don’t forget to talk about yourself, too. Opening up to people will make you appear relatable, charismatic, and friendly. You and your model may find mutual interests or acquaintances that will help you bond during the photoshoot. And even if you don’t perfectly click with someone, there will always be an opportunity to make them feel good in your presence.

man standing in front of wall

Don’t Ask Them to Pose Immediately

Many photographers treat posing like acting. Instead of telling their models to strike a pose, they ask them to move around, interact with their surroundings, and visualize something specific. This may not appeal to every person you work with, but there’s something important you can learn from it: giving your models room for imagination will help them pose naturally. Spontaneity, in addition to a lack of strictness, will open up many creative doors for you.

model posing outdoors

Avoid These Poses

Once your model feels comfortable in front of your camera, it’s time to let him or her know what to avoid:

  • Slouching: this is something many people do unintentionally. To avoid this, your models should straighten their backs, take a few deep breaths, and slightly turn away from the camera. This will instantly make them look relaxed and comfortable.
  • Entire body facing the camera: this will make your models look awkward and wide. Instead of facing the camera, your subjects can slightly turn their shoulders or put their hands on their hips.
  • Pressing arm against the body: this will flatten your subjects’ arms and make them look much bigger than they actually are.

model laughing in a field

Don’t Forget the Hands

Awkward-looking hand poses can make a generally beautiful image look unnatural. Make sure your models’ hands are relaxed; their fingers should be slightly spread out and placed on their shoulders, under their chins, or wherever they decide. Give them freedom when it comes to their hands, but always make sure to correct them when they start to look too tense. A proper hand pose will give your photographs an air of grace. When your models see how elegant they look in your photos, they’ll feel even more confident in your presence.

closeup of a model holding her face

Posing isn’t always a walk in the park. Even professionals need clear instructions when working with new photographers. If someone with years of experience needs direction, imagine what a struggle it is for non-models to feel comfortable in front of the camera! A small amount of patience and posing knowledge are all you need to create a healthy photographer-model relationship.

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When Should You Embrace B&W Photography?

When does an image deserve to be converted to black and white? This is a question you have probably asked yourself countless of times during confusing editing sessions. Some photographs simply look better in black and white, while others stand out gracefully only when their true colors are present. Others look fantastic no matter what.

To make the decision-making process easier, consider the points below. They’ll help you answer important questions about your work, ones that will give your photographs a chance to shine in the best way possible. You’ll be compelled to observe your image, spot both distracting and appealing elements, and come to a conclusion you won’t regret.

This is when you should embrace b&w photography:

cat yawning

 

When Your Photograph Is Hard to Edit

Some photographs simply don’t look appealing in color. More often than not, those same images look significantly more beautiful in black and white. If your photo has too many distracting colors, chances are that you’ll like its monochromatic version much more. I’m often surprised to see what a dramatic change a simple conversion can make!

When There Are Lots of Shadows

A person’s face partially hidden by mysterious shadows, a street filled with silhouettes on a bright day, and a mountain surrounded by intimidating rainclouds all have one thing in common: they possess photogenic shadows. Impactful black & white photographs often have a lot of contrast, so pointing it out in your own work using highlights and shadows will make it look all the more astounding.

man and train

When You Want to Get Rid of Busy Elements

In addition to color, there are many elements that can ruin a photograph’s composition. A background filled with moving objects of various colors, shapes, and sizes may distract the viewer’s eye and obliterate the entire meaning of an image. If you have photos of locations crowded with different subjects, convert your results to black & white. This will help viewers clearly see what you want them to see.

When There Are Textures Involved

Eye-catching textures have the potential to get lost in colorful compositions. Faces, houses, roads, and landscapes are all made up of elements that, when devoid of color, transform into masterpieces of their own. If your image is filled with interesting lines, patterns, and shapes then consider converting it to black & white. To really enhance the textures in your image, gently increase the clarity, contrast, and sharpness in your editing program.

comparison for b&w
Edits like this are subtle yet effective. To create a similar effect, increase your photograph’s clarity, contrast, and sharpness in Lightroom. The Tone Curve tool is also very helpful when it comes to intensifying highlights and shadows.

 

When There’s an Abundance of Negative Space

Environments are ideal for telling deeper stories, focusing on unusual subjects, and highlighting things the human eye wouldn’t notice at first glance. Unfortunately, environments are also known for their negative space, something that can prove to be a nuisance during the editing process. If you take very atmospheric and environmental photographs, black & white photography may be perfect for you. Black & white conversion will turn any extra space into an aesthetically pleasing blank canvas.

When Emotions Are Your Main Focus

This is particularly helpful for portrait photographers. Relationships between people – and human emotions in general – look very genuine and raw in black and white. Experiment with black & white if you have intimate photos of this sort, and you may get very touching results.

happy couple laughing

From now on, black & white photography will no longer be an unsolvable mystery. Whether you’re an avid portrait photographer, a curious landscape artist, or an eager photography enthusiast, a solid knowledge of black & white photography’s strengths will strengthen your own work. Once you familiarise yourself with the approaches above, you’ll know exactly what to do with every image you edit in the future.

cycling on a bridge

Best Camera Drones to Buy and How to Use and Fly Them

Best camera drone in your equipment is the best way to stay in loop with modern photography technology. Many may say that with modern advancements in technology, anybody can become a photographer very quickly. While we have to agree that this is partially true, we also need to carefully consider what it means to be a photographer. It is not just a matter of pointing and shooting whatever that strikes your fancy, but learning about techniques, art, having your pictures tell a story and sharing a bit of your soul in every single picture you take.

dji phantom

To that point – how can technology make someone a better photographer if machines can’t express feelings like we do? Technology on its own can’t replace what many years of experience and proper training actually gives a user, but it can become a really good companion for boosting our hidden potential and encouraging users to go further with their work.

dji phantom

Not so long ago, thinking about aerial photography was quite the challenge. You couldn’t just say, “Okay, I am going to take a picture of my city from above” without considering the complications. You would need to have access to at least a really tall building in order to catch most of your city, or – if you are wealthy enough – be able to pay for a photography trip via helicopter with good camera equipment. These days, with the technological advancement in the photography field, drones can completely replace the old-school experience, making even aerial photography look like child’s play.

drones

16 Best Drones for Photography Reviewed

MJX Bugs 2W[2 Batteries Included]Go to Amazon[2 Batteries Included]
[2 Batteries Included]
A really curious drone, don’t be fooled by the somewhat ‘childish’ appearance of this drone, it’s one of the cheapest and reliable drones you can find in the market. Let’s meet the big brother of the MJX Bugs family, the MJX Bugs 2W!
Watch video review
Overall rating:
75
Design:
0
74
100
Price:
0
80
100
Flight Speed:
0
65
100
Image Quality:
0
80
100
Pros
  • GPS + GLONASS Reception
  • Return-to-Home features
  • Reliable telemetry
  • Long battery for a cheap drone
  • Cheap
Cons
  • WiFi FPV mode requires a smartphone compatible with 5GHz WiFi
  • Needs to be calibrated before each session
Click to read the full Review
It is a not-so-known brand, but that shouldn’t be something to set you back before considering what this drone has to offer. In their third lineup of products, MJX has done quite the work to ensure the quality of their products, and this MJX Bugs 2W is the big brother of the series.

First and foremost, the size is pretty noticeable if you compare it with the Bugs 3 and Bugs 3 Mini Units. The propellers also look tougher and its body has been redesigned to ensure the best aerodynamic performance. The fact that it includes both GPS and GLONASS reception technology is an incredible bright side for a drone that goes below the $300 price tag, but that’s not all as you can record your flights in both FullHD quality or in 720p FPV mode that requires a 5GHz WiFi connection to work.

The Air Press Altitude Hold is amazingly useful for stabilizing our shots thanks to its built-in barometer, yet a gimbal would have been a good addition for this unit to meet up with the standards of the industry.

The operative range of this unit is set around the 500-600 meters mark, though spec sheet claims it can meet up to 800 or 1000 meters. That’s if you operate under the normal flight mode. FPV mode, in 720p recording quality, is said to be able to reach over 500 meters flight distances, however, do keep in mind that 5GHz frequency connections are more susceptible to obstacles, though they won’t suffer the channel overlapping issue that’s quite common with 2.4GHz frequencies.

In what respects to its camera, it’s a balanced option for those who are looking for a budget-intended option without falling into a children’s drone unit. You will require, however, to calibrate the unit prior each take off, which for us it’s a considerable nuisance that could have been fixed no doubt.

Finally, battery life is said to last up to 18 minutes, something that surprised us as it can meet up with some DJI models as the Mavic Air or the Spark itself.
Parrot Bebop 2Go to Amazon
Parrot never ceases to amaze us with their ability to create incredibly attractive products, with good image quality, and ideal for beginners. Frankly, if you going out and buying your first drone, and the budget is an item to consider, this one is probably your best option.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
78
Design:
0
75
100
Price:
0
90
100
Flight Speed:
0
67
100
Image Quality:
0
79
100
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Easy to operate
  • Ideal for beginners
Cons
  • Imprecise tablet controls
  • Limited battery life
  • Limited autonomy
Click to read the full Review
Portable to the point of being able to join your routes right inside your backpack, this is Parrot’s shot on pocket-sized drones meant for beginners and video students mostly.

Whereas some people tend to misjudge these units for their childish appearance, the truth is this easy-to-use drone might surprise many users with its versatility and amount of features to offer. We can control the unit by using a phone or tablet, though using a touchscreen system isn’t the best experience we can relate to, it isn’t as bad as it sounds: you just need to tap or slide your fingers at the smartphone/tablet screen to make your drone move. The app is entirely free, but if you wish to have more control over your flying abilities, you can always make a $20 in-app purchase to unlock its advanced flying mode. There’s a valid alternative in the Parrot’s Skycontroller, but we’ll talk about such accessory later on.

The Price of Innovation

For some people, this isn’t a budget-minded solution but a cult device to own, as we can safely say the difference between the Parrot Bebop 2 and the DJI Phantom 3 Standard isn’t noticeable, being the balance tilted in favour of DJI regarding image quality, sturdiness and overall flight experience. That’s why the Parrot Bebop 2 must attend the needs of another kind of market currently unaware of the vast amount of knowledge to acquire prior even starting to use a drone.
If your intent is to use a drone for family meetings, friends’ gatherings or to stay by your side when making minor journeys, then look no further as this model is fantastic – plus the Skycontroller makes the experience as easy as to pilot a kid’s helicopter RC model. However, if you consider you fall under the “enthusiast photographer” label, then you should look at Parrot’s professional line products or what DJI has to offer for this price range.

Image Quality

Parrot did a great job in protecting the gear against most common climate factors we can encounter such as dust or raindrops, though it would be imprudent to label this product as waterproof just because of a good weather-impact prevention attitude.
There is an upgrade from previous models regarding the overall quality of the camera to compare with predecessor is notorious: not only we count with a better camera in terms of use, but the increased field of view (estimated in 180-degree FOV) can produce some really interesting footages if we don’t mind some minor image distortion.

Adding a Gimbal

Like what we studied above with the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, Parrot also features this technology to ensure image quality while flying but also to protect the unit against most common bad-move damages. With a three-axis digital stabilization system, the overall experience is a smooth video that can even compete with the “more professional” footages made with GoPro cameras. Panning and tilting techniques work digitally, as the model cannot allow any kind of gear movement or it will risk the flying capabilities of the device, and the effect crafted is so convincing that you need to look closely at the unit to realise there isn’t any physical movement linked to it.

Flying Experience

Though it’s possible to fly this unit up to 300 meters away from us using a mobile device, we should be cautious as this depends mostly on three factors: current firmware, flying skills and conditions of the place to fly (i.e.: flight distance will be reduced if the area is too crowded either by buildings or nature as signal is chopped).

The Return-to-Home option is a much-expected upgrade for this drone in comparison with its predecessor, helping us to have greater control without compromising its physical integrity.
In case you are willing to enjoy a truly marvellous flying experience, feel ready to spend a couple of hundred dollars for acquiring the Parrot Skycontroller: full manual controls for the drone in RC-fashion and amplified WiFi radio for reaching distances as far as 2km from your current position if flying conditions are optimal. Another key advantage of the Skycontroller is that you don’t lose track of your current flying position as an HDMI output allow us to pair this control with any compatible tablet, smartphone or even television.

Battery life for this unit is the same as the original Parrot Bebop drone, though support system for the battery was revised to make it more stable when doing any kind of intrepid flips.

Is there a downside with this drone? Unfortunately yes, and it is directly linked to its storage capacity, being only 8 GB available to use as internal hard drive, with no option for microSD card slot. You can upload files wirelessly to your computer or use a micro-USB cable – the drone needs to be turned on the entire time of the transfer process.
Parrot AR Drone 2 EliteGo to Amazon
Parrot is not only limited to produce beginner-level drones, but it also manufactures medium-range drones. This model in particular is a quadcopter that comes in 3 different camouflage finishes: sand, winter and jungle. The difference between them is merely a fact of aesthetics, since the functions remain the same.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
69
Design:
0
61
100
Price:
0
94
100
Flight Speed:
0
67
100
Image Quality:
0
55
100
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Easy to operate
  • Ideal for beginners
Cons
  • Imprecise tablet controls
  • Limited battery life
  • Limited autonomy
Click to read the full Review
Even if it can trick us due to its price, most certainly this product is a step forward towards professional quality work from Parrot. The Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 is a quadcopter entirely operative with your smartphone or tablet.

Regardless of the natural resistance to quadcopter systems due the higher skillset needed to fly the unit, the Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 features two built-in cameras, helping us to quickly switch viewpoints and improve our flying experience. With a plastic body with foam rings surrounding the rotors for extra protection, this unit takes in consideration the high accident rate drones tend to show, though we cannot say it’s entirely shockproof.

Flying Experience

Like the Parrot Bebop 2, the AR Drone 2.0 does not include any specific controller as it’s meant to be used directly with your smart device. There is, however, a nice alternative to operate this drone with the help of a joystick layout thanks to its compatibility with Nvidia Shield Technology, and whose physical analog sticks make the flying experience entirely more realistic.

For those who pick the standard flying mode, the app shows two stick controls:

1) Left stick meant for controlling elevation and drone direction
2) Right stick for moving the unit around (forward, backward, left or right depending on where the drone is currently facing as its own North).

Since four rotors take action to move this unit, battery life isn’t as desirable. Swapping batteries is needed each 12 minutes of flight, which is not what we can expect from a high-end drone, though for its price it certainly does a decent job. Battery charge time is rated around an hour and a half, and unit also includes its AC adapter.

How is flight experience in general? Unless you decide to do risky tricks like flips and barrel rolls, the 10-12 min flight isn’t as discouraging as it sounds. However, as much energy you require to put the unit in movement is the amount of battery life you’re chipping in the process: keep in mind battery span can be reduced to just 5 minutes by doing practice flips on air. When battery is entirely out of power, the unit will shut itself and attempt to land safely thanks to its energy reserve for reducing massive impacts.

Video Footages

The 720p quality, for the price paid for the unit, is more than what we can ask for. Of course this not compete with DJI or Yuneec lines, though the technique required to properly fly it certainly puts this compact drone among the products worth to be tested. Don’t expect any sound to show up, drone rotors would easily disrupt the sound, meaning the device would be wasting energy in trying to process.
Blade 180 QX HDGo to Amazon
As a drone designed for beginners, it packs SAFE technology, which is a system designed by Blade to ensure the stability of the device using a gyroscope and an accelerometer.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
69
Design:
0
45
100
Price:
0
83
100
Flight Speed:
0
81
100
Image Quality:
0
67
100
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Easy to operate
  • Ideal for beginners
Cons
  • Cheap material quality
  • Poor range
  • Poor flight time
Click to read the full Review
If you are looking for a device to test if flying a drone is your thing, then you are heading towards the right direction! The Blade 180 QX HD is a cheap product for those who desire to enter this world for under $200.

This drone model features SAFE Technology (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope, which in plain English ends up being an innovative combination of multi-axis sensors and software tailored for allowing a model aircraft to know its relative position to the horizon. By doing so, beginners can feel the benefits of learning how to operate a drone with ease, though this model isn’t intended for entire beginners. Its light body allows the unit to display considerably good flight speeds, though not the ones that can compete with professional devices which, normally, don’t even get highlighted as key features as its bulkier bodies and strong rotors allow such speeds.

The limited battery life only permits sessions of up to 10 minutes’ flight, which of course depends on the amount of flips you happened to make through the course of it. On this regard, it’s an average flight time for drones ranked in this price range, though it can feel discouraging if you plan to train for harder working sessions. It takes up to an hour for charging these batteries, though we recommend you to buy some spare batteries to enhance your shooting sessions.

Finally, one extra fine feature to consider is the drone’s LED lights included, which significantly change your night flight experience. Even if the camera isn’t as you dream for these harsh videomaking conditions, the Blade 180 QX HD has plenty aspects to surprise us with.
Yuneec Q500 4KGo to Amazon
As a company that we could label as a direct competitor of DJI in regards to product quality, we could say that this drone is simply not as commercially well known as the DJI Phantom 4K, but the overall quality is right up there with it.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
82
Design:
0
97
100
Price:
0
61
100
Flight Speed:
0
80
100
Image Quality:
0
90
100
Pros
  • 4K Video
  • Incredible sensible controls
  • Sturdy body
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Long charge time
Click to read the full Review
Being able to pair a GoPro camera isn’t the endgame for drones, and certainly, Yuneec knows how to craft an impressive device featuring one of the finest 4K drone cameras we can see in today’s market.

Targeting DJI as their main competitor, there’s no surprise in finding the price range of this unit to be similar to the Phantom 4K Pro, with a yet more aggressive look that resembles the Mavic models. Stepping right below professional quality material, the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K is meant to be used for both amateur and professional work. Why can’t it be labelled as a professional level device? Two reasons: sturdiness and its flight capabilities.

One of the aspects we liked about this drone is its size: label it as big, since it overpowers the DJI Phantom 3 by 120 mm on the motor-to-motor measurement. Easy to spot from a distance but requires you to carry it around in its own large, sturdy aluminium case.

Alongside with the drone, we can find two batteries, its charger, two sets of propellers, the controller, a neck-strap, and the SteadyGrip handheld mount. Add to that good range of accessories a cable to charge the unit with our car’s battery, and we can safely welcome one of the best travel-intended bundles we can find.

Body and Flight Performance

The setup procedure for this drone is quite simple: just load the propellers, charge batteries, controller, and that’s all. It will take around three minutes to get the system to respond as It needs first to load the interface via smartphone, then about two minutes for GPS satellite acquisition. Since we cannot program an automatic takeoff, you need to work your way with the controller. Press and hold the button will set the rotors to start spinning and then you need to increase the speed on the left stick. Landing is also manual as you can imagine, but the device is stable enough to land whenever close to the ground, in comparison to other models we can find on the market – much appreciated for beginner users.

Since its body is mostly made of plastic, you get that false sense of threat whenever thinking of operating this unit, as potential damage is prone to happen if you are not careful enough. A little disappointing when investing so much money for a drone if we compare this device with DJI units.

The controller features a tiny screen at the bottom, which in my opinion isn’t suitable for most users as you would prefer to see it above the sticks, not cover it with your hands when operating this drone. The drone will move in the direction set by the right switch, so consider it like a sort of joystick you need to get used to. Smart Mode is available for these two options: Follow Me and Watch Me – both entirely relied on GPS signal. The difference between both is that Watch Me mode keeps the pilot framed in the camera no matter how the pilot moves, tilting the camera if needed in the process.

Image Quality

We can work with several resolutions when recording, the highest one being 4K Ultra HD at 30 fps. High-speed video can be recorded but in FullHD, and same can be said for Slow Motion mode at 120 fps. The focus is sharp. Therefore you shouldn’t have anything to complain about unless your camera happens to be damaged.
With the three-axis gimbal, drastic movements aren’t noticeable in your clips. However, you can still appreciate some interference in the case of heavy wind gusts.
Xiro Xplorer GGo to Amazon
If ever you thought of an ideal partnership between action cameras and drones, here is the closest answer. Instead of having a camera integrated into most of the drones designed for photography do, Xiro Xplorer G comes with a gimbal on which we can place the action camera that we want; although the maximum size it will support is the equivalent of a GoPro Hero 4. This gives us complete freedom to purchase the camera we want, especially if we take into account that as a drone in itself, is a quite economic gear for everything that offers.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
57
Design:
0
57
100
Price:
0
60
100
Flight Speed:
0
48
100
Image Quality:
0
61
100
Pros
  • Works with GoPro Hero 3/4 cameras
  • Automated takeoff and landing
  • Cheap
Cons
  • Can be tricky to fit cameras on its gimbal
Click to read the full Review
If you are looking for a drone to pair with your very own Action Camera, then the Xiro Xplorer G should be your go-to option.
Compatible with GoPro Hero3 and Hero4 cameras, this compact aircraft can offer you much control with a GPS-stabilized system that doesn’t have much to envy to more expensive models from Yuneec or DJI.

Design and Flight Performance

This drone’s gimbal is designed for quick mounting your GoPro camera, which means you just need to slide it from the side. The downside of this setup method is that bulkier cameras like the Hero5 aren’t compatible with this drone, thus you are limited to now outdated action camera models. After the camera is placed, plug your camera to the drone’s body through an USB bridge and that’s all. In case you feel paranoid enough about risking your gear, some duct tape can do the work of reinforcing the already rigid enclosure.

Speaking of its size, the Xiro Xplorer is somewhat larger than the Parrot Bebop 2 we reviewed, and since its weight is estimated at 2.2 pounds (1 kg approx.), you need to register the unit with the FAA prior to flying it outdoors in the US, like what happens to most DJI models.

Four rotors and four plastic legs that you manually need to extend prior takeoff are all that this unit needs for flying. With the lights included underneath each propeller, we can safely fly this unit under low-light conditions as it helps our visibility.

For the estimated flight time, we can rank it around 20 mins per charge. The device will return home automatically and land if battery level drops to 10% or below – that’s one cool feature to count with. Extra batteries are rated about $130 each.
The maximum flight altitude is estimated at 120 meters, while the maximum distance ranges out to 600 meters. This is limited by a system of 3 switches, where each setting establishes the limits of altitude and horizontal distance - Mode 1 being the one with the shortest range and Mode 3 of greatest. Flight speeds can be as high as 17.9mph in horizontal and 6.7mph in vertical, for Mode 3 setup.

Some Control Considerations

What we need to be aware prior buying this gear is the actual size of the smartphone we own to pair it with this unit. Even if the attachment included works for most smartphones available in the market these days, models that rank about the size of the iPhone 6 Plus won’t fit in the so-called area, thus discarding altogether the chance of using a tablet as your drone’s monitor to keep an eye on the flight to make.
Syma X5C Quadcopter HDGo to Amazon
Another option we should consider when getting a new drone, the Syma X5C is intended for amateur pilots who seek to familiarize themselves with this whole drone photography world without making it a big fuss or investment. In order to provide that to the user, this model features a 720p capable camera, able to record while keeping the image quality clear thanks to its stabilization by the software system.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
55
Design:
0
40
100
Price:
0
98
100
Flight Speed:
0
40
100
Image Quality:
0
40
100
Pros
  • Amazingly cheap
  • Records in HD 720p
  • Individual parts are apt for replacement
Cons
  • Its body is made out of plastic
  • Poor flight time
  • Takes long to recharge its battery
Click to read the full Review
In appearance, it looks as if it was inspired by the DJI Phantom line, although for the price we cannot expect such material quality - in fact, this model is mostly made out of plastic, which we can lead to some doubts about its durability, however, every single part is easily replaceable.

The major drawback of this model is that only lasts up on the air for 6-7 minutes, without any previous warning system of running out of power, so the answer is: yes, you're likely to encounter yourself dealing with a crashed drone if you're not careful enough. The amount of time needed to recharge this drone (up to 90 minutes) only make things worse, however for the price you can acquire this unit, that should be the lesser of your worries as it isn't intended for any serious aerial photography sessions, but mostly for some quick videos and for training your skills without investing as much money as it would be with any other brand model.

The control layout is quite easy to handle, even educational for beginners, and it also features a 720p HD camera. 4GB microSD card is included for storage. What sounds attractive for most people is the fact that you can replace any part of this unit, as they happen to be available online for a modicum fee but also the drone includes a printed guide on how to dismantle the unit whenever needed.
Also, do consider there is no stabilization system for this drone, thus shaky recordings are to be expected. Good and bad thoughts can be stated in this regard since when it does not prove to be reliable enough to produce quality work, it also teaches us how to improve our flying skills to minimize its impact.
DJI Phantom 4 ProGo to Amazon
No one can deny the popularity of DJI drones. Out of the industry, this sole brand is like the “Apple of Drones”, sort to say. Cool design, extremely reliable performance, a good bunch of tutorials and accessories to experiment… you have it all!
This time we’re analysing the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the professional option available at the moment from this brand for those who want to put their drone experience to a higher level but without needing to acquire a high-end product.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
89
Design:
0
97
100
Price:
0
70
100
Flight Speed:
0
94
100
Image Quality:
0
95
100
Pros
  • Camera features
  • Easy-to-master flight controls
  • 4K Recording
  • Weather resistant
  • Long-distance control
  • Return-to-home
  • Forward and rear obstacle detection
Cons
  • Price
  • Low battery life
Click to read the full Review
Conceived as a revision of the DJI Phantom 4, the Phantom 4 Pro features some significant improvements, being the new 5-direction obstacle avoidance system the most noticeable one. How does this work? DJI has added better quality sensors on its front, back, left, right and bottom so the entire environment as a 3d experience, helping to avoid elements as trees, buildings or any other hazards to the unit that the user may not be able to see from its position.

This unit’s camera has been revised as well. Including a 1-inch image sensor and raising the recording resolution to 4K 60fps the quality leapt is considerable, aiming for these units to become the preferred choice of both amateurs and professionals. And if that sole statement wasn’t enough, 20 MPX still images may do great good to your photography business!

Build Quality and Performance

Sans for the positions of the new sensors, there aren’t any noticeable differences between the Phantom 4 and the Phantom 4 Pro, as even the new sensors have been placed into the drone’s legs whereas the infrared and optical sensors are nested into the drone’s sides. The updated camera is only a bit bigger than its previous one, so unless you’re a trained critic, it will take you some time to spot the differences between the two.

Flight time is expected to be circa 30 minutes, but that battery life is obviously affected by real-world elements as climate conditions, the ability of the pilot to fly it, the elements it has to dodge… you get the point. Still, the flight time is way better than the DJI Mavic Pro despite this unit not being as portable as DJI’s flagship. The battery takes about 1.5 hours to fully recharge, so it’s advisable to pack extra batteries and acquire one of those multiple battery chargers offered by DJI to compensate for that idle time.

Flight speed is topped at 45 mph (72 kph), which can also get the benefits of climate conditions if we fly with a tailwind behind us. When putting this unit under obstacle stress, speed time is limited to 31 mph, which is far more than acceptable when compared with other units available in the market, and also without putting the unit in jeopardy to reach such speed.

Autonomy and Range

The Phantom 4 Pro is using the knowledge gained with the release of the Mavic Pro to improve its autonomy. The usage of Point of Interest Mode, Waypoints or Follow Me modes is much appreciated for a unit that’s meant for work rather than a hobbyist. Course Lock and Home Lock modes are also included with this unit, which is also part of the Phantom 4, but the Terrain Follow, Tripod Mode and Active Track system improvement are some of the inherited knowledge that comes from the Mavic Pro to this device.

The return-to-home mode has also been revisited, as previous units didn’t have any sort of control regarding obstacles, rather choosing to go towards the operator in a straight line and, most likely, crashing themselves to the first tree that may be available in the route. For the Phantom 4 Pro, the obstacle avoidance system helps a great deal to prevent this, but also the drone retraces its steps in an attempt to fly the same path it covered to get to the point where it is located. Not that we can guarantee a crash-proof performance, but it ranks among the very best systems available in the market.

The video transmission technology has seen a quality improvement by including the Mavic Pro’s OcuSync technology, opening the gates to live HD videos feeds from up to 4.3 miles of distance. Take into consideration that it also requires optimal climate conditions to achieve such a thing.

Camera and extra stuff

The update made to the camera sensor instantly translates into more detail, increased capture area and avoidance of quality loss under high ISO values for low-light conditions.
Another amazing feature this drone includes is a mechanical shutter and aperture control, meaning you can go from f/2.8 to the f/11 whenever required.

Video recording offers a wide range of options in what applies to record quality. Cinematic 4K DCI at 24, 25, or 30 fps is the top-notch reference, or you can choose 4K UHD at 24, 25, 30, or 60 fps. In case you’re struggling with such heavy-sized video files, you can always downgrade to 2.7K, 1080p, and 720p. Slow motion is also an option 720p 120 fps.

Do also consider that there’s another, a bit pricey, version of this drone, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus that includes a new version of the controller, now with a built-in touchscreen display to operate the drone. Say goodbye to troublesome notifications or running out of battery in your smartphone with this cool controller!
DJI SparkGo to Amazon
Small, cute and easy to use. Is there anything else to ask when first experiencing the drone adventure? DJI outdoes themselves by introducing the DJI Spark to our life: a selfie-intended drone for everyone who enjoys photography.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
84
Design:
0
100
100
Price:
0
73
100
Flight Speed:
0
83
100
Image Quality:
0
80
100
Pros
  • Pocket sized
  • Supports gesture controls
  • Smartphone-controlled flight
  • Automated shots
  • Subject tracking
  • Forward obstacle avoidance
  • GPS stabilization
  • Easy to Use
Cons
  • Really Low Flight Time
  • Limited range and speed when controlling with phone
  • Video limited to 1080p
  • Remote Controll is a pricey add-on
Click to read the full Review
If there is a product that has surprised me over these latest months, that would be the DJI Spark. The company’s smallest aircraft to be released and yet you can consider it as the first ever selfie drone to which you can interact by just waving your hand.

In what technical aspects regard, we can safely assume this model as a short-range quadcopter that can be controlled either with your smartphone or with a dedicated remote control that needs to be purchased separately. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and though control proves to be pricey, in fact, it acts as a range extender for this drone, which otherwise can fly up to 100 meters away from your current position.

Is there a downside to such a promising product? Undoubtedly, and that would be battery life, which just stands a bit above 12 minutes. Hence, this product isn’t intended as an alternative to their professional line products (so if you are looking for a small sized professional solution better start looking for the DJI Mavic line), but as a way to introduce drone photography to your lifestyle without much hassle.

Design and Flying Performance

You really got to love the aspect of the DJI Spark! I mean, just look at such a tiny cutie with these versatile tools to be used. If someone said before you can easily carry around a drone for a family outdoor gathering, I’d say they would be joking; but the truth is this small-sized buddy only needs your hand to takeoff and to land.

There are some interesting color layouts you can choose from: Alpine White, Lava Red, Meadow Green, Sky Blue and Sunrise Yellow.
To store your images and videos, the device uses a microSD card, which doesn’t require to be high-end as 4K footage isn’t compatible with this unit. Though DJI states their battery lasts for 16 minutes per charge, truth showcases that span to be limited to 12 minutes, truly disappointing. However, since batteries are removable, you can always buy several ones to carry around, though you would need to consider the price factor to weigh if it’s worth the investment. For most travel photographers who desire to travel lightweight, it certainly does.

GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning are available with this model to keep steady flying experience outdoors or just to meet up with the requirements of the Return-to-Home feature. The Vision Positioning System helps the aircraft to land safely thanks to a set of downward-facing sensors, even without requiring the aid of GPS.

As the DJI Spark uses your hand as takeoff/landing spot, you need to be extra wary about the position of your fingers: your palm needs to be always extended with fingertips facing downwards just in case. Cutting your hand with fast-spinning rotors can be a truly painful experience – and in case you don’t believe me, just ask Enrique Iglesias about it. The best way to avoid these nasty experience to happen is to buy the propeller guards for your aircraft: not only they are cheap and make the drone look more menacing, but also they protect the propellers from any kind of damage as well as your hands.

The most exciting feature to test with these little devices is the gesture controls introduced by DJI. You need to get the knack of it prior succeeding in video recording sessions, thus the experience is totally worth the effort. To activate the Gesture Mode, after the DJI Spark takes off, take a step back and place your hand towards the camera as if you were doing a stop signal. The front lights will go green as soon as the device recognizes you. From that point, move your hand left and the drone will fly to your left, same can be said to the other direction. Wave your hand and the Spark will take off and start tracking your movements.

Want a selfie? Simply do the “framing gesture” we all know from popular culture, and the DJI Spark will get the clear sign you desire to take a selfie. If you want the drone to land, throw your hands up straight into the air and then the aircraft will fly back to your position where it will gently land on top of your palm. In case you wonder what happens if you cannot land it on your own, rest assured the device will land automatically after battery hits the 10% remaining charge mark.

Automated shot modes are Circle, Dronie, Helix and Rocket. Circle and Helix are similar, with the drone hovering nearby your position and orbiting around an identified subject in the space whilst the camera locks the target the entire time. Circle makes the drone to move in perfect circular orbits around your position, while Rocket starts over your head, with the camera pointing down and starts to gain altitude to show your surroundings. Dronie moves back and forth to reveal your surroundings but keeps close tabs to your current position.

Flying the app with the on-screen control sticks for the smartphone control proves to be easy enough for beginners. Left stick adjusts the altitude and yaw, right one controls your drone position in relation to the space. When using this device under smartphone control, you are limited to a 100 meter georeferenced from your position in horizontal direction and 50 meters in altitude. Flight speed is limited as well to 12mph top.

The dedicated remote, though it’s an investment to consider, lifts these mentioned limitations by increasing the overall cover range to 1.2 miles from your current position and also allowing to use the Sport Mode, which increases the operative speed to a maximum of 31 mph while disabling obstacle avoidance and eating up battery life.

Keep in mind you MUST register your drone at DJI website in order to unlock its full flying capacities. This system was introduced as an alternative to FAA regulations to fill up for any potential legal void that can make the usage of this units a potential threath to public life.

Video/Image Quality

The camera paired with this device is a 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor one, with a fixed lens 25mm f/2.6 equivalent, which allows the aircraft to capture 12 MP still images. Not bad for a selfie-intended drone.

Max video resolution is limited to 1080p at 30fps, thus you cannot record slow-motion videos or get a 24fps for a more cinematic look. That’s a point in which the Mavic Pro wins, as it also supports 4K capture with additional options and much better autonomy for just $200 more than the DJI Spark Flight More bundle. What’s this bundle? It adds to the drone itself all the accessories as the propeller guards, extra propellers, batteries, microSD card, etc. If we consider the so paired price range difference with professional ranked Mavic Pro, the obvious choice would be to go for this option; although Mavic Pro drone does not feature any kind of Gesture Mode.
DJI Mavic ProGo to Amazon
Small sized drones are tomorrow’s answer for drone photography. DJI is doing a wonderful work in updating their gear to meet up with the needs of such high expectations, so after reviewing the DJI Spark it’s time to meet a small professional choice for photographers.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
96
Design:
0
100
100
Price:
0
91
100
Flight Speed:
0
94
100
Image Quality:
0
98
100
Pros
  • Small, foldable design
  • Obstacle avoidance system
  • 4K Stabilized Recording
  • 12MP Raw and JPG stills
  • Records in portrait or landscape mode
  • Compact remote control
Cons
  • Not as steady in strong wind as Phantom models
  • Not able to take off from every single place
Click to read the full Review
Delivering almost every feature of the Phantom 4 line, the DJI Mavic Pro is the answer all drone photographers were looking for when it comes to small-sized professional work.

What’s the main difference, putting size aside, with the Phantom 4 line? First of all, the stability that can be gained with such sturdy build as is the case of the Phantom 4 products. Despite being strong to meet up most users’ expectations, you cannot guarantee a safe flight experience under strong wind conditions with the Mavic Pro. On the other hand, battery life is significantly lower for the Mavic Pro in comparison with its big brother Phantom 4, not to mention the latter one can reach much longer distances as also happens with the Inspire line.

Design and Flight Performance

If you were amazed by the convenient size of the Mavic Pro in flight, then picture it folded, ready to pack for your upcoming expeditions. This is where the Mavic Pro defines a new game for travel photographers who cannot carry around heavy gear not just because of traveller’s autonomy but also due to fees to pay in airports.
Weighing 1.6 pounds, you need to register this drone with the FAA before flying and get familiarized with the regulations to follow.

The app to go, as usual, is the DJI Go smartphone app, compatible with both Android and iOS. Thankfully for us, it includes a flight simulator to help us to understand Mavic controls.

With a gray color scheme, the Mavic Pro somewhat sneaks into urban space without catching much attention; and those yellow accents help the design to look more aggressive.

You always need to unfold the unit prior flying, pulling the front rotors out and locking them to forward position, same with the rear ones for the rear position. It also features a dome, which can be removed, that protects the camera, but you need to remove the gimbal clamp prior flying.

In absolutely ideal conditions, this versatile drone can fly up to 4.3 miles, which would be in a rural environment with clean weather conditions and not much obstacles in the way.

Smartphone flying experience does truly limit the capabilities of this drone, as for instance, we can fly in obstacle avoidance mode at 22 mph, which drastically change to 40 mph flight speed in Sport Mode.

The controller features dual joysticks, left one as usual controls altitude and right one moves in the direction you want to push. With the two control wheels – left ones manage gimbal tilt and right exposure control for the video – and buttons to take still images, start and stop recording, Return-to-Home mode, and pause flight, certainly the controller is a tool to have if your aim is to get the most out of this device. The two antennas are foldable as well for storage, and our smartphone can be clipped at the bottom part of it, with Lightning and micro USB connection (USB-C connector requires an accessory cable).

Flight modes are the same as Phantom 4 but introduce a Terrain Follow mode, with uses the downward sensor obstacle to keep its constant altitude above the ground: ideal for those scenarios in which we fly over uneven terrains. Like Spark, Gesture can be applied, though it’s not as smart as that tiny buddy’s features to offer: just wave at your Mavic Pro, and you can get a still shot.

Telemetry information is constantly displayed: current altitude, distance from the home point, speed and orientation. GPS and GLONASS systems will control its flying performance.

Video Quality

Even if the camera to be used is smaller than the Phantom 4 one, the video modes match in both quality and bit rate. Its FOV is slightly narrower than Phantom 4’s one, though Landscapes won’t be displayed as wide as in the first one, but you get a quality coverage either way.

Flight time for this unit allow us to record 23 minutes of uninterrupted footage, unless for some reason you desire to switch to Sport Mode and reduce remaining battery life.
The Mavic Pro camera supports focus adjustment technology, though locking focus actually translate in distant objects getting blurred. Just consider this tool as a choice for still-frame images.

You won’t spot any noticeable barrel distortion, and the three-axis gimbal ensures our footages won’t be affected by any sudden movement. Photos are captured at 12 MP resolution, in JPEG or RAW DNG format. Still the same as you can expect from a common point-and-shoot camera, or a smartphone one, but worth mentioning.

DJI Inspire 2Go to Amazon
The first upgrade to the DJI Inspire line, this drone is considered as DJI flagship for professional photographers. Featuring a Micro Four Thirds X5 4K camera, significantly improved speed and obstacle avoidance system, the DJI Inspire 2 stands out as the preferred choice of pro filmmakers, tv stations and enthusiasts who don’t care how much money they need to spend on their hobby.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
99
Design:
0
100
100
Price:
0
97
100
Flight Speed:
0
98
100
Image Quality:
0
100
100
Pros
  • 4K video recording
  • 360º camera rotation
  • Carbon Fiber build
  • Fast
Cons
  • Poor flight time
  • Expensive
  • Bulky
Click to read the full Review
Defining high-end drones, the DJI Inspire 2 not only is the answer for professional aerial video making but a revolution to today’s technology in digital imaging solutions.
Powered by four rotors, this drone is one heavy airship to consider, weighing 7.3 pounds without the camera and gimbal, thus requiring FAA registration before any outdoor flight.

With a magnesium alloy body, a much-appreciated change from the plastic body of the Inspire 1, this drone means business. This unit counts with two cameras: a 2-axis gimbal fixed camera, for providing a constant forward video feed to the pilot (which rests in front of the unit) and underneath the body is a stabilized 3-axis gimbal with a detachable camera for making our footages.

Design and Flight Performance

One interesting aspect to consider with this professional drone is that there are two controls: one for the pilot and another for the camera operator. These controls do not have an integrated tablet and give the users much freedom to perform the tasks needed for professional work. Operators must be within 100 meters range, and only one remote control is included in the bundle, the other one must be bought separately.

There are many improvements to the flying system, featuring dual Inertial Measurement Units, barometers and flight transmission system with a backup communication path. This, however, requires the DJI Inspire 2 to operate with two batteries: if one of the two fails, the drone can still land safely thanks to the other one. These batteries are also self-heating, allowing us to work in temperatures as low as -20ºC (-4ºF) for an altitude level of 5km.

TapFly system is available for this drone, as well as other Phantom 4/Mavic Pro operative modes (except Point of Interest and Waypoint, which will be released in future firmware updates), but this drone includes as well the Spotlight Pro mode, which identifies a subject, tracking it as if it was another operator handling the camera control.
In order to operate this drone, you need to download the specific DJI Go 4 app to your Android/iOS device. This app can support importing flight logs from the cloud, including some extra features that make the flying experience of the DJI Inspire 2 a much richer one.

Flying speed is rated to 40 mph in cruising speed, turning up to 69 mph in Sport configuration, though you need a clear area to fly under this mode to avoid accidents due to its high speed and aircraft size. In a clear WiFi area, you can make your drone travel up to half a mile in the distance easily. Flight time is, approximately, between 20-25 minutes depending on weather conditions, camera to pick and flying mode.

Return-to-Home function is automatically displayed when the communication between pilot and aircraft is lost, ensuring our investment’s safety. Obstacle avoidance sensors can detect objects as far as 30 meters (100 feet) away from the drone’s nose, with sensors on the underside to detect the conditions of the terrain, so altitude gets easily adjusted if flying low.

Which camera to pick?

Another interesting value we get with the DJI Inspire 2 is the camera range options. Unlike other product lines of DJI, you need to buy the camera separately, with the options being:

- Zenmuse X5S: A small Micro Four Thirds camera which supports lens changes, features 5.2K video recording in CinemaDNG, and can capture 20 MP still image in both DNG and JPEG formats.

- Zenmuse X4S: A smaller-sized camera paired with a 1-inch CMOS sensor with a fixed lens and 4K max video resolution.

Video and Image Quality

Like we’ve seen, much can be said about the image quality that can be achieved with this unit, and all that is courtesy of the breathtaking Zenmuse X5S. Just the possibility of changing lenses like a common DSLR camera opens a brand new market for drone photography that we’re eager to test. Lens options are quite limited by now but expect in a short while to meet up with a large range of lenses to create almost everything you ever dreamed.

The other thing you need to consider when buying this drone is the licenses for CinemaDNG or Apple ProRes, which are included in the Zenmuse X5S bundle. A nice choice for professionals, as they bring in much functionality and nothing to envy to other software alternatives, thus allowing us to continue later on in software like Adobe After Effects or Premiere to finish our footages.

A 16GB microSD card is included, though you will need to buy an SSD for using the 5.2K formats. My recommendation in this is: get the biggest one you can afford in storage capacity, it pays itself over time and it’s only reasonable to do this after making such investment in a professional drone. CineSSD Station is also a recommended accessory to buy to offload your clips to a computer without much hassle.
Parrot DiscoGo to Amazon
If you are looking for an oddity among drones, then the Parrot Disco is your choice to go. Instead of being your conventional quadcopter or hexacopter, Parrot opted for a fixed wing design to resemble an airplane. The result? An easy-to-fly experience as soon as you get accustomed to how the physics of an airplane work, with the downside of needing a lot of open space for landing.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
64
Design:
0
45
100
Price:
0
69
100
Flight Speed:
0
74
100
Image Quality:
0
67
100
Pros
  • Fun and easy to fly
  • Detailed flight logs
  • Android and iOS compatibility
  • Curious plane design
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Not so good image quality
  • Requires large space for take off/landing
Click to read the full Review
A big sized drone, no doubt, in the fashion of an airplane with a single rear propeller, detachable wings and its camera mounted right on its nose. It's weight? 1.6 pounds, thus you need to register the drone with the FAA before flying and stick to the same regulations as if you were using a quadcopter.

In a black-and-white color scheme, the Skycontroller 2 remote is included as well as a VR headset that reminds a lot to Samsung’s Gear VR. The reason for this is because Parrot Disco allows first-person view flight (FPV), in fact, it’s its most acclaimed feature.

Flight performance

The first thing you need to do after unpacking your drone attached the wings and locking the motors in place is to set the drone down on the ground and power it on. Compass calibration is a step-by-step process guided through the app and will improve the time needed to get GPS signal. The app to use is the Parrot FreeFlight Pro app.

Once the rear propeller starts to spin, you can move the right stick upwards to gain altitude until it meets the set altitude controlled by the app. Up to that point, the Parrot Disco will start flying in a circular orbit until you tell the unit to move towards another place.

The right control stick is used to ascend, descend or move towards left/right. The left stick is meant for getting back into a holding pattern or to alter its flying speed. Horizon line, much like a real-life airplane, is going to be displayed on your phone’s screen, as well as a live feed from the drone’s camera, telemetry data and video/still capture controls.

Though the FPV googles are included, in fact, there is plenty room for improvement on this behalf. FAA considers them insecure as you can’t keep an eye on the drone during the operation, and image quality worsens for the user if you use this device. Refrain from such temptation if you still consider yourself a beginner in what regards to flying skills.

The operating range of this unit is 1.2 miles, though that will happen only under absolutely ideal weather conditions. Top speed for this drone is 50 mph, and average cruise speed around 35 mph. The battery life is entirely dependable on your flying speed and wind conditions, but circa 35 minutes per charge is considered the average flying time for this unit, though Parrot claims it to be 45 minutes (consider that takeoff and landing also require extra time.

Video and Image Quality

The maximum video resolution for the Parrot Disco is 1080p Full HD. Sometimes that resolution isn’t available if the firmware isn’t updated, thus leaving the unit with just 720p video resolution mode. When flying under FPV mode, 720p is the max video resolution available.

Regarding its image quality, the truth is that Parrot could have done a much better work. Footages are shown as soft, without much detail, which would be expected for a cheap unit and not for the investment we are making. Image stabilization through digital means is appreciated. However, the performance isn’t as nice as with a gimbal as seen in other models analysed in this guide.

The camera cannot be tilt, due to its fixed position over the nose, and a small portion of the lens is used in fact, giving us a strange fish-eye feeling sometimes.

Summing up, for the investment to be made, it’s better to opt for a DJI unit or a Yuneec instead of this drone. Though if you are an RC aircraft fan, this is your chance to enjoy two hobbies at the time.
DJI Mavic AirGo to Amazon
Another petite option introduced by DJI. And yes, this extremely portable drone comes to fix all the issues the DJI Spark wasn’t able to meet – especially in what regards to battery life.
Should the DJI Mavic Air be your go-to choice? Let’s find out!
Watch video review
Overall rating:
88
Design:
0
98
100
Price:
0
85
100
Flight Speed:
0
80
100
Image Quality:
0
87
100
Pros
  • Very small unit
  • High bit-rate 4K UHD video
  • HDR and Panorama modes for still capture
  • RAW support
  • New automated movements for flight
  • Improved obstacle avoidance system
Cons
  • Doesn’t support USB charging
  • Real-flight time is less than 20 minutes
  • Panorama stitching can look somewhat odd
  • Exposure issues under Panorama mode
Click to read the full Review
Regarded as the smallest drone ever made by DJI, the Mavic Air comes as a revolution to the industry given its extremely portable layout. You can fold it and pack in the included carrying case, measuring 1.9x3.3x6.6 inches, and its weight is rated at 15.2 ounces – believe it or not, lighter than your common iPad.

The main difference with the DJI Spark that you will notice at first sight is the included remote controller, that doesn’t exactly mean you need to rely on it for every single flight experience as this drone is also compatible with both hand gestures and your smartphone. Using the remote control, however, will turn into a more pleasant flight experience, especially under windy climate conditions, and it extends the operating range of this unit in a considerable way (2.5 miles with the remote control vs 262 feet when using smartphones). This controller shares the aesthetics used by the bulkier Mavic Pro drones, but in a smaller size to fit the Air style. One thing to mention is that the control doesn’t feature any LCD screen, so you need to plug your smartphone to it in a relatively tight housing that, most likely, will require you to remove your smartphone case to fit in; the max supported size is 160 mm and between 6.5-8.5 mm thickness.

The battery for this unit is seated in the bottom of the chassis, another difference from the Mavic Pro units, but unlike the Spark, you won’t be able to charge it via USB – the included charger is required, which also works for the controller’s internal battery. Like other DJI units, the Fly More bundle is an extremely recommended purchase, featuring the power hub, two batteries and three sets of propellers aside from the items listed with the drone itself.

DJI also put the design into consideration, making it possible to buy this drone in either Arctic White, Flame Red, or Onyx Black coating finish.

Autonomy

For such a petite unit, its flight times are not that disappointing, ranging in an average of 20 minutes – DJI states 21 minutes but actual flight times can vary from 18-20 minutes depending on obstacles and climate conditions. Do keep in mind that you will require about a minute and a half to ensure a safe landing, plus it takes about half a minute to take off and start flying, so actual operative time on air is roughly a bit over 15 minutes. Of course, this device isn’t meant to meet the near half-hour standards of the Mavic Pro lines, but for the not so considerable price difference between both devices, please put autonomy into consideration prior purchasing either one of these drones.

The Mavic Air includes 8GB of internal memory and a USB-C port as a bridge for transferring your files to the computer. Obviously, you will require extra storage capacity, and for this regard, it is compatible with microSDHC and microSDXC cards.

A common issue for new users is when trying to flight and getting the notification that a firmware update is required. These updates are performed via smartphone only, and take between 15 to 30 minutes to be completed. Though you can fly without the firmware updates it’s advisable to do so in order to fix potential bugs and ensure battery efficiency (and also to avoid the warnings).

Flight Performance

As with other DJI drones, the Mavic Air is equipped with both GPS and GLONASS satellite technologies; meaning that you can fly your unit in either automated and semi-automated flight modes with a precise return-to-home feature. No-fly zones are clearly delimitated, despite enabling users to override some areas with the authorized flight licenses.

The gesture controls, named SmartCapture by DJI, work the same way as with the DJI Spark. The recording quality for it is limited to FullHD quality, but frame rate can be altered by using the smartphone DJI Go 4 app, with the options going from 24 to 60fps.

Control sticks, when using the smartphone interface to operate the device, aren’t exactly user-friendly for beginners. In our opinion, it’s best to stick to the controller whenever possible or leave the smartphone interface for entirely automated flights.

Movements are also inherited from the Spark, which is labelled as QuickShots, being these automated camera movements Rocket, Dronie, Circle and Helix, but also introducing Asteroid – ideal for creating hyper aerial shots – and Boomerang. Remember that these flight modes are entirely automated and it’s your responsibility to ensure the safety of the unit in what regards to obstacles and avoiding collision.

On that previous point, the Mavic Air obstacle detection system has been improved by the introduction of the Advanced Pilot Awareness System (APAS), allowing the unit to check out the environment and adjusting its flight rout to avoid the obstacles. The flight speed under obstacle avoidance mode is limited to 17.9 mph, whereas you can meet up to 42.5 mph in Sport mode, where the obstacle detection system is disabled.

Video recording and Image Quality

Do not be fooled by the compact size of this drone. The Mavic Air pairs a 4K camera, seated on its nose, and using a
stabilization system controlled by a three-axis gimbal.

Video recording quality under 4K UHD resolution meets up with 24, 25, and 30fps in what respects to frame rate. Under 2.7K the frame rates go up to 60fps, and for FullHD and 720p you can get values up to 120fps, ideal for slow motion recording.

Still images are captured with a 12MP camera, which has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and packs a 24mm f/2.8 (full-frame equivalent) prime lens. RAW DNG format is supported as well as JPEG, which surprisingly allows HDR capture. Panorama mode is also an introduction for this drone, and works by allowing the Mavic Air to pivot about its axis to capture a series of photos, automatically stitching it into a panorama shot. The options range from three-shot vertical pano, nine-shot horizontal pano, or a 21-shot 180-degree pano. Spherical images are also a possibility, requiring the unit to capture 25 photos to create them.

Do keep in mind that this drone is the first one to introduce the panorama option for its camera, so exposure issues are to be expected, especially in clear sky conditions, as the camera does not do a superb job in adjusting its exposure values in such a short span. Firmware updates are to be expected to fix any potential bug on this regard.
Autel Robotics X-Star PremiumGo to Amazon
Does this drone remind you of the DJI Phantom line? Certainly it does, and it’s one of the reasons why this Autel Robotics X-Star Premium is considered a serious competitor to the DJI giant.
Considered as an upgrade of the Autel Robotics X-Star, you’ll certainly consider getting this unit after reading what it has to offer.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
80
Design:
0
76
100
Price:
0
75
100
Flight Speed:
0
82
100
Image Quality:
0
87
100
Pros
  • Sturdy Design
  • 4K Max video resolution
  • Easy to operate for beginners
  • Cheaper than high-end units
Cons
  • Compass can be somewhat tricky
  • No obstacle avoidance system
Click to read the full Review
With a sturdy design, it’s a drone intended for heavy aerial usage, but incredibly easy to fly even if you are just a beginner who wants to start a name in this industry. You can get this drone in either white or orange coating, and the main material used for it is a high-resistance plastic that, whereas it’s not advisable, it can hold up collisions without much trouble.

Camera Quality

This is one of the coolest surprises for those unaware of the products Autel produces. The X-Star Premium pairs a camera with a 108-degree FOV and 4K video resolution. This means you can record videos at 4K with up to 40fps, or downgrade to 2.7K to meet the 60fps frame rate. FullHD videos can be recorded at 120fps, but its high key is the slow-motion recording in 720p at 240fps.

As this camera is fully built into the unit you won’t need to install it on your own, and the 3-axis gimbal used for the stabilization works perfectly to deliver crystal clear videos. The quality for still shots is 12MP, again nothing too fancy that DJI doesn’t offer already, and you can store your files in microSD cards up to 64GB.

Flight Performance

For a drone of its size, getting up to 25 minutes of flight time is a blessing, mostly if we consider that between take off and landing we’re losing about 2 minutes of that battery time. The charger does look professional enough, though it can remind you of some car battery chargers – perhaps because of the cables and its color.

Its included controller is able to meet up with a 2,000 meters operative range under the 2.4GHz frequency. As the controller doesn’t feature any LCD screen you need to use your smartphone or tablet plus the Starlink app to fly this drone. Joysticks are quite comfortable and you will get used pretty soon to the function keys, ideal for those with none experience in drone photography.

GPS and GLONASS technologies take part of this drone, making easy to track its position when being far away from it; however, do take in consideration that this drone does not pair any obstacle avoidance system. That’s the most significant downside of the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium, as one would have expected such technology in a drone that’s considered to be a potential competitor to the DJI Phantom line, but also if we remember the struggles that can be experienced when performing landing maneuvers.

The top speed for this drone is 36 miles/hour, which is more than fair for this device, but remember that speed and overall altitude are also affected by climate factors.
Altair Aerial AA108Go to Amazon
Now it’s time to meet another drone intended for both beginners and experienced pilots, the Altair Aerial AA108. Compact, with a fairly robust quadcopter design, this unit won’t disappoint you at all.
Watch video review
Overall rating:
69
Design:
0
71
100
Price:
0
84
100
Flight Speed:
0
60
100
Image Quality:
0
60
100
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Fun to use
  • Works great for indoors
  • 720p recording
Cons
  • Lacks of a gimbal
  • Does not include a obstacle avoidance system
  • Operative time lasts only for 8 minutes
Click to read the full Review
If you are looking for a drone with which you can learn the basics of this niche, this might be the unit to consider. Cheap, easy to operate, with a decent image quality, the Altair Aerial AA108 is mainly targeted for beginners as it lacks stability controls as most high-end units tend to feature. But do not feel as if this unit can’t do an outstanding job as it’s, in fact, quite the opposite.

As a beginners’ device, there’s a white cardboard with holes to place on top of the controller that explains what each joystick and button controls or does. Amazingly handy for those who bought a drone by following a hunch rather than after taking some lessons on how to fly it beforehand.

Given its small size, you can operate this drone either indoors or outdoors, but do mind the obstacles as there won’t be any obstacle avoidance system to warn you prior to a collision. The guards placed on both sides of the unit can hold a significant amount of the impact the drone takes, though don’t consider that a guarantee for a high-speed impact.

Its autonomy is averaged in a bit over 8 minutes. If we consider this either a mix between a beginners’ drone and a toy-quadcopter, it shouldn’t surprise us at all, but it would be appreciated to, at least, meet up with the 10-minute range as there aren’t many helpers for both landing and takeoff, and that obviously will consume some extra time. When the drone gets low on battery, the controller starts a low beeping sound. In comparison to other products in the industry it’s a cool feature to count with as often light indicators aren’t visible during daylight conditions. Also, if you run out of battery you can be certain the unit will land smoothly if you did take off with the 1-touch button feature.


The image quality isn’t something absolutely extraordinary to expect, and its highest quality output is 720p with a 120-degree FOV. The issues start when you decide to fly this drone under windy conditions, as the lack of a gimbal makes it a nightmare to watch the footage afterwards. Do not fret at all by this, eventually, you will learn the drill on how to operate this drone and get the most out of it; plus it’s a good practice if you plan to get a more serious unit in a close-by future.
Yuneec Typhoon HGo to Amazon
Yuneec is one respected brand in the drone industry, and certainly the Typhoon H is a drone to include in every single best drone article listing. Why should a six-rotor beast catch our interest when the trend goes to the line of quadcopters? Time to answer that question and many other stuff!
Watch video review
Overall rating:
87
Design:
0
89
100
Price:
0
85
100
Flight Speed:
0
87
100
Image Quality:
0
88
100
Pros
  • 4K Max video recording
  • 360-degree rotating camera
  • Retracting landing gear
  • Autonomy between drone and camera
  • Sonar-based object detection
  • Intel RealSense technology
  • Carbon Fibre built
Cons
  • Not a sturdy built
  • Controller layout requires some previous experience in drones
Click to read the full Review
The hexacopter system is implemented for a very good reason. Despite being a bulky unit, it only needs five of its six rotors to operate, so in case the drone detects a rotor to become faulty, the flight session will be automatically aborted and the unit will be sent back to takeoff position for repairs. Seems amazing, right?

However, you ought to take in consideration that, putting carbon fibre built aside, this unit isn’t meant for heavy damage. The built isn’t just sturdy enough, and the folding arms – though handy for transportation – make it more vulnerable than what you would expect from a $1k+ drone in the market.

Features

The Typhoon H is one wild beast to tame. The camera is nested on a 3-axis gimbal that can rotate in 360 degrees for incredible recording performance. But it that doesn’t sound attractive enough, Yuneec has done its homework in what regards to obstacle avoidance technology. Using a sonar, the unit is almost shock-proof protected in both low light and complete darkness scenarios, but there’s a downside: the obstacles are only detected if they show up in front of us, there’s no lateral avoidance detection, something that DJI does feature for their drones.

There’s a huge range of autonomous flight modes, freeing the user from the hassle of operating the drone and allowing to control the camera to desire.
The controller, as you would notice, isn’t meant for beginners. In its 7-inch touchscreen display the telemetry data will be displayed as well as the live video from the drone camera; but this isn’t the only drone you need to use, as you can link another control at the same time to control the 4k camera, meaning you will require a dual pilot setup to get the most out of this drone.

Autonomy

This drone is expected to meet up to around 23 minutes of flight time; meaning that after hitting that mark an automated system will be triggered to perform an emergency landing back at home position – you cannot override it. Batteries take about two hours to be fully charged, so getting spare batteries is mandatory for outdoor sessions far away from home.

The Typhoon H can cover a mile of flight distance, and, if by some chance it loses signal, the auto-return mode will be triggered for the user not to lose its device.

The multiple flight modes can alter its battery efficacy, so before you decide to cover lengthy miles with your drone perhaps it would be best to trace a good route that allows you to replace batteries.

Video Recording and Image Quality

It isn’t surprising the fact that the Typhoon H includes a 4K capable camera. Its top frame rate under 4K resolution is 30fps; half of what you can get when working under 1080p setup. The difference with its competitors is that it boats a higher sensor size, with a 115 degrees FOV.

For Still Shots, this unit meets the standard of 12MP images, however, the distortion-free lens is a great feature to list for this drone.

Selection Criteria

As usual, we would like to state the parameters we used to narrow the search for these camera drones for photography units we reviewed in this guide. There are many aspects to consider when picking the best camera drone for photography, but overall these were the deciding factors that made this list a reality:

Flight Time: Crucial aspect for any camera drone these days. Yet when models are being upgraded through both hardware and firmware, for most units the flight time is something to improve in regards to better battery management as at least 20 minutes of flight time is what users expect from the best camera drones on the market. Not all the units we reviewed here manage to get such prolonged flight time, but when measuring the other aspects they count with, such disadvantage can be slightly overlooked.

Flight Speed: What’s the point on piloting an aircraft if it moves as slow as a tortoise? With a limited time to fly, speed is important to reach new horizons quicker. For most units, the average flight speed ranges from 25-35 mph in cruise mode. Some of them peaking up to 65 mph in their faster flight modes. Battery management for faster flying speeds must also be noted, as in some cases it really becomes a battery life killer.

Operative Range: This, in short words, means how far our unit can take both horizontally and vertically for the signal it gets. For units that work with both smartphone and controllers, there are significant differences in this regard as controllers act as signal boosters. On average, consider the current optimal range for a drone operated with a smartphone between 100-150 meters (328-492 foot), and distances over 1.2 miles for remote-controlled aircraft. Altitude to reach ought to be above 100 meters, reaching up to 1km as a desirable value, though most units hover the 500m range.

Design: Putting aside ugly-beautiful discussions on this topic, what we mean with design covers not just the material finish for the units (being magnesium alloy as the industry high-end standard) but also if the camera drone sports an aerodynamic design, if it’s easy to operate under common scenarios due its size, if design decisions can chop its recording capabilities, etc.

Image Quality: Most camera drones for photography come equipped with their own fixed cameras, as is the case of most DJI units, Parrot models, and several other brands. For acceptable image quality we must consider the max video resolution – either 5.2K, 4K, 2.7K or FullHD as acceptable choices for professional work, the still-image shooting capabilities, and manual controls for the camera itself to adjust parameters such as Exposure and ISO.

FAQs

Is a necessity to register my drone with the FAA?

For quite the long time it was needed to register any drone over the 1-pound weight range to the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S.; however, recent news tells us that the FAA’s drone regulation rules of 2015 were violating a law passed by the Congress in 2012. Hence, after the resolution of a lawsuit won against the FAA, drones whose purpose does not fall under commercial categories do not need to be registered with the FAA for flying. However, regulations still apply for flying areas, especially in suburban scenarios. My personal recommendation? Do register with the FAA, especially if you buy a professional drone. Better safe than sorry, and later on you can make a business out of your hobby.

What would happen if my drone falls into the water or faces rainy scenarios?

For most drones, the water question is handled in two different ways. Drones, like any other electronic appliance, are not waterproof. They can resist, somewhat, a mild exposure to rain conditions (like in the case of professional DJI units), but in the case where the unit runs out of battery and falls into a water area, or if that happens due a hit-and-fall casualty, don’t expect your drone to tell the story.

What does the wind do to my drone?

Like any RC aircraft, the wind can be labeled as an enemy if wind patterns are moving towards our drone direction. Depending on the intensity it can make the drone overheat due to propellers fighting to keep their flying course, or it can tear pieces of the drone’s body if we talk about plastic-made units. Battery life is also compromised as the drone must do an extra effort to keep flying, but in general, if we use wind patterns to our advantage we can gain some flying speed if we fly towards the proper wind direction.

Is it essential to buy spare batteries?

In short, yes. Consider the overall flying time of your drone prior to making that decision. For most units, batteries range from $50-100, and battery chargers allow multiple batteries. Even if you consider you are making a big investment over here, it will pay off in flight autonomy.

Which would be the ideal microSD Card size to buy?

As memory cards keep getting cheaper and cheaper since high-end units require SSD drives to store such bulky footage, go directly for a set of 64GB memory cards if both your drone and your budget allow. Any video footage over FullHD quality directly translates into GBs of file size, so don’t miss your chance of creating amazing footages due to lack of storage capacity.

Advantages of Buying a Camera Drone for Photography

Not only are you making an investment with respect to your photography equipment: if you plan to make photography your business, you are then taking the first step into your future photographer’s business. That’s why you need to make sure you possess the best camera drone for photography. Advances made in technology will end up replacing traditional methods and criteria for taking pictures, forcing users to adapt to new times.

dji phantom operating

Real estate takes advantage of these new advancements, as camera drone photography creates a new way of advertising buildings for sale. Future owners can get a very realistic look of how the neighborhood will look, the amenities in the building itself, the size of the lot, etc. For these purposes, photographers are finding themselves more and more in demand by the real estate industry, as it takes a good knowledge of photography techniques in order to make a short movie interesting enough for future potential buyers.

By using the best camera drones for taking aerial photographs, not only are you saving money as far as not having the need to take a trip by helicopter to take pictures, but rather doing it from the ground? It is no longer necessary to take such risks as climbing on dangerous areas in order to catch a good glimpse of the city from above, instead you can take pictures or film the process with your own drone, and having fun while doing it!.

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Disadvantages of Drones

As with every single electronic device, battery life is an issue. Although the batteries for most DSLR cameras last 3 hours under heavy use, the battery life of drones can be as short as only lasting 10-15 minutes of flight. This fact can be incredibly annoying, considering how much of an investment you are making with your new device, although high-end models actually have a longer battery life.

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Price is also something to be concerned about, as getting a good drone costs as much as buying a mid-range DSLR camera for something that can be lost or damaged much more easily than normal cameras. Perhaps as time goes by, the amortization of a Drone will happen much faster, but right now, you really should work a lot with aerial photography, if you plan to use high-end models.

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Camera definition on most drones for photography is Full HD. Some models even provide 4K cameras on their units (such as DJI Phantom and newer models), but then again the price is an issue, as drones with acceptable camera quality are normally over $400.

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It is also necessary to have a live preview of the flight made by the drone, especially if you are using it in urban areas where the unit could be easily damaged by impact with buildings and infrastructure. Flying a drone in an urban area without knowing the route it is taking could be labeled as neglectful, as it carries a potential risk of hurting somebody if the drone flies near people walking in the streets.

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The learning curve of using a drone is quite high. Most people think it is just a matter of turning on a device and using the controls as though it were a common RC car – it is quite the opposite. Learning how to fly your unit takes time and practice, and it is most advisable to do it in large areas, such as parks, in order to minimize the risk of losing your unit or damaging somebody through your learning process. Climate factors such as strong wind and rain significantly affect the performance of the drone during flight, even compromising the lifespan of the drone, if it is forced to endure conditions for which it is not suited.

Films/Pictures produced by drones are saved in the most common formats available nowadays – and the good thing is, you can post-produce it with software such as Adobe Lightroom, enhancing your pictures with only a few clicks. Then again, we are showing how useful technology can be for photographers: you can crop areas of the video that don’t suit your purpose, post-produce it with Lightroom Presets, and share it worldwide to make your work tell a story.

Above the Clouds Workflow - Sleeklens

Image edited with our bundle Above the Clouds Workflow for Adobe Lightroom

Where can you learn how to operate a Drone?

Well, fortunately for us there are many ways to learn how to operate a drone. From attending local courses at photography schools to online courses on drone photography, the options are as broad as you would have imagined. We, at Sleeklens, decided to take things to the next level and offer you all not only an Aerial Photography bundle for Adobe Lightroom, but also a full course that covers every single aspect of the Mastering Drones challenge.

How to find the Best Spots for Drone Photography

As many may already know, these versatile aircraft tools seem to be here to stay, setting the trend as a new and dynamic way of experiencing photography; However, not all sites are suitable for aerial photography. Here are some reasons that will keep your drone out of certain airspace:

1) Municipal restrictions: Certain cities have strong regulations concerning the use of the radio control devices by the possibility of interference with medical, aviation and police equipment; as well as to prevent an overpopulation of devices over tourist areas. If you are not sure about a spot, please check this resourceful app.

2) Physical restrictions: Somewhat related to the previous point; in places where there are narrow passages is not possible to operate our devices with such ease, which could lead to situations that are risky for both the device (from severe damage) as well as for people in the immediate area (remember, the drones have propellers that can be very sharp when operating).

3) Environmental constraints: not all drones are capable of withstanding the same forces of the wind or extreme climate conditions such as heavy rain, snow/hail or even high temperatures.

Therefore, and as a way of preventing future inconveniences, it is best to sit down and plan your future shooting session. In this beginners guide you will find several tips that will help you to locate the best and most suitable places to experience drone photography, within the limits of your equipment and skills.

Google Earth

Many already know this, but for beginners out there, Google Earth can be a great helper for when you need to study the locations where you plan to photograph.

Niza

To get started, first access and explore in Satellite Mode to learn about the conditions of the site you plan to visit – Google will display the location by either using photos from Panoramio, indicating routes or trails that cross the site, or even with an advanced feature called Elevation Profile.

To do this, it is necessary to select the Path tool, draw two arbitrary points, then save the defined route. When you select the created route, right-click on it and select the option “Show Elevation Profile”. It won’t be like using a complex GPS device, but it is worth a look to get a clear image on how rough the terrain is where you will be constantly walking to follow your drone.

Elevation Profile

Another excellent resource is to take a look at your desired location in Street View Mode. To do this, just zoom in on the area that you wish to explore and Google Earth will adjust to the Street View Mode, where you can look at photos of the site to get a better idea of how this selected location is going to look like.

street view

Climate Information

After getting a good amount of data on the location that you want to visit, be sure you know the climate conditions before you set off. There’s nothing worse than ruining your equipment because of neglecting to think about how the climate is going to be on the day of your shoot – drone equipment can be quite pricey, and also there’s no way to retrieve your data after losing the device.

Use either the Accuweather smartphone app (Apple’s Climate app works better for iOS users unless you have an iPad), or check your local weather station to get an accurate update prior to visiting the site.

Looking for some Inspiration?

Check out Dronestagram, an amazing website that is like an aerial version of Instagram. With the very same idea in mind, you may find this not so well-known social media network to be the go to the site to check if your chosen location is actually worth the visit. Tons of pics and videos from many users worldwide, with an amazing range of drone devices used. Certainly, you can’t go wrong after knowing the sweet spots of your desired shot location beforehand.

dronestagram

Unlike Instagram, you can also access their new Forum area where you can interact with other drone photographers, or even take part in some of the contests this website host from time to time. Looking for new challenges? Then take a look at the portfolio of this network’s top users and compare them with your own work.

Take into consideration your skills and mindset

If patience isn’t your thing, then don’t force yourself to visit areas where concentration is a must if you’re still not completely familiarized with how to fly a drone – things can go horribly wrong and you will turn a joyful experience into a sour one. Like anything else, you have to take baby steps, one at a time.

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My personal advice, I suggest avoiding areas with a large tree population or over water, unless you feel pretty confident in your drone piloting skills, and even so, ask a friend to give an honest opinion on how good you are at flying your drone. Better to be safe rather than sorry, right?

Remember to always calibrate your drone’s compass prior to flying over a new location – some devices tend to show weird malfunction issues due to GPS confusion, therefore keep this as a “pre-flight check”. Hover for a few seconds prior to setting off once the propellers are running – this is the best way to ensure your device is working as it should, as it is easier to land if the drone isn’t high up if problems occur.

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In the end, this is all about having fun. Grab your device and set your route; don’t be discouraged if the first attempts end up in failure, you’re also learning a good lesson, even in not so great situations.

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Gear review – Canon EF-S 10-18 mm

One of the main advantages of DLSR cameras over compact cameras is the ability to exchange lenses. No matter how wide the range of a zoom lens incorporated in a compact camera, the versatility that comes at hand with the possibility of choosing the lens of your preference is hard to match.

That said, apart from the obvious downside of having to carry bulky bags, lenses tend to be expensive, even more expensive than cameras. And there is no way around here. Since the price of the lens is in direct relation to the quality of the optics inside and the manufacturing process, if you want to achieve the best possible result, you will have to make important investments in your lenses.

However, from time to time, manufacturers manage to pull out incredible quality with relatively low retail prices, and that is what Canon achieved with the 10-18 mm. This wide angle lens has not-so-great aperture (probably the weakest point of all) at 4.5 – 5.6 but being fair, a wider aperture is one of the most difficult features to achieve and, given the overall quality and at a retail price of about $300 (compare this with $650 for its predecessor, the 10-22 mm), I feel there is not much to complain about.

Focusing

I am showing how outdated my lenses are here, but one of the improvements from some of my other lenses that I truly love in the 10-18 mm is the focus. First of all, by moving the focusing ring backwards, it is now much easier to get sharply focused images under specific conditions such as when using ND filters. If you ever tried to take a photo using a ND1000 filter and a lens with the focusing ring attached to the filter thread, you know what I mean. Dark ND filters do not let enough light in as to do the manual focusing with the filter on, meaning that one has to first focus and then attach the filter trying not to rotate the focusing ring in the process. By simply moving the focusing ring a few centimeters back, life became much easier than before!

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In terms of auto-focus, the lens has the STM system. STM stands for stepping motor, which are a type of electronic motors capable of moving very small steps in a controlled fashion and they are very quiet. In general, if you have already used STM or USM lenses before, you might not be that surprised, but if your previous experience is with the old standard auto-focus for budget lenses such as the 18-55 mm kit lens (old version), you will be amazed. Also, even though it is not supposed to be as fast as the USM system, for normal purposes such as travel or landscape photography, the auto-focusing is pretty fast.

Focal length

But of course, if you are thinking about buying a wide angle lens, your main concern is probably the focal length. First of all, keep in mind that this is a lens that was designed for so-called APS-C sensors. The difference between full frame and crop sensors is beyond the scope of this review, but in general, a focal length of 10 mm on a crop sensor will be equivalent to a focal length of 10 x 1.6 = 16 mm in a full frame sensor, or in a 35 mm film. And, more importantly, do not try to attach a lens designed for a crop sensor to a full frame camera, or you will damage your sensor!

The following image shows the difference between the two extremes of the focal length (18 mm on the left and 10 mm on the right). The wide-angle provided by the 10 mm is great to capture indoor architecture shots. Notice, however, the distortion at the borders of the image, especially on the bottom left corner, where the white round table looks like an oval. This needs to be taken into account during post-processing.

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That said, the focal length range is a great complement to the kit lens, especially if your interest lies in travel, architecture, landscape or something more specific such as climbing photography, or any type of photography where you want to capture a subject and still be able to get a good portion of background on your frame.

Distortion

Something inevitable when dealing with wide angle lenses is the optical distortion. This is a consequence of how light rays are guided through the lens towards the camera sensor/film and, even though a careful manufacture can help in that sense, completely getting rid of it is an impossible task.

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The 10-18 mm lens does a pretty decent job in this sense as well. Also, thanks to the many options for post-processing readily available nowadays, getting rid of the remaining distortion is an easy task. Still, the fact that some distortion will be present is something that you should keep in mind when taking photos with any wide angle lens so that you can plan your composition so that when you post-process your images no important information is lost.

Overall construction

Apart from some useful features such as having the focusing ring detached from the filter thread, the lens feels quite robust. Being part of the cheapest line of Canon lenses, the 10-18 mm is mainly constructed of plastic which can make it less resistant in the long term, but at the same time, it allowed Canon to build a very lightweight lens that makes it really easy to carry around.

Summary

In general, I would say that, even though the 10-22 mm is a faster lens than the 10-18 mm, for those amateur photographers that are either on a budget or just starting out and willing to try out different focal lengths without having to get a hole in the bank account, the 10-18 mm is definitely a great choice as a second lens.

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Minimalism in Photography and Interiors: A Chic Guide

Minimalism can have various definitions but for me, it means simplicity. Whilst reading Chris Ford’s article on Minimalist Photography, I came across this interesting quote by Steve Johnson:

Minimalist photography is not simply about taking a photograph of less. Minimalism is about getting to the essence of something.

The main idea of minimalism is trying to capture a shot simply and letting the viewer interpret the deeper meaning of the image. In this article, I will be showing you various aspects of minimalist photography and interiors. How different styles in interiors and photography can bring inspiration and soothe your mind.

Simple and minimalist are not easy to approach in photography. Some people have a sense of it and are able to capture the essence. The images shared below are from various skilled photographers who have captured the spirit of minimalism.

printem by Anne Closuit Eisenhart By Anne Closuit Eisenhart

Anne’s photography is nostalgic as in her own words, “Seeing is ignoring the whole in order to look at the detail. Seeing is looking with one’s whole being. It is looking for an emotion that you are already carrying within yourself since you have read this book, listened to this song, watched this painting. The uprooting, the relocations, the “start over elsewhere” taught me to look backward, tenderly, to cherish these manifold pasts.”

The image above speaks of a bright moment with the soft colors of blue and white dancing in the background. The image gives you a sweet and peaceful feeling whilst also focusing on the pretty flower vase.

Her images tell a story. We shall explore her images and the stories below:

By Anne Closuit Eisenhart By Anne Closuit Eisenhart

Here, we can see the beautiful flower is creating a reflection of herself in an old antique mirror. This photograph looks like a beautiful painting and a work of art. The balance between clean and rusty creates a lovely combination in the plain setting.

By Anne Closuit Eisenhart By Anne Closuit Eisenhart

Plain, soft and sweet are the words that cross my mind upon seeing this image. The wood, white background and lovely patterns from the vase allow the flower to pop out. A perfect angle to define the moment with a creative touch.

We will now shift to some lovely interiors.

Anam Lone shares her love for Scandinavian interior design and photography on Instagram and her blog. Her images below are from her own home where she shows tips on how to do home decor simplistically.

By Anam Lone By Anam Lone

In this lovely setting, the combination of black and white cushions accentuate the room with the lovely gray background. You can see how the moment has also been captured from a good angle to share with us the interiors and also minimalist photography. It is modest yet elegant.

By Anam Lone By Anam Lone

Another pretty setting with lovely colored chairs giving the interior a smooth pastel touch. The sunlight shining through the room through the frames and lights creates a nice ambiance. A creative capture as well defining all the details in the room simply.

By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso

All of Rebecca Capurso’s images have a refined touch showcasing lovely interiors. Rebecca is a graphic designer from Adelaide, Australia. She shares a few words about how the interest in minimalist interiors came about: “I think my love for minimalism has grown from my profession. I remember studying the work of Dieter Rams who really embodied the ‘less is more’ expression in all that he did. We were always taught to think about the ‘white space’ and this really stuck with me. The minimalist approach really opens up space and creates a sense of calmness in a home.”

As you will see in her images below, the layout of each setting is immaculate. The way each area has been captured is also innovative.

By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso

The painting and the floor highlight the white background and moment nicely.

By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso

The chairs, colorful vase and complete whites form a nice sync.

By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso

The wood, vintage lamp, and pillow covers match the complete aesthetic of the atmosphere.

By Rebecca Capurso By Rebecca Capurso

A fine capture defining minimalism and perfect angle bringing the whites and light into a nice composition.

Some sources say, that Minimalist styles have taken inspiration and evolved from Japanese Zen culture. Moving towards the minimalist style of photography, we can see some images from Aki Sato, a photographer from Tokyo, Japan. As Aki says ” I really love simple interior, monotone fashion even in my usual life. I think that’s why my photo is something minimal.”

By Aki Sato By Aki Sato

The striking lines, boxes, and shadow define the runner stunningly. In her images, as you will see below, they have great contrast and are pretty straight forward.

By Aki Sato By Aki Sato By Aki Sato By Aki Sato

Jay McCullough a photographer from the United States, has always loved photography. His styles range from minimalism to mood to light to magical moments with his children. He says: ” I could not be more in love with capturing the beauty and artistic expression through photography.”

By Jay McCullough By Jay McCullough

This strikingly beautiful image can be considered minimal or not as well. But, I shall leave that for you to interpret it. It is very interesting how the background forms one part of the image, distorting your vision by splitting it into two images. Very well captured moment.

By Jay McCullough By Jay McCullough

Lastly, what a lovely blue mood, calm and serene shining through the glass vase. It is eclectic and simple.

From all the images and styles above we can see a variation of minimalism. Defining it by keeping things simple would not be enough. As every moment has a different tone to minimal. The idea is to create a moment and story that brings out the object or even interiors of a space, giving it a stylish and refined touch.

When approaching minimalist photography, it is tricky yet, if we like to focus on a particular object and create a sublime modest moment, we can certainly achieve it!

For more images have a look at their feeds on Instagram: Anne | Anam | Rebecca | Aki | Jay

Thank you to Anne, Anam, Rebecca, Aki, and Jay for allowing me to create this article through your classy images.

How to take enchanting photos using cellophane

It’s a given that professional photography equipment enhances every artist’s workflow and is an absolute joy to work with. However, professional tools aren’t the only things that can help you become a better photo-taker. There are many unlikely things in our homes which have the potential to add an extra touch of creativity to our work. Some obvious things, like lamps and mirrors, are often used by creatives because of their interesting ways of either creating or reflecting light. Other things, though occasionally used by artists, aren’t as popular. One of these handy little photo instruments can be found in almost every person’s kitchen: cellophane.

You might be wondering how cellophane, a transparent sheet mostly used for the preservation of food, can be used in the world of photography. You may have noticed that despite the sheet’s transparency, it can quickly become opaque when crumpled up. This haziness is ideal for the creation of enchanting photographs of all types. Whether you’re photographing animals, people, or something entirely different, cellophane can help you experiment with textures and clarity. This experimentation will compel your mind to absorb new ways of thinking creatively. In turn, these innovative ways of thinking will allow you to become a better, more observant, and more open-minded photographer with a bountiful supply of initiative.

Cellophane can be used in limitless ways, depending on your imagination. Though the following tips will help you look at photography from a creatively peculiar point of view, don’t stop there. Let these ideas be the foundation for even more fascinating and striking ideas.

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Using cellophane to take photographs with blurred edges

If you want your images to be sharp with a vignette of blurriness, cut your cellophane into a square that’s a little larger than your camera lens. Afterward, proceed to cut a hole in the center of the square – its size depends on how unclear you want the edges to be. The smaller the cut in the center, the blurrier your image will appear and the more challenging it will be to get sharp results. Once you’re happy with the results, wrap the cellophane square around your lens, making sure that the cut-out hole is placed roughly at the center of the lens.

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Something to keep in mind is that it might be difficult to focus your lens manually due to the tightly wrapped cellophane. To make focusing easier, don’t wrap the cellophane square around your entire lens and leave some space for your fingers to change the focus. Though using tape is optional, it could prevent the cellophane from constantly falling off. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect or visually appealing since the effect itself is the most important part.

Using cellophane to take unclear yet dreamy photographs

To create photographs that are beautifully textured yet slightly unclear, cover your lens with cellophane in the same way as the previous method, but without the cut-out hole. Again, wrap it in such a way that will give you the opportunity to manually focus your lens. If you use auto-focus, loosely wrap the cellophane around your lens to give it enough space to find the right sharpness. The effect will make your photographs look like they were taken straight out of a dream. A certain level of sharpness will remain, though everything will be covered in a pleasant layer of cellophane fog.

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If you want to be even more creative, combine freelensing with cellophane. This will result in unique and charming photographs. For more interesting results, crumple up the cellophane before using it. Adding textures to editing programs like Photoshop will further enhance your shots. If you use Lightroom, make sure to apply your favorite preset for even more stunning results. Using all of these tools and features will transform your images into works of art you’re proud of.

/ This portrait is a combination of cellophane, free textures, and a Lightroom preset.

The beauty of cellophane is its unpredictability. For photographers who are interested in experimenting creatively, this is an exciting chance to grow and to learn new things. No matter what genre of photography you cherish most, use cellophane during one of your shoots. The results might surprise you, teach you new things, or show you a completely new way of looking at photography. Whatever happens, you will be closer to becoming a more experimental and open-minded photographer.

Happy shooting!

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Get Creative with an App: Cool Smartphone apps for photography – Part 2

Smartphones have made our lives a lot easier especially for photographers. The continuous developments in technology and gadgets with improvised cameras on smartphones, allow us to capture any moment in one click. They also come with a range of applications to choose from for photo editing. This is the second part of the article, a continuation from Get Creative with an App – Cool Smartphone apps for photography. In this article, I will share with you some tips from a few of my go-to apps: Fragment, Noir, LoryStripes, Darkroom, and Mextures.

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FRAGMENT

This is an app created by talented individuals at Pixite Source. When feeling inspired, I like to juxtapose images and get creative with them. Fragment is an interesting app where you can create different variations to your images. The app is packed with many features to use, in case you get confused you are able to use their random fragment feature to pick the one that suits you.

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After opening the app and choosing the photo you want to work with, you will come across the screen below. Click the white highlighted option (randomized fragments) and choose the fragment you like. If you want to edit the fragment from the photo, you need to click the red highlighted option to see which fragment works for you. Upon completion, you may choose to save or refragment.

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When you are satisfied with all options you chose, you can click the yellow highlighted option as seen in the image below. By clicking it, you will be able to adjust the brightness, contrast, 3D effects, blur some parts or even invert as in using colors for a contrast between two fragmented portions.

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After Edit

Fragment works when you want to create a quick juxtapose edit to your images, it has many options, and it adds a completely different look to your images. I like using this app most of the time for editing with graphical options.

LORYSTRIPES

Continuing from Fragment another Pixite Source creation app, to complete my edit I go to LoryStripes to add some finishing touches to the same image. You may choose to do this by using the same image, or you can use a completely new image for a different kind of edit to your image. As the name of the app goes, this app is all about Stripes with various icons and styles. As you can see in the image below, I have chosen to add the airplane style, if you see on the corner of the style there is small randomize icon where you can click on it to choose how you’d like the style to be placed.

lorystripes1 lorystripes2

In the image below, you will see the next screen after selecting your style. In this screen, you can click any of the options highlighted in yellow to choose the color and visibility of your style. As I would like to add another airplane style after completing my edit, I choose to click ReStripe.

lorystripes3 lorystripes5

In order to erase a portion of the style, see image below and click the yellow highlighted options. Upon completion, click save.

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After Edit

Lorystripes is a good app to work with when looking for lines. It also helps to broaden your imagination with its 3D styles to add to your images and compile a new outlook. I use this app to add icons that the app provides to create an imaginative approach in my images.

NOIR

My all time favorite Black and White conversion app would have to be Noir. This app converts your image to a clean and crisp black and white, hassle free. It doesn’t require too much effort to edit your colored image. The features are pretty straightforward.

After uploading your image, see the white highlighted options to choose the color you’d like as your background and preferred color sepia, blue, green or black and white.

noir app1 noir app2

You will also see the meters in the above image to adjust the composition of your image. When doing the edits, you will notice the image is slightly blurred, ignore it and continue editing. Once you complete the edit, you will see the results.

noir app4
After Edit

DARKROOM

Darkroom is not an app I use much but, for instant and simple filters this app gives good results. It is simple to use with nice filters to choose from. If you see the images below, the editing process is not tedious. You can start by choosing the preferred filter and then adjusting the brightness, contrast, etc. for the composition. Apart from Snapseed, I would recommend this app for a good clean image.

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After Edit

MEXTURES

Dreamy, vintage, dusty looks? All of this can be achieved using this one app. Even if I don’t use it often, but this app is the solution for all sorts of filters and colored editing. It gives your image a fresh and subtle touch. The way around this app is easy especially for beginners or even experts. Simply choose the desired formula to overlay your image, if you like the result, then your image is ready to save. If you would like some different styles or color, you may do some minor edits to it to complete the image. See images below for the complete steps.

mextures app1 mextures app2

mextures app3 mextures app4

In the last two images above, you will see the settings after you have chosen the formula. The formula divides itself into 4(four) layers (depending on formula) for you to play around and modify. To have the complete set of the overlay filters and formula you need to pay for it on AppStore but, they also have discounted packages for a reasonable price.

mextures app5
After Edit

In conclusion, all the above apps mentioned, including from the first part of this article, are mostly the apps I love and enjoy using. There is no specific go-to app, despite a number of new apps emerging and evolving, I still find myself using these apps for my edits. The choice is yours, which app suits your taste to create images that stand out. Enjoy the process and continue to share your innovative creations!

The importance of lighting and why you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with it

Light: endless, ever-changing, infinitely majestic. Light can soak a location with heartwarming golden colors or simply dance with mist in a dark room. Because of its versatility, light is often feared. Experimenting with light seems to be an intimidating idea; first attempts to master light are often met with failed results, which might discourage many artists. After all, it’s still possible to take visually stunning photos when there’s a plentiful supply of light available. Though unsuccessful shots are inevitable in any photographer’s life (regardless of their level of experience), befriending the many sides of light is highly important. Several failed shots are worth experiencing if the ultimate goal is a strong understanding of light.

Limited light

Creative potential and light go hand in hand; if there’s even a small source of light somewhere, there’s a chance you’ll be able to use it to create fascinating shots. Dark rooms with limited light, for example, can be used to take mysteriously inspiring portraits. If you prefer to decrease your ISO number as often as possible, encourage yourself to get out of your comfort zone and use a high ISO number. In most cameras nowadays, a high ISO isn’t extremely damaging to a photograph, especially if you shoot in RAW mode. A combination of RAW, a high ISO, and a sturdy tripod will allow you to take photographs that would lose their mystery if more light were available.
Limited light is also a great opportunity to take abstract photographs. Unclear portraits of people whose faces are slightly concealed often have the power to tell a deep story. Silhouettes or shadowed faces are a great example of photos that could instantly catch a viewer’s eye. If storytelling is something you’re interested in, limited light could help your stories come to life.

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The manipulation of light

Light can be manipulated to make your photographs look like carefully crafted works of art. Find beautiful fabrics in your home (curtains are a great resource) to create intricate shadows on sunny days. If you’re a portrait photographer, this shadow play will help you take unique photos of people, photos that both you and the model will be proud to have. Interesting shadows can also be created using hands, trees, hair, grass, and more. Your imagination is the most important part of the equation, so make sure you nurture it whenever you have the chance. A big imagination will constantly give you peculiar and brilliant ideas, which will help you to continuously grow as a photographer. The more ideas you’ll acquire, the harder it’ll be to not make great progress.

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Artificial light

Though natural light isn’t accessible 24/7, artificial light is always there to help you take better images. This kind of light can be altered more easily than natural outdoor light, making it possible for you to have more control over everything. Artificial light can be moved, decreased, and covered in an endless amount of ways. Even everyday objects as simple as torches, desk lamps, and phone light can be used to take stunning portraits.
You might be repelled by the unflattering colors that artificial lights tend to create – yellowish or blue hues that alter skin tones dramatically. This, however, can be fixed by altering a camera’s white balance. If your camera’s white balance doesn’t fix the issue, don’t refrain from continuing to take photographs. Editing programs such as Lightroom can decrease an image’s temperature and gracefully fix any unwanted colors.

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Confront your fears

Any creative fear can be changed by directly confronting the fear itself. If you’ve always avoided darkness for fear of getting blurred results, learn the power of high ISO numbers and strong tripods. If you’ve never been a fan of artificial light, research the works of talented studio photographers like Sue Bryce and give artificial light another chance. If you think your home is boring, notice the way light enters your room or the way your lamp makes your table shine. If you find too much natural light distasteful, dare to experiment with shadows. Open your mind to the beauty of light, no matter where you are, and you’ll get brilliant photographs in return.

Happy shooting!

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Underwater Macro Photography: A Photographer’s Adventure

As the summer is getting closer probably this topic is going to get very interesting for all of you, especially for those of you who are planning to go to some exotic destination. If you are looking at underwater macros on the World Wide Web you will find many “aliens”, creatures that are at least awkward, looking like they came up from a science fiction movie, and taking photos of them is a pleasure because you just don’t see creatures like that in your everyday life. To be a part of this alien world you will have to be extra careful, some of these creatures can be very dangerous, toxic and they can bite. You don’t want to bleed on a coral reef because blood can attract the most vicious of them all- her majesty Shark. Also if you are on a coral reef you going to have to be extra careful and keep steady yourself. Take into consideration that it’s only allowed – and even in certain occasions, this doesn’t prove to be allowed – to place a couple of fingers in a dead area of the coral reef itself. For example breaking a coral in Egypt will make you pay a LOT of money because these reefs are national parks and strictly protected. Also with lots of movements, you will disturb your objects and you will come up with no photos at all.Underwater macro photographyIf you haven’t dived before, take a class or two. It will be handy for better movement in this “new” underwater surrounding. Also ask the tour guide where usually photographers dive, and where you can find most of the beautiful fishes and corals.  About the equipment- you are going to need an underwater camera. Go- Pro and other look alike cameras are not the best choices for this purpose. These days you have a variety of choices, but my recommendation would be to buy an underwater housing for your DSLR. This solution is not very cheap but if you are into this kind of photography it is a worthy investment. Also, you will need a macro lens and a strobe. Today’s macro lenses are truly a magnificent piece of technology. I would recommend a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for Canon (or something close to this) because it can focus at 35 centimeters from the housing. Nikon’s 105 mm macro lens is well known as a reliable piece of macro equipment. Also, you may consider inserting an extension tube. A tube gives the lens the ability of 20% additional magnification, which is not little by all means. About the aperture, if you want a sharp clear image of your object plus the surrounding you going to have to use an aperture anywhere from f/22 to f/32, that’s the smallest Canon 100mm f2.8 macro can do. Don’t worry about the amount of light you going to get because you are using a strobe. There is another option and this technique is called “Japanese-style effect”. It’s called that way because this technique is very popular among the Japanese underwater photographers. They are using an aperture of f/4.2 and that’s how they achieve Japanese painting style photography where everything but the object is blurry.Underwater macro photographyBe careful with the focusing. It is the same as it is for, let’s say, bug macros. Get close and keep the focus on the eyes of the fish. At the moment of picking your desired a focal point, do keep in mind that it’s just one-third of what is in the focus area is in covered by the exact point of focus, and the other two-thirds falls behind it. If your goal is the mouth and the eyes of the fish to be in focus, then you should shoot somewhere in between these two. Always try to create a contrast between the object and the background. Avoid pieces of reef, mud, or flora if they are coming in front of the object. Also, the strobe should be mounted behind the lens. For this purpose always use some kind of adjustable or bendable arm. These kinds of unwanted floating objects distract the wanted impact of your image and will make your image look as it has been taken in a snow storm.To become a good underwater photographer you will need patience – a lot of it, and experience. Dive in, take your time and shoot some photos. Then go out, take a good look at the photos and think how to create better ones. Then go back in, inspect your work and don’t stop trying and experimenting. Consider the points and above-mentioned tricks, and think where you did wrong and what can be done better. I’m hoping that you find something interesting and that you will practice underwater macros.Warm regards.

Moscow Throughout the Seasons: An Inviting Adventure to Photography

Moscow, though often associated with endless coldness, goes through a variety of unique seasons. Every month possesses an air of mysteriousness; however, despite the unreliability of the weather, a creative opportunity is always waiting to be found and cherished. In this article, you’ll be introduced to the unpredictable seasons of Moscow, from freezing winter months to welcoming spring days. I hope this gives you a better idea of what this grand city is like throughout the year.

Moscow’s Winter

Winters are unrelenting in Moscow’s more rural areas. The city is treated kinder than surrounding villages, providing visitors with warm stores and outdoor food stands. Exploring the city’s streets often feels like observing everything through fogged up glass. The snow, often reminiscent of the violent storms one sees in documentaries, seems to speak of endless cold days and silence (save for the endless traffic, which is at its busiest). This time of year in Moscow is perfect for cozy indoor shoots. Those who have the time and desire to experiment with studio photography will find themselves thriving during this time. The brave individuals who do step outside are often provided with outstanding photo opportunities. Whichever option you choose if you ever visit the city, remember to dress warmly and have a thermos (or two) with you at all times!

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In villages, the silencing atmosphere can be either comforting or intimidating, depending on how much of a city person you are. Village homes are covered in thin layers of frost. It’s not uncommon to see chickens huddling and clucking busily, completely familiar with the season’s harshness. The sight is so unique that one can’t help but take photos of everything, even if the temperature threatens to freeze any exposed skin. Though this time of year is considered the most discouraging, it holds uplifting treasures for those who listen, observe, and create.

Moscow’s Spring

In the spring, magic resides in details. Winter’s ice cold hands finally begin to thaw, leaving behind signs of exhilarating life. This is a hopeful and tender time of year filled with long days and sweet-smelling parks. Colors slowly begin to bleed into the picture; though they’re not as intense as summer’s bursts of color, their presence is strong enough to lift even the heaviest of spirits. This, of course, is necessary after months of dullness. Spring, unlike winter, is ideal for outdoor shoots. The floral additions, rejuvenating golden hours, and energizing mornings promise gorgeous wedding, portrait, and nature shots. Those who love anything flower related in the creative world will find joy in the middle of the month when the flowers lose their shyness and confidently step into the world.

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Moscow’s Summer

Summer enters the scene grandly, like a relative you can always rely on. It lazily walks around, each step a day full of hazy thoughts and memories. The heat in Moscow isn’t unbearable, much to everyone’s relief. There may be days when the very center of the city seeks to burn your skin, but that is often impossible to predict beforehand. (This is why it’s always handy to have access to suncream and a hat.) It’s during this time of year that photographers of all sorts can thrive. Golden hours and longer days generously spend their time with people, promising endless creativity. The endlessness is so comforting and believable that for a moment, it’s possible to forget that the colder months are just around the corner. However, summer has a way of removing that fear and we almost, almost, don’t mind it when autumn knocks on the door with a suitcase full of leaves.

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Moscow’s Autumn

This is a product of summer and winter, a realm between two very different worlds. Autumns in Moscow are crisp morning air, dry hands, and the foretelling of a renewed cycle. This is a time of preparation, of finding warmth before the winter calls the city’s name. Autumns are perhaps the most wonderful time of year for fashion and portrait photographers. Before the leaves depart, Moscow is a golden nest ideal for portraiture, landscapes, and everything in between. The lack of intense coldness allows for relatively comfortable shoots; at the same time, the chilly weather makes coming home all the more pleasant.

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And just like that, the cycle begins all over again, each season waiting for an artist to capture its best and worst sides.

Complete guide to flash for beginners (III): Tips for using an external flash

If you are still reading this article series is probably because you decided that you need an external flash or you even got already one! Congratulations! You did the harder part. Now it is time to have fun! Unlike with the built-in-flash, shooting with an external one is a bit more than pointing and firing. If you don´t know yet how to handle your new gadget, don´t worry! We will give you some tips that will help you starting using it.

#1. If you want to use the TTL, you need to set your camera in Aperture Mode

This might seem obvious for a lot of photographers, but I did not know it when I started using the external flash. I usually  shoot in Manual, so the TTL was not working for me. I was kind of: “What happens to this flash? Maybe I have to ask for a refund because it doesn’t work!”.  So remember: No Aperture mode= No TTL!

flash guide

#2. Wait a little between shots to give time to the flash to load 

Maybe you are used to shoot several photos in a raw or in continuous mode. External flashes need some time to load , so if you shoot too fast, some of the times it won´t fire.

#3. Become a Bouncing master

Bouncing is  one of the most important things you can do while using a external flash.  It is not common to flash directly to the subject. Light will be too strong, it  will look unnatural and in addition, it is uncomfortable for the model. Instead, the good thing to do is pointing with the flash to a surface close to your subject (wall, ceiling…). It is the light that reflects from this surface the one that will add light to your subject. It will be a diffused light, so it won´t be so strong and it will look

flash guide

flash guide

 

flash guide

If you don´t have any evident surface to bounce in, you can use other things, such as the white clothes of somebody around you, a board, some furniture… or you can use reflectors and difusers .

flash guide

#4 Be respectful when using your flash

Don´t fire your flash directly to the eyes of neither people nor animals. I always like to make sure that people does not mind I use the flash, especially if I am shooting events. The strong light can be quite annoying, so it is good that people agree. Some people get into the situation of wanting you to take nice photos, but they don´t want you to use the flash (or they complain about the light). In that cases, try to explain to them nicely that not using it might affect the quality of the photo. If they decide they don´t want flash anyway, at least you were clear about the consequences.

External flash guide III

#5. Be extremely aware for not flashing  babies.

It is easy remembering not using the flash when you take photos of a baby at home. But when you are in an event or with a big group of people, it is easier to miss it. Flashes are quite aggressive for delicate eyes of a baby, so try to be always aware of the proximity of one of them.

 

 

#6. Do wrist workouts.

Do some gym style exercises that will  increase the strength of your wrists. Just kidding!! But if you are going to hold your camera with a external flash for long time (this happens a lot if you are shooting events), you will notice the extra weight. Rest form time to time to avoid soreness (and now I am serious! After shooting a night wedding and carrying the camera with the flash for several hours, I felt my writs sore next day).

I hope you liked this series and that you find it useful. Have a happy flashing

The Stories Behind Funny Outtakes: Spontaneity at its Best

We’ve all taken laughable images before. From being photobombed to tripping over unexpected objects, we’ve made ourselves (or our subjects) look silly in front of the camera. While photography is an amazing opportunity to find refuge and acceptance, it’s also a great chance to humble yourself and find joy in the smallest of situations.

I’ve accumulated an abundance of hilarious photographs over the years, some of which can be viewed below. Every shot is accompanied by a short explanation and behind-the-scenes story. I hope these images bring a smile to your face. Have a wonderful, wonderful day and don’t forget to laugh. 🙂

When others spot you

Self-portraiture plays a significant part in my creative life. The wonderful places I scout are often well-known tourist locations, though it seems that my camera has the power to attract unexpected visitors even to the emptiest of places. There have been many times when I’ve had to face an inquisitive neighbor or attempt to look casual next to a group of passing tourists. Though the act of taking self-portraits (or photos in general) is nothing to be embarrassed about, we naturally feel awkward whilst posing among people who are doing normal, day-to-day things. Interestingly enough, my funniest outtakes involve friends or family members who’ve caught me trying to do a blue steel pose in front of the camera. The images below are my reactions to their laughter.

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This was taken in my favorite backyard on a wonderful summer day. My father unexpectedly turned up while I was hiding in the bushes, startling me. His amused expression encouraged me to pull a few faces.

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There’s a gorgeous location in the mountains of Cyprus which bathes in tranquility. Taking photos there is an absolute joy, especially on scorching days. After taking a bunch of “serious” images, I started pulling faces just for the fun of it. However, while pulling a particularly unappealing face, I was spotted by a family member.

Unruly hair flips

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There is nothing quite as amusing as a hair flip gone wrong. Furthermore, there is nothing quite as hilarious as a blurred photo featuring a hair flip gone wrong. My hair, which has a mind of its own, has to deal with my bird-like arm movements and unflattering facial expressions. More often than not, these hindrances provide me with funny opportunities to humble myself. 🙂

Nature’s various pranks

Many of my photos end up becoming outtakes thanks to a falling leaf covering my eyes or a branch sticking out of my hair. Though these results can still be used in a portfolio thanks to everyone’s beloved cropping tool, there’s something hilariously special about sharing the uncropped versions with others. For example, the photo below was taken in the same backyard I previously mentioned; upon throwing a few fallen leaves into the air, the camera caught a strange little moment: a small decoration gifted by nature. 😉

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Uncooperative pets

I have a darling Scottish Fold kitten whose sassy attitude often prevents me from having successful shots (though you could call funny photo shoots successful). Despite being extremely photogenic, she rarely enjoys being held for a long time, especially in the presence of a camera. Some of her photoshoot habits include, but are not limited to, eating my hair, biting her own tail, and scratching my face. The positive side of this is that her rambunctious personality makes successful shots all the more valuable. More importantly, she gives me a chance to have a shoot that’s not only creativity-fulfilling but also very fun.

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Fur in your mouth + your cat biting her tail may or may not be a good combination. I wanted this shoot to be a calming and graceful one, but the energetic ball of fur in my arms had different plans. (Not pictured: after biting her tail, she proceeded to bite, scratch, and finally lick my fingers. I’m not sure if she loves or hates me.)

I greatly favor unexpected outtakes, but I also find beauty in intentional face-pulling and expression making. It’s important to have fun during a shoot, no matter who or what your subject is. If there aren’t enough amusing elements around, create your own world of funny situations. If you’re working with someone, remember to relax; even if your shoot isn’t a humorous one, mutual comfortability will result in equally comfortable and visually appealing images. So remember to relax, have fun, and pull a few funny faces during your shoot.

Happy shooting!

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The Power of Seeing Monochrome: Tones of Black and White

Colors have a way to give you a bright and cheerful feeling. There is just something about a photo that speaks colors. It brings out that energy and brightens up your day with it. Did you know that even photos in Black and White/Monochrome can intrigue you?

people

Black and White definitely gives you a retro feeling of the olden days, when photographers like Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fan Ho created wonderful artistic memories. At the same time, in current times you will find many photographers including myself, trying to experiment shooting or even editing in Black and White to create a different moment with a touch of the past.

How do we find the right photo to edit in Black and White? Or maybe capture a moment in Black and White?

In a recent assignment titled “Cities in Black and White” on National Geographic by Matt Adams, I tried to experiment and submit to the assignment. We were allowed to edit photos into black and white. In the assignment, Matt gave us a guide as to what to see or how to find the right photo to edit. It was not easy to choose the colored photos to transform them in Black and White yet, it was a fun learning experience. It has also continued to help and guide me to keep improving and trying out various edits to get the right tones of Black and White.

chair

Seeing through black and white can be a challenge but it can be simple. We have been quite accustomed to having the option of shooting in color that when looking at black and white it feels too plain. It is in that simplicity that many great moments have been created in the past and even today.

The photo above has been shot in pure black and white. There was the “Weekend Hashtag Project WHP” on Instagram at the time titled “Shadows and Light” if I recall correctly. This project helped me to experiment capturing in black and white. I saw the chair and the sunlight during the day was pretty good to create a shadow effect. From a particular angle, I captured the shot, to portray the serenity of the moment using the chair as my object.

We now turn to comparing between color and monochrome photos to see how editing and conversion can also bring out a good black and white tone to photos.

art

art

This prominent red colored photo of an art gallery brings the moment to life with the red, the artwork and the structures. I chose this photo to transform it into black and white. As you will see once transformed, there is a completely new sense of the moment. Everything is the same the artwork, structure, and perspective. We can’t say that color is missing as the essence is the same. It is now just a matter of personal preference.

drops

drops

In this photo, the raindrops with the bluish green background bring the raindrops to life with every detail of it. After we convert it to black and white we can see not just the raindrops are alive but every single aspect of the photo is visible. There is complete clarity. The black and white is my personal preference as it defines what I wanted to capture the moment.

people

people

Walking around Patan Durbar Square, Nepal this scene was quite pleasant. The details of the wonderful palace building with the sunlight blue skies and people walking around created a lovely moment. Capturing this in color and after a while transforming it to black and white, made the moment feel more captivating. The details of every aspect pop out more through monochromatic tones.

inside

inside

The insides of Patan Museum, Nepal was a feast for the eyes. The architecture and intricacy kept me fascinated looking for various aspects to capture this royal beauty. As we entered, without thinking I just clicked this scene of the girl standing and people sitting around. After completing the National Geographic assignment, I tried experimenting by converting this image to black and white and turns out the transformed version is much better. It focuses completely on the girl standing thus, creating a complete moment around it.

church

This moment was another pure black and white capture inside a Cathedral. The lighting inside was perfect to bring out the details and the black and white tones defined this moment entirely.

grounds

grounds

Lastly, through this patterned inside ground of Istiqlal Mosque, we can see how the colors combined with the skies form symmetry. Patterns can help to define black and white tones in moments more. Changing the image to black and white gives it a refined touch where all the lines and structure come in harmony together.

There is no perfect combination or formula to doing it right, just simply practicing. Fan Ho said, “it was always his goal to wait for the lighting and composition to fall into place when photographing.” That could be our benchmark when capturing in monochrome. As for editing, there could be many things we can take into consideration like patterns, structure, architecture or even people. It really all depends on finding the right balance and tones to convert it. Requires a lot of trial and error to get what you are looking for in the photo.

structure

Monochrome will continue to be something we experiment on as we do not have the limit of films and that is what makes it a challenge. The questions of how did they do it in the past? How did they learn the balance of composition? The simplicity and limit enhanced their creativity to get it right. They were able to capture the essence of what composition is not quickly, but smoothly. With color, it can feel like we have more distractions when focusing on an object or moment. Both has its positives, eventually, the choice is ours to make and create photos to share and inspire.

The Reasons Behind Green Screen in Studio Photography

Green screens have a mixed reputation in the world of photography. On the one hand, if they’re used improperly, the final image looks fake. On the other, green screens allow studio photographers to create surreal images or put their models in exotic settings. A green screen is a fantastic tool, and there are plenty of reasons you should utilize it in your own studio photography.

Green Screens Give You the World

If you have a dedicated studio, you’ve already invested quite a bit in your photography. Even if that studio is in your home, setting aside an entire space and bringing in all the equipment you need is costly. You know what else is costly? Finding and shooting on location.

A green screen gives photographers the opportunity to place their subjects anywhere they want. In the age of digital art, having a collection of green screen portraits is a vital tool for many artists. Have you ever noticed how stock photography almost always utilizes a clearly defined subject with a white, blurred, or simply distant background? Most of those images feature subjects that were taken in front of a green screen.

green screen studio background

With a green screen, your subjects can be flying, added into old family photos, or simply given a beautiful, but the unrealistic background. You can also use pre-collected images of locations and add those backgrounds to portraits in post-production. It takes practice to edit such images well, but if you use the same background multiple times for graduation, engagement, or glamor photos, you can master the art of adjusting your studio lighting to reflect the conditions of the artificial background.

This looks much better than simply pulling down various backdrops, which never look truly three-dimensional. It’s the same principle, though. It simply takes advantage of newer techniques and hardware. Naturally, this approach also saves the photographer money. A single green screen is much cheaper than a set of different backdrops.

They Make Editing a Breeze

green screen editing

If you hate editing basic portraits, the green screen could be your new best friend. While traditional white backgrounds are prone to smudges, wrinkles, and other eyesores, green screens literally disappear in editing. You can add in a pristine white background with very little work. It’s a shortcut to perfection.

Conversely, if editing is one of your favorite parts of photography, or you use your photos as part of elaborate manipulations, a green screen can help make your final images better. After all, cutting out a person’s hair in Photoshop will never be anything but a chore. It rarely looks exactly right, either. Green screen keeps everything about the subject but features nothing, not even a white backdrop, that you would need to edit out. This gives you more time to focus on the art of your project.

green screen fireworks background

The Gear is Simple

Chances are, you already work with a digital camera. The only expensive equipment you really need for green screen work is your digital camera and the computer you use for editing. If you already have both of those, your major investments have already been made.

green screen equipment

Green screens themselves are usually very cheap. Depending on the material, you can get a fabric backdrop for under $20. More expensive options are available, of course, and provide arguably better results. Higher quality materials, such as muslin, cost more. Rigid pop-up backgrounds, like FancierStudio’s Collapsible Backdrop, cost nearly twice as much as your cheapest options, and they’re fairly small. However, they’re free of the drapes and wrinkles that may cast shadows that will make editing more difficult.

If you go with a traditional fabric backdrop, you can either mount it to your wall or purchase a stand. These run anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on size, materials, and additional features. A basic stand, like LimoStudio’s 10 ft. Adjustable Backdrop System should cover nearly all studio photography needs.

Eventually, you’ll need digital backgrounds. You may not need to buy them, though. Plenty is available for free through online creative collaborations, and you should always work on developing some of your own. After all, no other photographer has your eye or style, so it’s good to have digital backdrops that compliment the style of photography you use in your studio.

digital background

Finally, IT’S FUN!

All technicalities aside, working with a green screen is simply fun. It’s a brilliant editing shortcut for simple portraits, and it allows photographers on just about any budget to expand their range. It brings nature into the studio through pre-shot digital backdrops, and it opens the door to some truly creative projects. The gear is simple, and you probably already have the most expensive equipment on hand. Whether you’re looking to reduce your work, find the perfect background, or give your sitters superpowers, a green screen and some editing can deliver your dreams.

An Autumn Morning in Cyprus and Self-Reflections

Autumns in Cyprus are a blur of fog, crunchy leaves, and rainy (self) reflections. Every autumn, my family and I would spend hours collecting refreshing water, hiking, and taking quirky photos in the mountains. Since Cyprus is a fairly humble little island free of endless traffic jams, getting to places requires no effort at all. This easiness allows the island’s inhabitants to freely explore the entire island. In the autumn, this is particularly useful.

There was a certain year when autumn grandly announced its arrival and showered the island with shades of amber and brown. Everybody was in a state of perpetual awe during this enchanting time; most people were either taking snapshots all the time or simply absorbing, wide-eyed, the bountiful supply of picturesque scenes. I was amongst the former, dutifully photographing both landscapes and details with any camera I could get my hands on. It was a refreshing period of time which put us all in a world where worries concerning time and pain didn’t exist. Because every individual had the chance to experience this worry-less reality, even if temporarily, more people seemed to get along. It was as if the season had cast a spell of tranquility on us all, blocking all resentment from entering our newfound bubble of safety.

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The mountains’ personality changes along with the time of day. Aware of this fact, we decided to visit the mountains before they awakened. On a cozy morning, we packed spinach pie and a thermos full of hot tea and went looking for an adventure. On our way there (a trip that takes no longer than an hour and a half), we spotted a shepherd herding a flock of sheep. The group was carefully hidden behind a timid layer of fog, a ghostly yet comforting reminder of a simpler life. Such a sight, though common in the mountains, is a rare occurrence in the city itself. This is why exploration is precious – you could visit the same location over and over again, but the creative opportunities it would provide you with would always be diverse and endless. Finding unexpected situations to photograph is an absolute joy for us all. The good news is that you needn’t go far to experience this joy.

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Around 30 minutes into the trip, we stopped to grab a few snacks in our favorite store, a place that smells like the best bakery in the world mixed with the wondrous scent of forests. There, we spotted another unexpected moment: birds appearing out of nowhere like fountains in the sky. They quickly and elegantly flew around the area, leaving behind mild echoes and feather souvenirs. This, combined with Birdy’s cover of the song Skinny Love, left an unforgettable mark on me. Though the grandiosity of this moment might not have abandoned me in the years to come, I would’ve forgotten to remember it had it not been for the images I took during that experience. It is for this reason – that significant yet unpredictable moment, when documented in one form or another, stay with us forever – that I cherish photography and everything it has to offer.

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Entering the heart of the mountains was, as always, akin to a sigh of relief. Our favorite spot, an outdoor space where visitors could relax and collect fresh water, was located next to an abandoned little shed surrounded by a stream. In another environment, this would’ve been a disconcerting view; in the autumnal morning mountains, it was a visually appealing comfort. We spent the rest of the morning nibbling on goodies, discussing the beauty of the chilly season, and taking comfortable walks in the area. Every moment felt strangely endless, and in a way it was. When I go through the photographs I took back then, I find myself reliving every vivid moment as if it only happened a week ago. To quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

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I encourage you to visit all kinds of places, even your own backyard, and to look at them through the eyes of a curious observer. In that world of inquisitive thoughts, you will find exactly what you need, especially things you never knew you needed. There is endless value in being both present and photo-ready on this unpredictable, marvelous, colorful earth.

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Beating anxiety, one photo at a time

Many people experience intense anxiety at one point or another. The feeling is often paralyzing, forcing a person to believe that they don’t belong anywhere. Though it’s a very private experience, anxiety is also a universal feeling which many of us can relate to and understand. In the photography world, anxious thoughts are powerful enough to affect even the most confident minds. Fortunately, embracing photography can obliterate uneasiness and push us to be more courageous when facing both personal and creative challenges.

Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes, from a tiny pang of fear to a heavy storm of relentless doubts. If you’re not comfortable whilst socializing, you might fear the idea of photographing strangers or working with new models. If self-portraiture is something you wish to experiment with, you might be afraid of getting unflattering results. Natural as such insecurities may be, they can be removed with the help of a camera. All you need is persistence and a tiny drop of courage.

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If you’re a beginner, especially one who’s interested in portraiture, then taking self-portraits first will greatly benefit you. When I first began taking photographs, I was both anxious and shy. The very thought of asking people to model for me made me queasy. Because I wasn’t confident in my own creative skills, I didn’t believe anybody else would be. This resulted in many solitary hours with the camera, which taught me much about photography’s technical aspects and my own posing abilities. Having to be in front of (and behind) the camera opened my mind; this, in turn, helped me understand the models I would be working with later on. Being able to relate to the modeling side of photography helped my future subjects feel relaxed in my presence. Knowing that I myself had been afraid of the camera made them trust me. If the photographer could face her self-doubt, why couldn’t they?

Self-portraiture let me confront my own fears and express negative emotions creatively. This was both cathartic and artistically productive. Since emotional images are often associated with tears and fury, we aim to avoid them. However, vulnerability doesn’t revolve around fragility only; it’s a combination of sensitivity, openness, and self-awareness. Understanding your emotions will not only help you create touching photographs, but it will also enhance your empathy, allowing you to be comfortable with any kinds of emotions. Viewing deep feelings through your lens will provide you with an objective perspective, one that will enable you to understand yourself and your needs better. Once you get to know yourself, your anxiety will lose its intensity and self-portraiture – or any other form of art – will become a place of creativity and growth.

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If you’re not interested in portraiture but still feel anxious when taking pictures, find a comfortable location and photograph anything that appeals to you. Not having to worry about being disturbed by strangers will relax your mind and enhance your creativity. Go out on days when everybody else is busy or find a spot in your area that is rarely visited by people. These places will become comforting homes outside of home. In them, you’ll find the necessary time and space to familiarize yourself with your camera and various lighting conditions. Once you begin to “feel” your camera, you’ll feel brave enough to explore more, photograph more, and challenge yourself more bravely.

If you think photography causes anxiety, then think again. Photography can be a place of comfort for the frightened and a refuge for the weak. In the world of photos, sensitivity is happily embraced and nurtured. Furthermore, the same sensitivity is turned into amazing works of art which challenge and motivate others to improve. Practicing in any way will:

  • make you comfortable with your camera
  • give you space to understand yourself as an artist
  • enable you to empathize with future clients and models
  • help you embrace your own emotions

Most importantly, all of these things will allow you to beat anxiety, one photo at a time.

Good luck!

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Photographer interview: Isabela Mayer

Isabela Mayer is a talented portrait photographer from Londrina, Brasil. Using all kinds of creative techniques, Isabela gracefully captures her models’ inner and outer beauty. In this interview, we talk about inspiration, how she fits photography into her busy schedule, and more.

What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I’ve always liked taking pictures since I was a child, but I think what really inspired me to go after a photography career were book covers. I love reading and even though we’re not meant to “choose a book by its cover” I’ve always done that, the books with beautiful and interesting photos on the cover caught my eye every time.

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You have a great variety of stunning portraits. How do you make your models feel comfortable in front of your camera?

I feel like I’m a bit of an awkward person, I’ve always been really shy so working with models was a big challenge for me in the beginning. Nowadays I try to relax, make conversation and get to know them. The shots always turn out to be a lot of fun!

Judging by your gorgeously edited photographs, you seem to be very familiar with post-processing. What do you love most about editing?

I love choosing the colors I’m going to use for each shot. I feel like that’s a big part of how I make my images look my own.

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In relation to the previous question, what’s your favorite editing program?

If I could only choose one I’d say Lightroom, it is so versatile! But I don’t think I could live without Photoshop. I usually combine both.

Since your portfolio is rich with portraits, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s about to have their first client shoot?

I’d say take your time. Don’t be nervous and rush things, check your camera a couple of times to make sure you are happy with your images, the important thing is the final result and not how fast you end the shoot!

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What parts of the photo-taking process do you find most challenging?

Finding locations. I live in a region where everything is green and not that interesting and the buildings are not that pretty either… I have to improvise and choose my angles well to make it work.

What do you wish you had known when you first started shooting?

I wish I had known more about photography equipment. When I first started out I spent all my money on the wrong things and later had to change all my equipment so it fit my purposes better.

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You’ve grown so much as an artist over the years. What has been the biggest obstacle in your journey so far and how did you overcome it?

Thank you! My biggest obstacle is definitely university. I study architecture full time, so it’s a struggle to find time for photography. I think I’ll only overcome it when I graduate, haha, but as of now, I do my best to fit shoots into my crazy schedule, even if it means not sleeping much!

Is there any type of photography genre you’d like to experiment with more?

I think wedding photography. I’ve started taking photos of couples lately and it’s so captivating! I like the idea of telling stories through my photographs and there’s nothing quite like a good love story. Also, I love capturing feelings.

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And finally, what do you tell yourself when you feel insecure about your work?

When I feel insecure I usually just take a break, watch films, distract myself for a bit so I can start having ideas and getting excited to photograph again. I try to always keep in mind that photography is a never ending learning experience, you are always learning new things and improving and sometimes that involves making mistakes or criticizing your own work.

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You can find more of Isabela’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

Complete Guide to Flash for Beginners (II): Things to Consider when Buying an External Flash

In the previous article, I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of using an external flash. If you decided that it is time for you to get one, now you will face the big question: Which one should I buy? I struggled quite a lot before I got my first flash because I didn’t understand well the specifications. In addition, I did not know what I needed to have in order to answer my requirements. Today I will share with you everything I learned in the process of buying a flash. I hope this will make it easier for you!

external flash for beginners

 

Get to know what the specifications of a flash mean

When you are new into flashes, it might seem that the specifications and reviews are written in another language. TTL, guide number, flash value, zoom coverage, bounce capacity, speed sync…. a lot of new terminology you never heard before! Let’s go over all of them. You will be able to understand flash terminology in a flash (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun)!

Guide number: measures the flash’s ability to illuminate the subject so that it will have a balanced exposure. It is calculated as the distance the subject from the flash times the f-value of the aperture (in order to simplify it, the calculation is usually done with the iso value of 100). This calculation can help you decide on the type of flash you should buy but also can help you to decide on placement in the photo when using the flash you have and your camera settings.

Zoom coverage: indicates how far the light from the flash can reach (and still be effective for the photo). Some flashes can adjust the distance to be synchronized with the zoom of the lens

 Bounce capacity: Certain flashes have swivel and tilting heads. This feature enables you to use the flash not only for illuminating your subject with direct light (which can be too hard in certain situations) but also to reflect (or bounce) the light off of surfaces, softening it in the process.

external flash for beginners

Speed Sync: When using a flash two actions happen: the shutter opens to expose the sensor (or film) to light and it discharges a burst of light onto the subject. In the basic level, these two actions need to be synchronized in order to be effective. In a more advanced level of flash usage, if it fires closer to the moment the shutter opens or having the flash closer to the moment the shutter closes will of light closer to the yield different effects.

TTL: In the camera, you have different modes to choose from: auto, aperture, manual etc. The external flash also has several modes of action. In manual mode, you set it as you want and the settings will remain that way until you change them. In TTL mode your flash changes its settings according to instructions from the camera. The camera tells the flash to discharge twice; first before the shot to allow the camera to adjust the flash settings, and second while taking the shot itself (while the shutter is open) in order to illuminate the subject.

external flash for beginners

Evaluate the use you will make  

Choosing between one flash model and another will depend on the usage you intend for it. Some of the most frequent uses are:

  • Indoors portraits: When you take photos of one or two people in small and closed spaces, as is usually the case with indoors photography, you’ll mostly use the flash to remove shadows and give a bit more of light to the scene. You don’t need a super powerful flash with long coverage because you are usually close to the model and your light conditions are not the worst (you are not shooting in total darkness). However, it will be nice if you have TTL (it will be faster and your model will have easier time). Having a flash with rotating and tilting head will be useful too, because it will give you more flexibility to bounce the light from different directions and objects.

external flash for beginnersexternal flash for beginners

  • Indoors group portraits: Same as above, with the difference of having more than two subjects, this means you’d need to take the photo from a bigger distance from them so they will all fit in the frame. If this is your case, you would want a flash with higher flash value so it could reach from further away.
  • Portraits outdoors: You’ll probably be taking portraits at several locations which probably won’t provide the same protective and dependable environment a studio (or a room) would provide. I heard stories about flashes falling from cliffs or get broken because they fell because of a gust of In this case, I’d recommend you to get a flash that will be powerful enough, but still cheap (you might want to consider to take your chances with a none brand-name product). Then, if something happens to it, you won´t feel so bad about it.

external flash for beginners

  • Events: Events are a bit of a mixture of all of the above, they could require you to switch between locations, you might need to take photos of groups and/or individuals, you’ll probably need to take photos of little details as well as wide angle shots. In order to truly be prepared you might consider having more than just one flash (and even more than just one camera). Of course that depends on the nature of the event and what is required of you.

external flash for beginners

These were just some examples, meant to give you food for thought while you analyze your future use of the flash and why some flashes might fit better that others. You are the one that knows the type of photos you want to take, so the final decision is yours and it might be different from what I said in the examples.

Decide on a budget

Prices start at around 10 US Dollars and can go up to hundreds of dollars. Decide on a budget before you start looking. You can find the perfect flash for you and then realize that it is way too expensive  and you can´t afford it. I always recommend not spend a lot on the first one you get. You don´t know yet if you are going to use it as much as you think. You might love using flash, but you might also hate it. Getting a flash with good quality/price ratio is always a good choice in my opinion especially when you are trying something new. You can always upgrade to a more expensive one in the future, when you are sure of your needs and real requirements. Also, it is better to make all the beginner’s mistakes done on a cheap piece of equipment than on an expensive one.

external flash for beginners

Same brand of your camera or a third party flash?

You can get a flash from the same brand as your camera or from a totally different company that makes flashes compatible with your camera (third party). There are advantages and disadvantages to the two options.

If you get a flash from the same brand of your camera, the compatibility is assured. Besides, most brand names provide worldwide repair services and most reliable private repair services will also be familiar with them. Moreover, some added value functions such as remote communication between the camera and the flash would work only when using devices of the same brand.

Third party flashes are usually cheaper, making a great option in case you have a budget to consider. Also, you might want it to have features or accessories that are provided by a specific brand.

 external flash for beginners

First or second hand?

The advantages of getting a brand new flash are quite obvious, you know exactly what condition it is, you have a warranty and who to contact if you have issues or need of technical support. The major disadvantage is the cost. On the other hand, some people prefer buying second hand equipment when they try a new thing; it’s cheaper, you don’t have the constant fear of scratching it when using it and if you are electronic savvy who likes to fix things by yourself, warranty is not an issue. However, when it comes to flashes you must keep in mind that it has a light-bulb which has a life span measured by how many times it’s been fired (or lit). Make sure it is not going to burn out soon and keep in mind it will entail further expanses and a visit to the service lab.

 

I hope you’d found my article helpful. If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks feel free to write a comment. Happy shooting!

Transformation in self-portraiture: Discovering Identity

Self-portraiture was the very first genre I was introduced to when I discovered photography. The very first self-portraits I encountered and loved were otherworldly images filled with seemingly magical elements. The subjects all looked like they had been taken out of a fairytale: eye-catching neons, impressive costumes, breathtaking hairstyles, and the list goes on. However, upon visiting the photographers’ profiles, I noticed that the real subjects behind those photos looked very different in reality. They were just as stunning without their wigs and makeup, but what really astounded me was how gracefully they had disguised themselves in order to convey a certain emotion. Inspired by this notion of transformation, I became a chameleon myself.

Fortunately, you don’t need a team of makeup artists and hairdressers to transform yourself into a character you care about (though that would be very helpful). All that’s needed is a touch of creativity and a willingness to be patient. Don’t limit yourself to the tips below. Instead, view them as a starting point from which your own original ideas can grow.

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Stories

The most important part of the transformation is understanding the emotion you want to create. It’s okay to simply enjoy the unpredictable nature of a shoot. It’s also okay to have a detailed plan before you begin. Whichever method you choose, remember to have a story in mind. What kind of story do you want to tell? Are there any emotions that really stand out to you? It would help to watch a film or read a book before your shoot; even if you won’t end up planning anything afterward, the emotions of the story will seep into your mind and fill your subconscious with interesting ideas. If you have the time and the desire, writing a short story for your character would benefit you greatly. Not only would it provide you with enriching ideas, but it would also improve your writing and thinking skills.

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Actors often admit that a makeover gives them the necessary confidence embody their character successfully. An outfit change could turn you into someone who’s willing to expose their heart for the sake of photography. While this isn’t a direct transformation tip, it’s a reminder to familiarize yourself with your emotions and to find comfort in them through your art. The results might not always please you, but they’ll give you the necessary amount of empathy to have an honest shoot.

Hairstyles & Hair colors

In a future article, I’ll share many interesting hairstyles with you. For the time being, I encourage you to experiment fearlessly. Most of my hairstyles are the results of random movements and patterns. More often than not, they’re just messy knots which happen to be photogenic. Anyone can be their own hairdresser, especially passionate photographers who wish to tell a heartfelt story.

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Much like hairstyles, hair colors are very fun to experiment with (especially when you learn how to work with them in Photoshop). Selective color in Photoshop allows users to change specific hues in an image, a tool perfect for hair retouching. For instance, dark hair can be highlighted by altering the neutral colors in selective color. Similarly, lighter hair can be completely transformed by changing yellows and reds.

When the lighting conditions aren’t ideal during a shoot, changing hair color in Photoshop might be an ordeal. If you don’t have access to the best lighting at any point in time, investing in several wigs would remove the problem. There’s a plethora of hairstyles and hair colors to choose from when it comes to wigs; using them in your (self)portraits will enhance your portfolio in unimaginable ways.

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Makeup

For those who aren’t big on makeup, the transformation is still very possible. A simple eyeliner can make someone feel like an entirely different person. Even a touch of black lipstick could instantly transform you into the character you admire. Keep this in mind when you look through your makeup tools – chances are that you’ll find creative and eye-opening ways to apply them.

Makeup, specifically eyebrow pencils, are ideal for creating beauty spots or freckles. Such minor additions will dramatically change your appearance, allowing your images to strongly affect viewers. Freckles look particularly alluring in black & white photographs. Makeup can also come in handy when creating fake tattoos or other body modifications. The fact that makeup can be easily removed makes it a self-portrait photographer’s best friend: easy to apply, easy to remove. The results transform you into someone completely different, someone whose emotions and stories you can confidently share with the world.

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Locations

Visiting new and picturesque locations might help you develop a character idea or enhance a vision you already have. If you don’t have access to such places, shoot somewhere familiar and alter the colors using selective color (Lightroom has similar features.) This way, you can transform a summery backyard into an autumnal one. The possibilities are excitingly endless. What you’ll get is an almost fictional world where you and your imagination can thrive.

Adding textures in the editing process could also add an interesting element to your transformation. Since there are all kinds of resources out there (many of them are free), you can make your image look as old or as new as you like. This creative freedom enables artists to create photos that are out of this world.

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Sometimes, we find ourselves hiding behind masks just to please someone or avoid an unpleasant conversation. These situations often leave us feeling so distant from ourselves it makes our hearts ache. To a certain extent, self-portraiture is an ode to all of these moments, a way of relating to all kinds of people by transforming ourselves into something we’re not. One could also consider self-portraiture a form of empathy. We create characters whose stories we strongly wish to share with the world and by doing that, we learn more about other lives and how we perceive them.

A day in the life of a photogenic kitten

I own a sassy little Scottish Fold called Mimi whose rambunctious personality gives me unique photo-taking opportunities every day. Though I mostly focus on portraiture, taking photos of animals gives me a chance to broaden my creative horizons and familiarize myself with mind-opening, genre-specific techniques. With this in mind, I decided to focus on an average day with my cat and find interesting creative doors as the day progressed. Here are the results.

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While some cats are nocturnal animals, others enjoy sleeping at the same time as their owners. Mimi is a combination of both, switching from a peaceful nighttime cat to a wild creature lurking in the dark. The former is preferred by everyone not just because it gives the family an undisturbed night of sleep, but also because it makes Mimi fairly sleepy in the mornings – the ideal time to take cozy pet photos. A kitten experiencing the light of a new morning is exceedingly charming. This time of day is particularly useful for those who own wild kittens; photographing them early in the morning will help you avoid taking unsuccessful and blurry shots. Keeping the curtains drawn on a bright morning will also provide you with the best light: a mild yet clear environment for the best indoor pictures.

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Mimi turns into a hyper creature as soon as she devours her breakfast. While this part of the day is a challenging one to capture, it’s worth diving into thanks to the often funny creative opportunities that arise. The light during this time is still mild, so worrying about lighting conditions isn’t a necessity. Taking into consideration the importance of capturing movement, the good lighting conditions are a huge plus. If the light isn’t favorable when your cat is in a playful mood, consider increasing your camera’s ISO number for less blurred results.

To make playtime more entertaining for both you and your cat, consider using distractions such as toys and snacks. These will catch your pet’s attention and serve as visually appealing foregrounds. Other objects which have the potential of becoming striking foregrounds are hair, blankets, and plants. Remember to reward your cat every few minutes so it feels encouraged and loved. Grumpy pets don’t make the best models, no matter how sweet they may look.

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Exploring the apartment is something Mimi thoroughly enjoys, no matter how well she knows every room. Washing machines, doors, tables, and windows all fascinate her beyond measure. For unique and endearing images, follow your cat around and notice what interests them. Photograph them while they’re in their own bubble of curiosity. Exploration is the perfect time for spontaneity, and spontaneity is perfect for eye-catching and impressive shots.

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Take advantage of your cat’s favorite hobby: napping. Mimi can sleep for hours on end, occasionally getting up and freezing mid-stretch. Since cats are so flexible, their sleeping and resting positions are often quite amusing. Mimi, for example, loves sleeping with her paws lined up neatly in front of her, just like The Sphinx of Giza. Photographing your cat’s unique quirks will give your photos more personality, so use your pet’s naptimes as an excuse to take awesome photos.

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It really is all in the details. Focusing on parts of your cat – its paws, ears, eyes, and so on – will allow you to think more creatively due to the fact that it takes careful observation to find outstanding details. Instead of photographing your cat from a distance, find graceful parts that stand out to you. Making a collage out of those parts could be the start of an interesting project, for instance.

In just a day, you could acquire a plethora of sweet cat photographs. Imagine how wonderful your results would be if you photographed your pet more often if you started a project tracking its development and growth. Such projects, tough as they may sometimes be, are fantastic methods of improvement. Whatever you decide to do after reading this article, remember to reward your cat, be present while shooting (even if you’re focused), avoid stress, and most importantly, enjoy this wonderfully pleasant time together. The experience will leave you feeling warm and the photos will be the beginning of something wonderful.
Good luck!

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5 Tips for Taking Unique Pictures of Fish

With bright colors, unique shapes, and smooth, gliding movements, it’s no wonder fish are a popular subject for photographers. A trip to the aquarium provides endless inspiration for potential captures, but it’s important to know what to look for to ensure your shots give you the results you want to see. Even if you’re shooting fish outside in a lake or river, there are some things you should keep in mind as you venture out with your camera.

Fish photography presents several unique challenges – like low light, reflections, fast-moving subjects, and shooting through water. Fortunately, these roadblocks can all be overcome through practice. In fact, once you know how to approach them, they can actually work to make your final images more interesting.

Your captures of fish could be some of the most spectacular photos in your portfolio – you just need to know how to approach these unique challenges in a way that will produce fantastic results.

1. Stay Out of the Shot

Even though aquariums are generally fairly dark, all those layers of glass reflect each bit of light in the room. You’ll see that the glass reflects the walls, benches, and even you and the other visitors, as well as reflections from all the other tanks. Using a lens hood and pressing your camera against the glass can help to block out all that extra light, but chances are you’ll still need to check your position to make sure your frame doesn’t include any unpleasant intrusions.

aquarium fish photography

Even if you’re shooting outside, you’ll likely have to deal with reflections – but this time, they’ll be on the surface of the water. These can trip up your camera’s light meter, making it think there is more light in the scene than there actually is. Be careful about trusting any automatic settings, and use a handheld light meter if you can.

2. Capture the Action

Fish darting around and even jumping up out of the water will be moving quickly. You’ll need to use a wide aperture setting to let in as much light as possible, allowing your camera to use a faster shutter speed. That way, you can freeze the action and catch those fish in motion before they zoom off to another part of the aquarium, or disappear back beneath the waves.

fish swimming upstream photo

This can be tricky in an aquarium, where the lighting might not be bright enough to allow for a quick shutter speed. To achieve this, try to find a scene with solid lighting and wait for the fish to come to you. Chances are you won’t have to wait long before some vibrant fish come along and capture the light with their bright scales.

3. Get Up Close

Using the right lens can make a huge difference when you’re trying to shoot something as small as fish. It can also help you cut through the water during a shoot at the aquarium, because the more water you have between yourself and your subject, the softer your focus will be. Frame your subject in a tight shot by using a lens that has a good range and can zoom in, where necessary.

jellyfish closeup photo

At the aquarium, fish might also swim right up close to the glass – and if you’re pressed up with a lens hood, you might be too close for zoom. Ideally, you’ll want some range, so you can shoot wherever the fish might be swimming.

4. Don’t Sweat It

Condensation is a frustrating part of shooting anywhere you’ll find water. Humid environments, like on a lake or in an aquarium, can cause your camera to sweat and fog up. Newer cameras will even shut off to prevent damage if they recognized too much condensation in the internal circuitry. To keep this from disturbing your shoot, give your camera some time to adjust to a new environment before you try capturing photos.

5. Make Your Subject Pop

Whether you’re shooting at an aquarium or outside, it’s important to think carefully about your compositions. Frame your image in a way that makes the fish stand out from the background, which can be a challenge.

tropical fish photo

In an aquarium, you’ll have to fight against other brightly colored fish that might be competing for attention, or dark shadows that could close in on your subject. In the wild, there are all kinds of other distractions to deal with – splashing water droplets, plants and other animals can get in the way of a clean, simple composition that shows off the spectacular fish you’re trying to photograph.

Using these tips to take photographs of fish will help you come up with some impressive images that showcase the movement, colors, and shapes of these beautiful creatures. Grab your camera and get to the aquarium to test them out before the crowds show up!

Winter traditional events: taking photos in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Catalonia

Although winter might look as a gray sad season in many cases, it is not so in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the town where I was born. There are numerous traditional events here which take place in winter.

Vilanova i la Geltrú was formally recognized as a town already in the year 1274. The town is located about 40km south of Barcelona on the coastline known as “Costa Daurada” (the golden coast). It has the third largest port in Catalonia and agriculture and maritime trade are a traditional source of income in the town, however, the main source of income today is an industry.

Traditional events Vilanova

Vilanova i la Geltrú is especially known for its traditional and popular festivals who are among the richest and most varied in Catalonia. The people of Vilanova are well known for their good spirit and enthusiasm for their festivals. The festivals are not held just for fun, they also intensify the sense of belonging to the community which is very consolidated and keeps the Catalan traditions alive.  In fact, Vilanova is the only city in Catalonia able to keep the celebrations of Carnival under the totalitarian regime of Franco. Today, I want to share two traditional winter events that I hope will make you feel like coming to visit.

Traditional events Vilanova
Tradition is very important in Vilanova and most of the citizens have at least one full suit of the traditional clothes, even from a young age.

Sant Antoni Abat

The Feast of Sant Antoni Abat (Saint Anthony), also known as Tres Tombs, is a festival held every January 17. Sant Antoni Abat is the patron saint of the town and protector of animals. The festival starts with the will of honoring animals such as horses and donkeys for their important role in labor works. In our days all animals are honored. The festivity consists of three rounds of riding, racing, and blessings of the animals.

Traditional events Vilanova
Animals are brought from all the surrounding area for the festival, offering unique photographic opportunities

In the time of the festival and before you can witness processions and correfocs (fire-runs). In the correfoc, groups of people from the town (or invited groups from other towns) dress up as devils and dance in the streets with pitchforks that have fireworks attached to them. Groups of drummers, trumpeters, and other musicians follow the dancing demons and escort them with rhythmic traditional music. Spectators are encouraged to take precautions and not get too close unless they come with protective gear.

Traditional events Vilanova
All the correfoc performers: demons, musicians, and dancers, belong to local clubs, each with a unique attire. The demons have fire proof clothes, the clothes are decorated by the wearer with paints, making each suit a one of a kind

There are other traditional performances that usually take place at the weekends before and after San Antoni’s day. Many of them are done by members of the younger population of Vilanova.

Traditional events Vilanova
Many of the members of the clubs start at a young age, don’t be surprised to see four-year-old demons in tiny suits (with proper adult supervision, of course). The younger members of the clubs usually perform at daytime, making it easier to supervise.

Traditional events Vilanova

 

Traditional events Vilanova
Musicians escort the performers with traditional music, many use traditional instruments. I recommend you to take a break from time to time between photos and listen to the music

Traditional events Vilanova

Keep in mind: Depending on the country, laws about publishing photos of people in public spaces might change.  In Spain, it is not allowed to publish photos without the permission of the model. There are some exceptions, such as for journalism or cultural reasons and only when the person is not the main focus of the photo. Street photography encounters here an ethical problem shared by all photographers as my colleague Leonardo Rigole explains in his article “Capturing life: A journey through street photography”.

As a photographer, you have the responsibility to get information about the laws regarding publication of people’s images in each country you visit.  It is true, though, that sometimes the information is quite imprecise and that there are tons of people in the events taking photos with their phones and uploading directly to the social media without even thinking about it.

I personally decided not to upload photos that contain recognizable kids. Photos of details and closeups that don’t show the face can be a good alternative for the photos you want to share online. And about adults, I share their images when I consider them to have a cultural or informative aspect and always in a respectful way. However, if somebody would ask me to remove a photo, I would do so immediately.

Traditional events Vilanova

Traditional events Vilanova

Traditional events Vilanova
The Castels (the t is not silent) are one of the best-known traditions of Catalonia and Vilanova has a respectable club of Castellers

Carnival

Carnival or “Carnaval” is a festival held in the seven days prior to Lent. The name carnival is associated with the word “carne” (from Latin, meat or flesh). In old times this week was the last week in which people could eat well until spring came; the people were already deep into winter and the food storages were starting to empty. It seems contradictory to have a feast in this period but this was in fact the last days to make use of meat and other rich foods because later they would go bad. Today the holiday is a week long celebration of dances, processions, masquerades, pranks and humorous miss conduct.

Traditional events Vilanova
In time of Carnaval the streets and balconies are decorated for the celebrations

The apex of the celebration is at the weekend, on Friday the town’s folks go out to the streets in costumes to watch and take part in processions with music players, iconic characters, and a correfoc. The main event happens on Sunday. It is called Caramelada and it consists of a candy war. Thousands of couples organized in groups walk the streets in traditional clothes and bags with candies. While marching in the streets they wave the flag of their group and sing songs.

Traditional events Vilanova
Each club (and there are many) has its own flag and attire. if you follow a group you will at some point have the chance to take impressive photos of them throwing candies at rival groups

Traditional events Vilanova

Traditional events Vilanova
Men are wearing a “Barretina”, the traditional catalan hat. They also carry a side bag full of candies! Women wear a “manton” (a type of shawl) that covers their shoulders and also flowers in their hair. Each group has its own colors.

The couples fling sweets at rival group members and “innocent by-standers”. The High event of the day are a series of jubilant candy wars that take place in the town’s main square.

Traditional events Vilanova
The different groups enter with their flags into the square where the main candy battles take place.

 

Traditional events Vilanova
Some girls and women use the traditional “manton” to cover themselves from the candies (and if they can, other people too)

Don’t miss the cleaning staff. They are a spectacle by themselves.

Traditional events Vilanova

Tips: Protect your lenses with at least a UV filter.  A lot of flying candies end up crashing in your lens in a strong way. The different groups are entering into the square following a schedule. There is a war every half an hour or so, starting usually around 12h. The first ones are the kids. If you want to make sure you have a nice spot in the square to take photos, go there quite early because it gets full pretty quick.

At the end of the Caramelada you will be able to see how the city ends full of candies!! Bring shoes that won’t fall easily apart because the soles will stick to the sugar of the candies!

Traditional events Vilanova

I hope you like the winter celebrations happening in my town! I can assure you they make the winter much more colorful! If you decide to come and visit, if you want to go to Vilanova and have questions or if you want to tell about your own winter traditions please write a comment! Have a happy shooting!!

Photographer interview: Martina Bertacchi

Martina Bertacchi is a talented photographer from Italy who photographs people in worlds unlike our own. Her portraits are charming and striking, focusing on the subject’s raw beauty and their surroundings. In this interview, Martina talks about her inspiration, ambitions, and the tips she’d give to aspiring portrait photographers. I hope you enjoy this eye-opening conversation!

What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I started taking pictures by chance about 6/7 years ago when I was still at school, and photography became a sort of safety valve on the days of full study. I took inspiration from the smallest things, also in the house, but mostly when I went out I really liked to capture nature, leaves, and flowers. My main source of inspiration was the Internet, sites like Flickr and Facebook have helped me a lot. I saw some photographs and I remained amazed by their beauty, so much that I wanted to start playing around with my camera and make it my own. Only much later I began to get interested in portraits.

You have many stunning photos of people. What do you look for in a model?

I love spontaneity in people. I think that in every single person there is a beauty. I consider it very important to constantly look into it, details even in the face. Sometimes the imperfection can become perfection. I prefer delicate, dreamy faces that tell something.

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The subjects in your photographs are always very sharp and well-lit. What advice would you give to aspiring portrait photographers?

The advice I would give to a young aspiring portrait photographer is to not be fooled by the desire to have super expensive equipment but to also start experimenting with a simple camera, play with the lights and natural shadows. I think good post production is more important, as that is what gives meaning and feeling to your photo. Lightroom helped me a lot in the beginning.

What does your editing process consist of?

First I shoot in RAW. I find it essential to recover the lights in the background, and it’s more appropriate for the white balance. To develop the raw format I use Lightroom – as I said before, I modify the lights, use Photoshop to work on the skin, and then I play with colors, curves, tones, and contrast.

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Who are your favorite artists and why?

I do not have a favorite artist. There are so many that I admire and I esteem. I prefer to quote emerging photographers that inspired me a lot, like Marta Bevacqua, Alessio Albi, Laura Zalenga, Alexandra Sophie. They represent fully the emotions, through their stories –  almost fairy-tale atmospheres that fascinate me a lot.

Is there anything photography-related you wish you could tell your younger self?

I would say to always be themselves, to never give up, and never stop to create and experiment new things and to be inspired by anything that surrounds them.

Your models look very graceful and natural in your images. How do you make them feel comfortable in front of your camera?

I’m actually very shy. It happened several times to turn on the music and let myself and my models be carried by it. I always try to make them express themselves without forcing anything.

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Is there a photography genre you’d like to experiment more with?

I’d like to experiment more with taking pictures indoors, with natural light, and why not also self-portraits. I find them very intimate and full of emotions.

What do you find most challenging about portrait photography?

Surely to capture the perfect moment, whatever fills my heart with joy and creates something magical and beautiful.

If a photographer approached you and asked for 3 tips, what would you tell them?

Yes, I have three pieces of advice for people who love making photography:
Let yourself be guided by your feelings and inspirations and most importantly, take the time to observe the environment in which you take pictures and always give a close look to your subject’s details in order to give value to your portraits.

You can find more of Martina’s work on her Flickr and Instagram.

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Complete guide to flash for beginners (I): Do I need an external flash?

There is a moment in the life of each photographer that the big question arrives: Do I need to get an external flash? The question is not easy to answer, mostly because when you are new to the subject, even the terminology used to describe them sounds confusing. After checking for a couple of flashes it’s easy to feel even more confused, so you can end up not getting an external flash or getting the first one you check. I want to help you to decide if you should get an external flash by putting together a complete guide with everything I learned when I decided to go into the wonderful world of external flashes.

External flash
My first DSLR camera with its built-in flash raised and my first external flash. Both of them I still use today, that’s why I recommend to take the time and check what you need and what the market has to offer before purchasing

In this first article, we will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of both the external and the built-in flash. This will help you to decide if you need to invest in an external flash or not. In the following articles of this guide, I will talk about things you should consider when you choose your external flash, some useful accessories and I will give some tips to start using your brand new flash! Let´s start!

Built-in flash

A built-in flash is an integral unit of the camera that discharges strong, rapid pulses of light when you are taking a photo. It is working in the most basic way possible. It is synchronized with the camera’s other apparatus.

External flash
The built-in flash; compact and available, you can see it is a quite simple apparatus

Advantages of using a built-in flash

#1. Always with you: One of the main advantages of this flash is that it is already in your camera. You don´t need to choose it or make any effort to remember to put it inside your bag. It is always there ready to fire!

#2. Intuitive: Using the flash is something quite intuitive to most starting photographers; you are in the dark, you pop out your camera’s built-in flash, you take the photo- problem solved.

#3. Small and light: The built-in flash does not add extra volume or weight to your camera bag. Depending on the situation, this can be a really good thing.

Disadvantages of the built-in flash

#1 Light always comes from the same spot: The most obvious disadvantage of the built-in flash is marked in its name; you have no control over the light source location or its direction, it will always come from right in front of your subject. And most of the times this means that the light will go straight to his eyes (besides being annoying, it produces a very evident red-eye effect).

#2. Lack of adjustability: Most built-in flashes offer very little in terms of adjustability. Some cameras offer three options: “No flash” in which flash will not be fired, “Auto flash” in which the camera will trigger the flash if the exposure is too low, or “Default flesh” in which the flash will be fired every time you’ll take a photo. That´s all! In cameras with more advanced flash options you might find some more options, but usually, you need to change them from the settings menu and it is quite uncomfortable to do it.

External flash
The built in flash is quite limited in terms of adjustability, and changing its settings is not so easy to get to

#3. It uses your camera battery: The built-in flash is dependent on your camera’s battery, making your battery’s lifetime shorter.

#4. Not good for long distances: Although it could illuminate quite well for short distances of up to three or four meters, it loses its effectiveness at greater distances.

External flash

The external flash is like the built-in flash’s bigger brother. It is an external unit which can be attached to the camera body through a designated port called a horseshoe. The more basic external flashes are merely triggered by the camera while the more advanced ones can get more information from the camera such as the lighting conditions and the settings of the camera (aperture and shutter speed)

Advantages of using an external flash

#1. It saves camera battery because it has its own

#2. Placement flexibility: the fact that the external flash has its own battery means it is also possible to mount it on tripods or on feet of its own and place it wherever you want.

external flash
The external flash can stand and work independently and separately from the camera, here you can see it standing on a foot

#3. Bouncing Head: the light source itself is usually set on a rotating and tilting head which allows you to play a bit more with the lighting’s angle, enabling you to bounce the light off of surfaces (this is good when you want to avoid hard light)

#4. accessories: the external flash can be combined with many gadgets and accessories such as reflectors, tripods, filters, diffusers and more. Using them could be very helpful and fun.

external flash
Here you can see the flash is built with a tilting head (it’s a bit harder to see but it is rotating too). Another thing you can see here is the white velcro I glued on it, I use it to attach many accessories to my flash

#5. You can control the light better: at the most fundamental level, the flash is a lightbulb, its intensity does not change, but the duration of the discharge can change if the flash is lit for a longer time the amount of light captured by the sensor is greater. In the external flash, setting and changing the duration of the discharge is one of the most basic things you can do.

external flash
With just five buttons, you need a little practice but after you get the hang of it, it is quite easy to adjust the flash and change its settings

#6. You can synchronize several flashes: I don’t know if you are thinking about using more than one flash for now, but it is good to know this possibility exists. It is a good way to ensure even lighting in the photo, especially when you have a big group or a complex subject, or if you want to create certain effects.

#7. They can reach further: external flashes have more power than the built-in ones, so you can illuminate subjects that are further from the flash.

Disadvantages of external flashes

Like with everything else in life, there is a trade-off when using an external flash. The more you want to get from the flash, the more planning is required and less spontaneous you can be.

#1. It adds weight to your camera bag: having its own battery means the weight is greater. Think that you usually will carry extra batteries too. So you end up with almost the same weight as if you are traveling with two cameras, and when you take a photo it’s as if you’re holding a camera and a half.

external flash
Several sets of batteries and a charger sure take their space in your bag and you certainly can feel their weight

#2. It might take a lot of places: most external flashes are too big to fit in a standard camera side bag and require you to either have a specific bag or have a much bigger bag and the flash to be detached from the camera while inside.

#3. It is one more thing you need to recharge (and to remember to recharge). Having its own battery means you have another thing that requires a charger and a socket, this could be especially limiting if you are traveling

#4. You need to invest extra money: external flashes are not included with the camera, so you will need to spend some money and depending which type of flash you want, they can get really expensive (the range of prices is wide). In addition, depending on the type of photography you are into, it might be at risk of damage or loss (outdoors, bad weather conditions…) so you might prefer to get two cheaper flashes instead of one that is more expensive.

#5. Not so intuitive: after using them for a while they are not so complicated, but at first they are a bit hard to get used to. It is not just turn on and fire.

#6. Not all the flashes are compatible with all the cameras. This means you should ALWAYS CHECK COMPATIBILITY before purchasing a flash

In summary, built-in flashes are a good option if you don’t want to carry the extra weight that an external flash (and it’s batteries!!) might add to your bag. It will free you from charging batteries all the time and needing to check if they are ok (they don´t last so long when you the flash a lot). However, this freedom comes with a price: the loss of flexibility and control. Usually, the built-in flash is good if your photos aim to document a moment without too much regard to the photo’s technical quality (a good example of this situation will be when you are at a party and you want to commemorate your friends goofing off). However, when you want to have more control over your photos, The built-in flash is quite limited. If this is your case, you will need to consider the option of getting external flashes.

This is my first article in a series of articles about flash I hope you find it useful. If you have any questions, topic suggestions or remark write me a comment. Have a happy shooting!

How to take heartwarming photos with your cat

We’ve all attempted to take a sweet photo with our pet at one point or another. Such attempts are often fruitless, especially when cats are involved. Taking photos of them, let alone with them, is akin to running a marathon on an unpleasantly humid day (covered in scratches). The secret to taking interesting photos with your cat involves patience, observation, and creativity. The tips below will help you understand your cat and your camera better. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to take unique and heartwarming photos with your beloved pet.

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Prepare your camera beforehand

It’s important to understand your own camera before you attempt to capture your cat’s personality. Plan your shoot at least a day before you have it. Consider the following:

  • Time of day
    Unless you’re planning to use a studio, the time of day is of extreme importance during the shooting process. The darker it is, the higher your ISO number should be. The best lighting conditions are during golden hour (if you’re photographing outdoors) or at noon (if you’re indoors).
  • Focus
    Are you going to be close to the camera or quite a distance away from it? Knowing where you’ll stand with your cat (so that both of you fit into the frame) will prevent you from having a confusing, unsuccessful shoot. Make sure your camera’s aperture is small enough to avoid blurring important parts of your composition. (A large aperture might create photos in which only your cat’s nose is in focus, for example.)
  • Prepare a distraction
    Collect a few of your cat’s favourite toys and treats. Attaching its favourite possessions next to your camera will allow it to feel more comfortable and will encourage it to pay more attention to your camera. You could also ask someone your cat is familiar wih to help you distract it. Some cameras have a blinking timer light perfect for capturing a cat’s attention. If you feel like experimenting, see what your cat finds interesting and look in the same directions; this will add a great touch of spontaneity to your images.

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Know where you’re going to shoot

Is your cat familiar with the spot where you’re planning to take photos? Taking it to a place which it doesn’t know well might result in panic, scratches, and a failed shoot. Consider your cat’s favourite places and take photos there. Even if they might not be the most picturesque locations, you’ll get a great experience which won’t stress anyone out. With time, your cat will be comfortable enough in your arms (and in front of your camera) to explore other locations.

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Make sure your cat is comfortable and happy

If you own rambunctious kittens, play with them a few minutes before your shoot to avoid restlessness. If you have older cats, make sure they’re content and full. Photographing cats soon after they’ve woken up will prevent them from getting too excited and allow them to be calm enough for your shoot. Unlike us humans, cats look photogenic even after a long nap, so makeup or skin (fur) retouching shouldn’t be a worry at all. Furthermore, remember to have some food nearby so your cat knows that its hard work will pay off. Reward it with a small treats every few minutes to encourage its enthusiasm. In addition to treats, keep toys and a bed nearby to make your cat feel safe.

Experiment

If posed photos don’t interest you, embrace spontaneity instead. As mentioned previously, you should familiarize yourself with the settings in your camera before your shoot. Make sure the focus, aperture, and shutter speed are perfect for the lighting conditions you’ll be working with. Once you’re happy with the settings, position your camera and interact with your cat. Play with it, reward it, and accept its unpredictable nature. The results will be unique and perfect for memory-keeping.

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The more you shoot, the more your cat will enjoy the photo-taking process. When it feels more comfortable in your camera’s presence, feel free to experiment with different times of day, light patterns, etc. Here are a few ideas: a silhouette of you holding your cat at night, a double exposure, a simple casual photo in the kitchen with backlight illuminating the room.

If a shoot doesn’t go the way you expect it to, try again later. Don’t allow yourself to give up easily. Photographs of any kind, especially ones with your pet, are worth the hard work and determination because of the wonderful memories they keep for us.

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The Context of Architectural Photography: When Your Photos Need to Talk

This kind of photography, in general, is connected with traveling. All of the world’s popular destinations have an architectural mark, something that makes a difference between the cities worldwide.  Research before your arrival, this will provide you with just enough time to see all sightseeing’s thru your camera.   Also, bookmark your destinations on your GPS device, or make sure you have directions or maps to the areas you want to visit.

When you are on a “once in a lifetime location” take lots of photos. Probably you will never have a second chance to make a correction. Additional to this carry a spare memory card and a fully charged battery or even a spare one. Also when you are shooting architecture try to look above the frame. Maybe you will find an impressive roof or something attractive above you. Use a lower angle if you are shooting close up details.  Don’t be afraid to open the aperture. If you have glass ceilings, underexpose the camera a little bit to catch the dark details.

Context of architectural photography
Context of architectural photography

Composition is essential for this kind of photography. Look for interesting details always, also play a lot with perspectives. If you are shooting spiral staircases instead shooting from the bottom try to go on the top, or maybe try both and select the best photo. As for the perspectives, my advice would be newer shoot from your eye level. Capture the subject from various angles at different viewpoints. This will give you the dose of creativity.

The rules say that when photographing old architecture like a castle or a traditional old house a simple composition works best, or shoot straightforward to show the elegance and the beauty of the object. In this case, scenarios capture some of the surrounding scenery to give context to the building. But when you are taking photos of modern buildings you will have to be modern too, of course, this is not for your clothing but your frames. Use “modern” angles and experiment with the perspectives and lenses, and shoot from unusual sides of the object. Modern buildings are often very close to one another; you can crop in tightly on the building without making the photo unnatural and unreal.

Zoom to catch the details. In almost every case beautiful buildings have lots of details like sculptures or other art. Zoom in to create close up just to bring attention to the art. For example, you can shoot the doorknobs, windows, brick walls of the buildings, or zigzag patterns of the windows, the curving line of the classic spiral stairway, or even a classic white column with artistic touch on it.

Architectural photography : Zoom to catch the details
Architectural photography: Zoom to catch the details

The night photography of buildings or any other kind of objects is also something worth trying. Same buildings are different in other time of the day. For example, if it’s a church you can capture a more interesting image at dusk or dawn. Even the most boring objects are coming alive with ambient lighting on them.  When the night arrives, you’ll see that the ambient light brings color and vibrancy, and cast outstanding shadows all over the face of the building. When shooting this kind of photography always use a tripod and go as low as possible on the ISO to reduce the noise that will occur with higher ISO.

If you have black & white images, try to find strong lines and patterns on the object. Patterns can create an abstract effect, as for the lines look for something that will pull the eye on the center of the image like a bridge or an interesting long street on an olbazaarar. With B&W photography you will have fewer worries about a dull sky. If you got a red filter don’t be afraid to use it. This will help you to draw out the contrast between the dark and light areas.

As for the contest of the architecture, do not limit yourself only on buildings and houses. By definition, architecture is most of the human-made structures. So loosen your mindset, and try thinking about the line. Architecture is churches, bridges, windmills, staircases, light posts, monuments, towers, etc.  Try to find something that most of the people on a regular tourist walk will miss. That is the way to create something timeless that will make you proud.

So that’s it for now, I hope that you will find an interesting advice, and I hope that with this article I helped in creating better architectural images.

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.

Tips for Winter photography in a warm weather area

I love winter photos. There is something special in landscapes full of snow, people covered in several layers of winter clothes, animals with white fur… Unfortunately, I do not get many chances to take such photos because I live close to Barcelona, in a warm Mediterranean area. For me snow is something extremely unusual. It snows here once in 20 years and when it happens Barcelona just shuts down.

winter in Barcelona

Although our winter doesn’t look so wintery we still have it!! It is just different and not so hard as in other parts of the world. But we still notice a big difference between our summer and our winter: we have rains and cloudy days, temperatures are lower and it can get really windy. However, we still have quite a lot sunny days even in winter.

sunny winter

Winter photography tips are a bit different for areas with Mediterranean or any other warm weather. Unless we travel to some mountain, we won’t need special protection for our gear from low temperature or snow and even rain can be handled quite easily.On the other hand, we don’t have the typical image of the white winter people usually think of. Today I am coming with winter tips adapted to warm weather areas. Let’s check them out!

#1 Focus your photos in weather elements that represent winter in your area

Observe your winter weather, look for weather elements that represent it. It might be the wind, the rain or a gray sky. Try to include weather elements in your photos to give them a more wintery look. Trees moving billowing in the wind, heavy clouds, rain puddles in the streets…

winter storms

#2 Include nature elements in your frame

Nature has strong seasonal patterns, so you can take advantage of it! Trees without leaves, plants that are typically from winter, birds or other animals that are typical for winter.

tree in winter

#3 Take photos of winter events

There are things that happen only in winter in winter. Well, known holidays such Christmas also got quite universal, so including Christmas decorations might also have a connection with winter ( if you are in the North hemisphere).

winter decorations

But there are a lot of other local events related with “winter”. For example, in some catalonian comarques such as  Garraf and Penedes,  we celebrate the “Xato Days”. The Xato is a typical dish that we eat just in winter. During the Xato Days, experts in xato meet for contests that will determine who is cooking the best Xato. These contests are held in the different municipalities, in a street event.  Here, we heard “Xato” and we think: Winter food! You can find local events around the world that are related to winter. Maybe not a lot of people knows about them outside your region. However, I think that sharing your local events through your photography is a great way to show a different and unique aspect of this season and to spread your local activities and traditions.

winter gastronomy

#4 Look for universal elements that we all associate with “cold”

In the last tip, I told you to go local. Another totally different strategy is to look for elements that everybody associates with winter. Photos of people with coats, wood hats, scarves billowing in the wind, cups with hot steamy beverages, burning fireplaces, all are associated with winter.

winter clothes

#5 Emphasize the wintery look of your photos in Lightroom

You can emphasize the wintery look of your photos using Lightroom or any other editing program. Color has a big association with the mood of your images. Increasing the blue colors by using the Temperature slider in Lightroom (Develop module) will give it a cooler look.

Cold temperature winter

You can check this article about Color and mood to learn in more detail how to modify the color of your photos.

nature in winter

Decreasing the saturation of your photos or using a matte effect might also help you to get a more wintery look. You can check the Masterclass about saturation to learn how the Saturation slide work. For winter look, the saturation should decrease (moving the saturation slider towards the left) because you want to lessen the colors instead of enhancing them. The matte effect is also a good resource for winter. I explained how to get this effect in Lightroom in my article about “Tips for post-processing forest images in Lightroom”. Scroll down to the “Add a dreamy look” for detailed explanations.

matte effect winter

Winter presets are also really helpful. Besides saving a lot of time in post-processing, presets provides you with a lot of new creative approaches.

winter presets

Photographer interview: A Time with the Talented Marvel Harris

What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I bought my first camera at the age of sixteen. I started photography with self-portraits, to capture my own emotions which I found hard to deal with and difficult to talk about. While growing older, my passion to capture the vulnerable parts of myself and other people only grew. I have been battling with mental illness since the age of twelve and taking self-portraits and showing them to my parents has helped me to communicate.

I have always wanted to help others by being open about my own struggles. At first, I found it extremely scary to capture my own vulnerabilities and to share the pictures that I took of myself on Social Media, but I got such sweet private messages from people, telling me that I have helped them, that it motivated me to keep creating what I love to create and love to do.

You take stunning images of other people. What do you look for in a model?

Thank you! When I capture the imperfections and vulnerabilities of people other than myself, I want to let them feel that painful feelings can become more bearable when you share them with others. I noticed that sharing my own story made me feel less alone. Together with my models, I want to tell a story and make the invisible visible.

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Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced your work?

Lots of photographers have influenced my work and Facebook has helped me to get in contact with some of them. People like Ines Rehberger, Joel Robison, Laura Zalenga and Taya Iv are an inspiration to me, because they tell wonderful stories with their beautiful and outstanding images; they motivated me to capture my own stories and in my own way.

Your self-portraits are incredibly honest and touching. What does a typical self-portrait shoots look like?

Right now I am working on a project called ‘Inner Journey’ and the pictures for that series are currently taken with my Fujifilm X70. The series is about mental illness, self-love, self-acceptance and my struggle with gender identity.

I also have a Canon EOS 7D and I use a tripod to hold my camera and a remote to handle long-distance shots instead of a timer. When I grab my camera to take self-portraits, it’s mostly when I don’t know how to deal with feelings such as anxiety, emptiness, loneliness or being desperate about the future. After capturing emotions like that and after editing the picture in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, I can look at myself from a distance and stop my negative thoughts from spiraling out of control; self-portraiture helps me to feel able to breathe again after an episode like that.

As you can see, photography is therapeutic to me and I think that’s why my self-portraits are as honest and raw as they are.

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If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I don’t have any specific person in mind. To me, it really doesn’t matter who sits in front of my camera, but if I am able to tell a story together with the person in front of my camera.

But I would love to meet the photographers that inspire me, so we can take pictures together.

What has been the most challenging creative obstacle in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?

Taking pictures with light different from natural light. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, how scary this may seem, and experiment with things different from what you are used to doing.

For me that was experimenting with hard light and hard shadows. Eventually, I found my way in there and came to the conclusion that it can also be fun to step out of your comfort zone and to explore new things.

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When you’re faced with a creative block, what do you do?

I will start writing in my journal, because I am more connected with myself when I write; when I am more connected with myself, it will be easier to find the inspiration to start shooting again.

If you could give your younger self one piece of photography-related advice, what would it be?

Keep trying and experimenting and never stop creating because people don’t like your work. When people say left, go right for once and see where you will end. Try to improve yourself every moment and follow your own path by doing what you love the most.

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You have a rich collection of black & white photos in your portfolio. What do you love most about monochrome photography?

We don’t see the world in black and white, but when you are fighting against a mental illness the world seems like it has lost all its colors; it seems dark.

I think when you are focusing on capturing emotions, that you are more drawn to the subject when shooting in black and white; looking into someone’s eyes, without being distracted by all the different colors, can provide a stronger emotional connection.

What, in your opinion, is the most important thing an aspiring photographer should know?

Stay true to yourself and create your own style. Accept criticism and ask people for constructive feedback, but don’t apply blindly. Never compare your own journey with the journey of someone else, because you are unique and life is a long journey of self-discovery.

marvel harris

 

You can find more of Marvel’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram 

Capture Daily Life with Style: Framing lifestyle with a camera

How does one capture daily moments?

We walk about our daily lives and pass by every minute without realizing how quickly time flies. Try slowing down our pace, observing every moment that goes by, feeling it and then capturing a snapshot.

When capturing what’s the first thought that crosses your mind? How amazing the sunset is, or how beautiful the flower is?. What about how simple the moment is or how in harmony with nature everything is? The idea of beauty differs from person to person. But, paying attention to simplicity and nature is what everyday life photography is all about. We are continuously looking at daily happenings and finding the inspiration to snap a shot; the thought should only be to do that. Staying in that moment where the eye can reflect it into a picturesque moment. It’s not about when I capture this; the first thing would be posting it on social media but, it’s about the moment itself.

Red Flower by Elaine Taylor
Red Flower by Elaine Taylor

Technology and social media, as good as it is, if we don’t use it productively, takes the taste of true photography out of our lives. We have “forgotten” what it is to capture the moment for what it truly is. There are 365 days photography challenges everywhere, only to challenge us to click simple moments without planning. These challenges are only to motivate the photographer, so we don’t lose touch with photography.

There is no technique necessary when clicking every day, but it’s more about paying attention to everything around us, feeling it and then transmitting it into a moment. It could be as simple as a cup of coffee on a table. You see, you like how it looked, and you clicked.

Cup of Coffee by Elaine Taylor
Cup of Coffee by Elaine Taylor

The image above has been captured by a good friend Elaine Taylor for her Project 365, and the image ultimately reflects the spontaneity yet the subtlety of the moment.

Here are some words from Elaine on why she wanted to try the 365 days Project and how the experience has been so far:

There were three things I wanted to do this year in relation to my mobile photography.

The first was to share more of what I shoot. I take shots every day but share just one or two images per week via my Instagram profile. I have thousands of images in my camera roll that are unlikely to be seen by anyone but me.  The second was to take more pure Hipstamatic shots. I adore Hipstamatic. It’s the first app I installed on my phone and the thing that kickstarted my mobile photography passion. The third was to print more of my images.

I’d seen a post on Facebook by Eric Rozen, Founder of Hipstography.com. He was planning to do a 365 project this year. It inspired me to do the same. I thought it would be a great way to achieve all the things I’d mentioned above.  So I set out to record a pure hipstamatic shot every day and intend to create (and print!) a book or calendar at the end of the process.

I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s a great way to document my every day life and will be a reminder of key dates/events, but much more than that, a reminder of the little important stuff that happens daily. I’m trying to focus on capturing an image that is a good reflection of that particular day without worrying about what I posted the day before. I’m aware that I won’t be sharing an amazing photo every day, but I hope each one will be meaningful and together provide a good reflection of 2017 when I look back on them.

A few of her images from her project:

Top it Off by Elaine Taylor
Top it Off by Elaine Taylor
Colours and Flower by Elaine Taylor
Colors and Flower by Elaine Taylor
Play by Elaine Taylor
Play by Elaine Taylor

Her images portray the moment in its purest and simplest time captured straight from the heart. And that is what photography is all about.

Sharing some of my everyday moments captured instantly and the stories behind it:

Blue Skies at Monas
Blue Skies at Monas

It was a clear day when we started our walking tour to the National Monument (Jakarta), and as we were about to finish the tour, the skies were starting to turn gray and gloomy. You can see our National Mosque in the distance, and I wanted to capture this image with the angle pointing towards the skies and mosque. There was not much contemplation to the capture but more of feeling and clicking.

Rain On
Rain On

Raindrops have always caught my attention for the longest time, not sure why but it’s probably the way the round drops beautifully form on the window. It is amazing how nature creates such intense, lovely moments precisely. It can be a challenge to capture raindrops especially to get the shot you have in your mind, but with a few clicks, I was able to click this image.

Coffee and Yellow
Coffee and Yellow

Sitting at the National Museum (Jakarta) coffee shop, I noticed this scene and instantly captured it. The classic windows, with the posters in frames and the bright yellow, transports you to a nostalgic era.

Chinese Lanterns
Chinese Lanterns

During Chinese New Year, I came across this lovely lantern decorations in an alley, and as always, the colors attracted my attention. The ambiance of the night filled with colors intensified my motivation to click simply.

Graphical Collition
Graphical Collision

This was a graphical poster I found at a mall in front of a renovated store. Something about the illustration transported me to Paris or Europe even and I wanted to try to create a picture with the graphics in the background.

Backdrop Sunlight
Backdrop Sunlight

This was captured last year at a restaurant during a trip to Bali. The table with a blend of the Singer Sewing Machine reminded me of the olden days. It was fascinating how creative the combination was. The sunlight in the backdrop reflecting on the table created an image in my mind.

Through all the images, you can see that eventually what sets everyday life images apart is they are unplanned. It is a moment that stands as it is and has been captured through the heart spontaneously. There has to be a blend of two things: what you feel during the moment and clicking it once you’ve felt it. Many times when I have done so, the images created turn out far better than the ones I planned.

We must not forget that very first feeling we felt when seeing the moment and transmit it into a scene so that as we look back, it will only make us Smile. Beautiful treasured moments do not come from planning rather from the willingness to take the leap of faith and taking a shot that has come from your heart.

How to create your very own home studio in 2 days

Have you ever wonder how much of your precious time and even more of your precious money will you need to create your own home studio?

Well, this went thru my mind couple of weeks ago after I needed to rent one. I started an online research, and I created one, and believe me it was not difficult and it did not cost much.

How to create your own home studio

So let’s get started. First, you need space, extra room in your home, a garage, or a basement. Sure, if you don’t have extra room things get tricky, the cheapest solution, in this case, is to use your home.

  1. Go to a furniture store and by two coat hooks. They have to be only useful, not expensive pretty or something fancy. Put them on the both end sides of your studio’s back wall.
  1. Next, you will need a sheet that is wide and long enough. The longer and wider, the better. I guess that you will figure that this is the backdrop.

Also if your space is wider, you will need a rope between the hooks and clamps so that you can stretch the sheet evenly. Don’t worry about the clamps because they will stay out of the photos.

  1. You will need a continuous lighting kit set, speedlights, stands, umbrellas or other light diffusers. If your studio has windows with direct daylight, you may consider buying light reflectors also.

If you have constant lights facing your object, you will instantly see how is the light falling on. But these kinds of lights are showing a lack of power and brightness. Therefore, you will need additional light. Speedlight’s are compact and easy to operate on the set. The best way to use these lights is in conjunction with radio triggers and receivers. This allows you to use them off the camera and you can move the speedlights around the studio. But the best of the best is to have professional studio strobes. These are a dream come true when compared to the speedlights and constant lights, but they come with the highest price tag. They are seriously powerful, and they have very fast charging time that will never slow you down. But strobes are professional equipment and don’t consider them if your plans are a studio for a hobby.

Create your own home studio

Umbrellas are here in the studio to spread light. This is a nice choice if you are trying to light a bigger area or a group of people. In the stores, you can buy different types of umbrellas, but for a home studio stick with a white umbrella or a silver reflective umbrella. These are highly portable and very cheap depending on what you get.

Now all of these things should be put in their own space. You don’t want somebody to trip over your equipment and make a mess of it. Having this dedicated space is also important because you don’t want your clients to feel like they have just invaded your personal space. Also, your clients, kids, or friends-models will appreciate the comfort in your studio, and this additional will influence the quality of your final product and to the will to collaborate with you.

  1. Consider leaving a room to zoom in the studio. The perfect studio should be a least 6 meters long so that you can make a standing portrait with a 50mm lens. You can shoot standing portraits in the shorter studio with wide angle lens, but you will find out that you have distortion on the photos and that is not good when we are talking about portraits.

Also if the ceilings are low, they will bounce of the light making the ceiling a big reflector board. If your photos show unwanted light, then consider putting a black piece of fabric on the ceiling only to suck the light.

After you are done with your studio preparations, you should practice a little bit, and find your perfect set up, depending on the object that you are shooting. Your photos will look very professional and if it is your first time at a studio you will be amazed of your final product. Don’t forget to hang some of your best photos on the wall. Probably your clients have already seen some of your work somewhere on the social networks or your web page, but seeing a printed photo is something else. Printed photo it’s an entirely different experience and really brings the photo to life.

As for the answer to the question, it takes me 2 days and 307$ (2x speedlights 96$, 2x Stands 76$, 2x umbrellas 60$, 1x reflector (5 in one) 45$, 1x sheet 20$, Clamps and hooks 10$) to create my own studio.

Hiding and highlighting facial features

At times, the key to a unique portrait is a touch of mystery: hands covering an eye, windswept hair sheltering half a person’s face, a seemingly simple texture highlighting one’s lips. These subtle layers of obscurity create fascinating – sometimes even abstract – works of art, ones which amuse their viewers and make their creators beam with pride. Transforming simple portraits into creative, eye-catching ones isn’t as challenging as many artists believe. Even if you’re short on time during a shoot, you can still take gorgeous photographs which will please both you and your subject. Here are tips on how to do this.

Hair

We’re all familiar with portraits in which the model’s face is hiding behind vibrantly colored locks. The impact such images have aren’t capable of losing their allure since there’s an overwhelming amount of hair textures and colors out there. No matter how cliché such images might seem to you, try covering your subject’s face with their hair and see if the results pleasantly surprise you. 🙂

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Foregrounds

Foregrounds possess an infinite amount of creative possibilities because they can be almost anything, from a tattered curtain to a wrecked window pane in an abandoned house. These objects, visually appealing or not, will inevitably increase the meaning of your images and add a great creative touch to them. Foregrounds are blurred most of the time, so how they look shouldn’t be important to you. Experiment with shapes, sizes, and patterns, remembering to hide parts of your subject’s face at the same time. The results will impress both you and others.

Cropping

The cropping tool is perfect for creating mysterious photographs. If you find an image too dull and exposed, forget the rules for a moment and crop part of your subject’s face. Experiment fearlessly with this tool and see what looks right to you as an art-loving individual. Combining intriguing foregrounds and cropping half of your subject’s face to expose their eye, for example, will create an image the story of which others will want to know. Similarly, you could conceal your subject’s face with their hair and crop out their lips. Photos of this sort are a great way to experiment with compositions and to challenge yourself as a photographer and editor. Additionally, mysterious (yet at the same time, simple) photos like this are often used for book covers, a huge plus which will inevitably enrich your portfolio.

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Hands

Since hands are capable of reflecting a plethora of emotions, adding them to your portraits will give them even more potential to touch your viewers. If you wish to give your photos a fragile touch, photograph your subject peeking at the camera through their fingers. If you want to achieve a feeling of inner strength, shoot your subject while they’re covering their mouth during a carefree moment of laughter. These interactions and “disguises” will add an interesting element to your photograph, something that’ll make your entire portfolio stand out.

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Light

While overexposure is often looked down upon, it can prove to be a useful tool for photographers. In the image below, the lower part of the subject’s face is overexposed, giving a powerful idea of silence. Her surprised and almost pleading expression adds to the image’s quietening atmosphere, further strengthening the concept of silence. Thus, finding patches of light and concealing/highlighting certain facial features will not only make your images interesting to look at, but it will also intensify their meaning.

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Objects

While foregrounds serve as composition enhancers, objects like plants can be used to both hide parts of a face and become a part of it. Flowers are ideal for this as they’re photogenic and capable of beautifully complementing a face. (For example, simple white flowers could enhance a natural makeup look.) If you’re having a (client) shoot outdoors, make the most of nature, especially branches and flowers. Hide certain facial features using nature to tell a powerful story. (If you don’t have a desire to strengthen your storytelling skills, this method will still work for you.)

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Textures

The Internet is brimming with textures of all sorts. Even if you’re not experienced in Photoshop, you can master textures within a few minutes thanks to the abundance of free tutorials out there. Textures are valuable to all kinds of photographers – they add gorgeous details to images that would’ve been too simple without them and are capable of concealing unwanted details. Furthermore, they just make your image look great. Use them to your creative advantage, whether it’s to cover an eye using a light leak or to hide everything saves your subject’s lips using a stock photo of water.

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What story do you want to tell? Will hiding your subject’s eyes and focusing on his or her lips reflect your unique story? Will cropping half of their face make a strong point? Prepare ideas before your shoot, taking the time to consider your shooting location and your model’s features, and you’ll end up with impressive, incredible results.

Good luck!

Why it’s Important to use Filters in Drone Photography

When I became interested in drones and began researching the cluttered market, I was overwhelmed with the various features and options every brand had to offer. The camera specifications are what I was most interested when purchasing my first drone, a DJI Phantom 3 4K. I went with this model DJI had to offer because, while it lacked the capabilities to travel miles away from me (like other higher-end models could), I loved that it had a high-quality 4K camera built-in.

Drones haven’t always had cameras built-in – pilots used to have to purchase a GoPro separately and attach it to the device. The luxury of having a built-in camera on your drone also comes with regret, because now you can’t swap out the lens for a better option – until DJI came out with the Inspire 2, which allows cinematographers to attach and detach their preferred camera lens.

DJI Inspire 2
DJI Inspire 2

While having the ability to swap out a lens on a drone is a wonderful thing, pilots have also longed for the ability to defeat their biggest enemy while flying high in the sky: the sun. With aerial imaging comes new obstacles while taking photos and/or video. Lighting is an entirely different ball game compared to shooting while on the ground because light isn’t being interfered with by trees, buildings, or any other structures – although, there are those lovely, fluffy things called clouds.

With too much sunlight, your photos will look washed out and shadows of your subject(s) will engulf your entire frame.

With too much cloud cover, your image will look grainy, as not enough light is able to enter the shutter of your lens.

During the golden hour, the prime time to take photographs, your image could look too warm.

In order to combat all of these uncanny scenarios, tech companies, and drone companies themselves, have innovated camera filters fit for drones. These filters have existed in the past, but on a much larger scale. Because drones have such a small lens and only so much battery life, the accessory had to be small, lightweight, yet feasible. Most filter kits, like my newly-purchased Neewer Filter Kit, are made of a lightweight plastic material. Every brand is different, but you are able to simply slide the desired filter onto the lens until it is snug and secure. Note: I have not used my filter kit yet, however, I will follow-up with a review of my experience using the Neewer Filter Kit for DJI Phantom 3.

Types of Filters

The Neewer Filter Kit set consists of four filters: the ND4, ND8, Ultraviolet (UV), and circular polarizer (CPL). Using each of these filters will result in a different outcome. The ND4 and ND8 filters vary in that the ND4 equals 2f-stops, and the ND8 equals 3f-stops. These filters, known as neutral density filters, help with normalizing exposure. On a sunny day, the sky’s exposure will be darkened slightly so the foreground or main subject’s exposure is normal and clear. On a cloudy or hazy day, a neutral density filter will help sift through the haziness and bring out the saturation in your photos.

Potentially better than using an ND filter on a sunny day is an Ultraviolet(uv) filter. This filter absorbs the ultraviolet rays, eliminating haze. Plus, it protects the life of your lens! The most basic of filters in my pack of four is the circular polarizer filter. This filter doesn’t have a film that covers the front of the lens – instead, it simply surrounds the lens and removes unwanted reflections from surfaces like water, and enhances saturation and color in photographs. If you’re flying over a lake on a sunny day, this filter is for you!

All in all, camera lens filters are crucial to have when regularly shooting with a DSLR, let alone a drone. In order to maximize on the already-exemplary fact that a drone can capture stunning, high-quality images from above, it only makes sense to add a filter kit to your set of accessories.

I’m excited to begin using my filter kit, and I encourage you to shop around for a kit that suits your needs. And if you don’t already own a drone, it’s never too late to enter the industry!

 

How to Capture Water Splash Photography

What I’m going to offer to you today would be how to freeze a moment, reproducing the illusion of motion with a bowl of water and a piece or whole fruit. In another word, today subject is Fruity Splash photography.

It is not an ordinary photography; I consider this type of photos as a special effect photos.

So let’s begin. A friend of mine is planning to open a smoothie store and asked me if I could make some fruit pictures for him. I did not want to make simple ordinary dead nature photos, and that’s how I came up with an idea for this kind of photos.

Fruity water splash photography

You don’t, need much of equipment. A tripod and a remote shooter, average macro lens, a Speedlite flash unit or two, a transparent bowl, and cardboard background (I prefer black background) will be enough. Back in the days when my brother had an aquarium, we had different kinds of problems with the tap water, so I used bottled water just to get rid of all the bubbles on the inner side of the bowl.

The setup is the most important. First, the surface will be flooded with water from all the splashes, so be prepared to clean and keep a towel close to you. The camera should be set to cover only the bowl and the background. Then get your flashes ready. If you have only one flash, you should consider having an additional reflector or a bright light. They should be set on the both sides of the bowl, not in the front or the back of the bowl. This creates a great effect and is visible on both the glass and water. Buy many different kinds of fruits just to have many objects for shooting. Also, you can make two photos with one fruit if you shoot the whole fruit and a second photo when sliced.  If you ask me Lemons and other citrus fruits are the best because of the freshness, they bring in to the photography.

Now we are talking about the camera settings. Use aperture form f/4 to f/8. I found that f/5.6 works great. For the shooter speed, you should use anywhere between 1/125s up to 1/250s, but you should experiment on this and find what is best for you. The ISO is also something that is negotiable, I used ISO 400, and it was just fine. The request from my friend demanded that I use RAW format rather than JPEG, and that is what I always prefer to use for something like this.  For this setting, the autofocus works great, so manual or auto-focus does not make any difference. The white balance is set on flash. Finally connect the remote shooter because we don’t need any vibrations on the camera, and make sure that the camera is away from the bowl because nobody wants to splash water on the camera and the lens. It is a must that you use the continuous burst shooting or a timer mode.

Fruity water splash

The only thing left is that you drop the fruit in the bowl. But wait, it is not that simple. This is where patience is the key to success, and it is the fun part for this kind of photography. You will need to master the art of pressing the shutter with your left hand, waiting for the timer to end, then dropping the fruit with your right hand and firing the flash with your left hand. The timing is essential, and you will miss a fruit or two just to figure out when to press the button or to drop the fruit. Be sure that you don’t drop the fruit from a location that is too high; it will create a big splash that the camera may not capture, along with that, it can create a mess in your home studio. With practice, you will determine the height for the drop, and you will get the perfect photo. After your first success, things get easy. I find that you get the best splash in the photos if you trigger the flash as the fruit hits bottom, though this will take a lot of trial and error and you will probably end up with a lot of photos of your fruit hovering over the surface of the water. The key is to take a lot of photos. But after you upload them into your computer you will have to choose only 5 to 10 images, because it’s “impossible” to edit all of them.

Post processing the photos is the next step. This is optional but is recommended.

So that is it, go on and try this beautiful and fun technique.

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera

Have you ever taken photos and realized that the colors are not as you saw them in the scene? Don’t worry because this is common in photography. This effect is caused by the difference in the light sources. The sun on a bright day, on a cloudy day, a light bulb… different light sources emit light with different hues and this makes them have different color cast. Our brains “corrects” the color cast, but our cameras don’t do it unless we tell them. Have you ever heard about white balance (WB)? This is what will help you to avoid color casts in your photos due to the light source.  Color and WB might be a bit confusing at first, but once you understand, it gets easy and fun to play with them. Let’s start with color!

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera
The same scene with different color temperature has a totally different effect on the viewer. The upper photo has a slightly yellow cast that makes it seem warm. The lower one has a blue cast that makes it have a cooler feeling to it.

A bit of color science: The connection between color and temperature:

I am not going to get into a huge scientific explanation, but I think it helps to know the story of William Thomson in order to understand where some color concepts are coming from. William Thomson was also known as Baron Kelvin the 1st (1824-1907). He was a mathematical physicist and engineer. He was the responsible for formulating the Kelvin scale which measures absolute temperatures (for that reason temperature is measured in Kelvin units!).

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera
This photo has a color temperature of 5500 Kelvin. This temperature corresponds to daylight and it is usually considered neutral (at this temperature, whites look actually white).

In his experiments, Kelvin noticed that, as it is being heated, carbon changes its color. Thus he saw that it is possible to align a scale of colors to the one of temperature. This is how the concept of color temperature was born.  At absolute zero (-273.15ºC, cold) the corresponding color is black. The visible spectrum of the scale runs between 1700K and 12000K. Ironically, the colors are organized on the kelvin scale in reverse from what we consider as “warm colors” and “cold colors”; “warmer” colors like red orange or yellow have lower temperatures on the kelvin scale than “cooler” colors like blue or purple.

Color temperature and photography

The color temperature of a photograph is the dominance of some colors over others. When the lighting is what we call “neutral” the whites will appear as white. However, when the scene has a light cast that goes towards the red (yellow, orange) or towards the blue than whites won’t look like white anymore, but reddish or bluish respectively. So depending on the light of a scene, its color temperature will vary. Let’s see it with some examples

5500K: white or neutral. Correspond to the midday light

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera
This photo has 5500 K. As you can see, the white parts of the shell are white. When color temperature is different than 5500 K, whites turn yellowish or bluish.

Less than 5500K: more yellow, red

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera
I modified the previous photo to show you the look it has when its temperature is lower than 5500K. As you can see, it takes a yellow cast. The whites are not totally white but cream-yellow.

More than 5500K: towards the blues

How to adjust the color temperature of your photos directly in your camera
If the same photo would have had a temperature higher than 5500K, it would have a blue cast.

Some useful numbers that are good to keep in mind are:

1000K: candle light (they are towards the yellows)

2000K: sunset (yellows-reds)

2500K: light bulbs (they usually have a yellowish tint)

6000-8000K: cloudy day (they are towards the blue and gray colors)

So, in different situations, our light emits different color temperatures, which in turn give our photos different hues. This can be used to make beautiful photos. However, this also causes complications. As I said before, our human brains are able to detect and adjust the images we see with our eyes so we understand what is the true color of the object we see. Our cameras are not able to do it and unless we tell them what is the color temperature of the scene.

Fortunately, we have ways to correct the hues of our photos. We can do it in post-processing using Lightroom for example, but usually, I prefer doing it through the camera itself.

How to adjust the color temperature on the field: white balance

Most cameras (even point and shoot compact cameras) have an option to set the white balance, using this option you are telling the camera what type of lighting you are in. Here I will talk in general, but take a look at the manual of your camera to check specifications.

Auto white balance: This is the easiest way and it actually works in most of the cases. I am not the biggest fan of auto modes (I even shoot most of my photos in Manual mode!!), but I had to admit that Auto White Balance does a decent job. You just need to set your camera on Auto WB and it will make the best adjustment according to the measurements it does when the photo is taken. However, in some cases, the AutoWB is not working well (it usually happens more with artificial lights) and then you need to use other settings.

Semi-automatic white balance: In the more basic cameras, you can choose between a few preset defaults. The most common are Cloudy, shade, tungsten, fluorescent and flash. Each one of these presets try to compensate the light temperature in each situation and bring the hues closer to neutral lighting. Let’s see it with some examples:

Photos from cloudy days are usually looking quite gray. The Cloud setting will warm them up already in your camera. The shade preset is doing something similar, but adding a bit more of yellow than the Cloudy preset.

Color temperature
Cloudy days are usually quite cold in their color temperature because they have a lot of blue and gray in them

 

Color temperature
The Cloudy preset is adding a bit of warmth to the scene by increasing the yellows in the image

For indoors and night photography, fluorescent and tungsten can be really handy. Fluorescent lights are quite cold, so using their preset will warm the image. On the other hand, tungsten lights are usually warm, so their presets will cool down the image.

Color temperature
I took this photo indoors, under a tungsten light. You can see the photo has a yellow cast

 

Color temperature
The tungsten preset corrects the yellow color cast by adding blue to the image

When you are using a flash, your photos might look a bit cold. The Flash preset will also warm the image a little.

Presets change from camera to camera so have a look to your manual and get to know the presets of your camera and play with them in order to understand the effect they have on the image.

Tell the camera a value in Kelvin:  In the more advanced cameras in addition to the auto WB and the semiautomatic presets,  you can also define the light balance yourself by telling the camera the Kelvin value of the light of the scene.

If you took a photo with a color cast you don’t like, don’t worry! You can change it on your computer! However, I highly recommend you to have the files in RAW format and not jpg. Although it is possible to modify color temperature in jpg format, the loss of quality will be so high that it won’t be worth it. With RAW, the process will be easy and your image will keep its quality.

You can adjust color temperature in post-processing using different software. My colleagues wrote about how to do it in  Lightroom, Camera RAW, and Photoshop.

Use color temperature creatively

Now that you have an understanding of color temperature and white balance, you can use the color temperature in order to express what you want in your images. Do you want to give a sense of warmth to your image by adding a bit of yellow? Use the Cloud setting even if it is not cloudy and you will have a yellow cast in your photo! Do you want to add a bit of blues to add a sense of coldness? Try with the Tungsten preset! Experiment and have fun with WB!

Color temperature
I took this photo of a dandelion in the sunlight. It has a pretty neutral color temperature.
Color temperature
This is the same photo, but using the Tungsten preset. This preset added a blue cast to the photo that I find interesting. It might not be the “correct” white balance. I think that when you are being creative, there is not such a thing as “Correct”. If you think that a different WB can express better the way you saw the scene when you took the photo- go for it!!

Happy shooting!!!

Finding the Perfect Backgrounds for Your Photographs

There is always an element in photography that you have to think about with every subject, and that’s background. This is true in still life, product, fashion, portraits, and even landscape. There are a few background choices for each of these different types of photography. A background can be a wide array of buildings, walls, floors, color, landscape, greenery; the sky is the limit (literally.) It is always a good idea to know what to look for while location scouting as well.

Finding Backgrounds

A lot of your background detail also has to do with your depth of field. You can either control your background with a blurred or sharpness by a shallow or deep depth of field, depending on your subject matter. A shallow depth of field is popular in portraits, so your subject is your main point of focus. You can use a deeper depth of field though to enhance your background clarity and texture. Keep your subject away from the background and not right up against a graffiti wall and tree, this is because these textures and colors can be too distracting. Shooting your subject in wide open spaces with a shallow depth of field and will give you the ability to have a subtle background of light colors and textures. Graffiti is a great example for this because it is a popular choice for a fun and colorful background but can also become a little distracting to your subject so by shooting your subject away from the background you can still gather the color and design without too much detail. Other background choices that you can use the subtle color, texture, and pattern are brick walls, wallpapers, and colorful doors. Think about the landscape in your image too and the great environment you are located in.

Finding Backgrounds

finding backgrounds
finding backgrounds

A variety of angles can also help your background choices. If you are shooting down on your subject you can use various lines on the road, grass, or any other greenery around or even just the texture. Shooting forward onto your subject will give you space and environment area that you are in. Shooting up on your subject can make you a viewpoint of the sky, clouds, or anything else above your subject matter.

finding backgrounds

Finding Backgrounds

Food and still life photography gives you an excellent array of choices with colors, textures, and backgrounds and offers a great way to be creative. You can even make your backgrounds using various woods and papers. Another background choice for smaller subjects is scrapbook paper from your local craft store where you can purchase paper patterns that look like wood, marble, and other surfaces that you enjoy.

finding backgrounds

There are some things you will want to avoid in your background. By using these guidelines, it will help you avoid distractions from the subject of your image. You usually want the brightest point of your image to be your subject; this means that you will want to avoid brighter highlights in the background or colors that could be distracting such as bright oranges, neons, etc. Poles and tree branches are common objects that can get in the way of a great photograph and something you want to avoid, especially when shooting portraits.

If you are having a difficult time finding the right kind of background texture and color you can always Photoshop out your background and replace it with a new background. There are many Photoshop actions, and Lightroom presets to help you achieve this. This is also where green screen photography comes in handy. A green screen can help you knock out the background easier to replace it later on. This color is used because Photoshop can read the color much better to separate from your subject in post editing.

Finding backgrounds

When we are talking about the background, you always want to consider foreground as a factor in your photography. The foreground is a great way to bring depth into your image and also a good use of framing. You can achieve this by setting objects in front of your still-life images. Use trees or greenery in the foreground with a shallow depth of field, or any other creative factors to frame your image. If you find your foreground is too sharp in your image and becomes a distraction you can always blur this in post-production.

finding backgrounds

Why is Photography Post-Production Important?

Post-production is the defining factor that separates professional quality images from casual snapshots. Just as writers need editing, photographers need post-production. You don’t have to be a professional, though, to benefit from editing tools. Even if you don’t plan on selling or showcasing your photos, you still want your photos to represent what you meant to capture. Although photography techniques and equipment continue to improve, its methods are still primitive compared to the mechanics of the human eye. Post-production gives photographers the opportunity to fix errors and enhance an image’s features so the image lives up to the photographer’s vision.

Post-production is half of the art behind photography. It’s the photographer’s chance to engage with their photos in a hands-on fashion, making improvements and alterations to the RAW image. The photographer’s artistic vision is not complete until after the finishing touches they add using photo editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom.

Flaws

Reality isn’t perfect. Your camera isn’t perfect, either. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and you’re left with images that appear too dull, too dark, or even overexposed. Accidents happen, too, and you may discover your perfect shot was actually taken with the wrong settings. Portraits may need retouching, and you may discover your photos are off-center or in need of cropping. No photographer, and no camera is perfect.

Photos Aren’t Always True to Life

No matter how advanced your equipment may be, it can’t capture the exact same shades and lighting you perceive with your naked eye. Every photographer is familiar with the frustration of trying to capture a beautiful sky without turning the foreground into a black mass. On the other hand, if you have a clear, well-illuminated foreground, the sky will almost inevitably become a blank, gray or white field. The secret to linking illuminated foreground with fascinating clouds and blue skies is post-production.

editing foreground

Light is essential for photography, but it can still cause problems. Although you can control your light sources very well in an indoor studio, you may still have issues with color. Light causes more problems when you shoot on location, however. You will deal with backlit subjects, side lighting, and frustrating shadows. Your eyes compensate for various light levels, but your camera records all of those levels at the same time, which means even slightly brighter areas will appear overexposed in your image. Post-production allows you to adjust the image the camera captured to match what you saw with your eyes.

Your Vision May Not Be True to Life

Photography is an art form. In order to bring your vision to life, however, you will often have to manipulate the contents of your photo. Post-production allows you to bend reality to suit fantastical shots or to add various effects to your work. It’s common for photographers to blend black and white techniques with color features, or for light sources included in an image to be exaggerated for dramatic effect.

bring photo to life

Post-production also gives you tools to manage the quality and focus of light and color. This is essential for composites and single images alike since these qualities set the tone and mood of your photo. The same qualities also determine the focus of an image. Many of today’s most popular photographers use regular post-production techniques to transform simple images into fantastic glimpses into the photographer’s imagination.

Benjamin Von Wong takes incredible underwater photography, for instance, and relies on post-production to translate flat, gray shots into images full of bright contrasts and dazzling colors. Von Wong routinely overexposes his images in order to have the most range for post-production. While it’s easy to enhance shadows, it’s harder to recover details buried in darkness. Without the edits he makes in post, his images wouldn’t quite be the breathtaking masterpieces that have gone viral.

Even Good Photos Could Be Better

Even a little time in post can turn an average photo into something worth sharing. The second look gives photographers the chance to see their image as a viewer rather than as the photographer. They can assess angles, light, and subject. Cropping, one of the easiest and most common post-production tools, can dramatically change the entire focus and balance of an image.

photo composition

More advanced techniques can reveal details lost to overexposure and restore a realistic color balance to the image. Whether you are improving professional portraits or trying to recapture the memories in your vacation pictures, post-production can make the difference between giving your image a frame or sending it on a trip to the trash can.

Everything you do in post is just as important as the initial shoot. Collecting RAW images is probably more fun than editing them, but a RAW image is an unfinished product. Photographers often display some of their greatest artistic talents in post-production, and photography is one of today’s most popular art forms. It doesn’t matter if you take photographs for yourself or others. You owe it to your craft to spend at least a little time in post-production.

Just a girl and her camera in a small room

Many of us can relate to the claustrophobic, often disconcerting spaces which seem to thwart our potential. Enter a small room and you’ll lose the desire to create, especially if said room is dull and undecorated; find yourself in a room fit for kings and you’ll feel artistically overwhelmed. Having lived in a rich variety of (mostly cramped) houses and apartments over the years, I’ve learned the art of appreciating small spaces.
In honor of that, I thought I’d challenge myself by taking all kinds of portraits in one room. I hope that this photographic endeavor compels you to look at your surroundings from a fresh perspective, knowing full well that you can make something meaningful out of anything. Each photo description will consist of the way I took an image and a few tips on how to achieve such an effect. Let’s begin!

flower background
Backgrounds are often ignored in photographs (I myself am guilty of this.) Using them can add an abundance of depth to your images. Had there not been a painting in this photograph, the image would’ve lacked a story. The painting’s graceful strokes and colors – mixed with a similarly colored wallpaper – create an atmosphere reminiscent of museums. Such photographs can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. (Including pets in your photos is an added bonus.)
rose backlight
Backlight is a portrait photographer’s best friend. In this image, the room’s large window is covered (it was also a gloomy day). Despite these hindrances, I was able to achieve a certain glow by increasing the ISO number. Limited light is ideal for ISO-related challenges; it also gives you a chance to grow by compelling you to leave your artistic comfort zone.
torch light
Since it was a gloomy day, I wanted to experiment with artificial light. To create this photograph, I used a simple torch. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by lamplight, torch light, or anything of the sort; familiarizing yourself with them will give you more chances to make the most of natural light.
curtain backlight
Curtains, especially when combined with backlight, create hauntingly interesting atmospheres. Widening such photos using the cropping tool will give your them a cinematic feel. All kinds of fascinating photographs can be taken with curtains only, so don’t be quick to ignore them if you’re shooting in a small room. Curtains mixed with silhouettes create mysterious and emotional photographs.
doors
Blurred foregrounds are useful when it comes to visual storytelling. In this case, the door serves as a secret look into the subject’s cozy reading world. To create spontaneity, encourage your subject to interact with his or her surroundings or objects. Adding a hint of oblivion will inevitably give your images an attractive and warm feeling.
wallpaper
If you want comfortable-looking portraits with a twist, place your subject in front of a complicated background, be it a spectacularly designed quilt, fascinating wallpaper, or anything else that catches your eye. Such backgrounds will add uniqueness to your image without completely distracting the viewer from the subject’s face. As you can see, the light source is hitting half of the subject’s face. This, too, adds a pleasant twist to a seemingly simple image.

 

rose silhouette
If the room in which you’re shooting is too small for atmospheric images, let your subject interact with an object; the more complicated it looks, the better. Flowers, air, and books are perfect for such photos. Objects like roses can not only tell a touching story, but they can also add an elegant touch to an image’s composition.
ceiling mirror
Mirrors add space; they’re incredible helpers when it comes to self-portraits. This photo was taken with the help of a ceiling light mirror – despite its smallness, it provided both an unusual angle and a strange combination of colors. Abstract images of this sort boost one’s creativity and add unconventional beauty to a portfolio.
front light
Finally, don’t forget direct window light. Despite its simplicity, it can provide you with clean, easily editable photographs which you’ll be proud to include in your portfolio. Hiding part of the subject’s face using hair or any kind of object will make your results stand out. If all else fails during a shoot, don’t give up and stick to window light. The finished results will inspire you to try again and provide you with at least a few photos to work with.

The ability to find details in any corner of a room gives one a chance to treat life a similar way; no matter how simple or nanoscopic a room is, something great can be created in it, something that exceeds its physical constraints. The same can be said about life. Thus, photography strengthens not only our observation skills but also our ability to live fully and freely, no matter how insignificant we sometimes feel.

Keep challenging yourselves and your creativity will grow, improve and bloom beautifully.

Good luck!

 

 

 

Tips for low light photography without flash

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to shoot low light photography without flash? It happened to me in some events, one of them was a night wedding in the countryside.

Wedding in low light
Weddings at night are beautiful…but they are difficult to shoot!

These challenging situations of having to shoot low light photography without flash usually happen at events when the flash is annoying some of the participants and guests or when babies are involved. On those occasions, I feel as if someone tied my arm behind my back (only one of them, the other is holding the camera). With these limitations, I have to change the way I shoot photos. I am happy to share with you a few things you can do if you find yourself in situations of this kind.

External lights
It can be frustrating not being able to use external flashes (on the left) or LED lighting devices (on the right). Take these situations as challenges that will make you grow as a photographer (yes, optimism is a good approach here).

Use a wide aperture

The first thing you can try to nail that low light photography without flash is to open your aperture wide. If you know about your predicament in advance, you should choose a lens with a wide aperture that you are comfortable to work with (keep in mind that not all wide aperture lenses will be good for you, there is a tradeoff and you need to compromise over things). When you work with this low f stops (wide apertures), you should keep in mind that they are usually making the background blurry. This is great for isolating your subject and making it pop in the photo, however, if you forget about this, you might lose important parts of the image that you wanted sharp. Just try to remember and take care.

Shallow depth of field
This photo was taken with an aperture of f1.8. As you can see, the depth of field was so narrow that the only thing in focus is the megaphone of the little guy on the right.

Although fast lenses (the ones that can get really wide apertures) are great for low light photography without flash, they are also quite expensive. I have just one of them, a 35mm. This is a great lens and it is affordable. It is pretty good for newborn photography, when you get close to your subject and you usually have time to react or even set a little the scene. However, for situations where you have to react fast I think using a zoom lens can be more useful. The problem is that those are much more expensive! I have never been able to get one. If you are in my situation, keep reading because I developed strategies which solve low light situations without getting expensive equipment.

good lens for low light
This is my only lens that can get to f 1.8. It is a 35mm and I love it!!

Increase the ISO…and fix it later in post processing (Lightroom)

I am not the biggest fan of using high ISO values because the images get noisy. But extreme situations like low light photography without flash call for extreme measures! A high ISO value of 800 or higher will be helpful in this case. It is always good to know that you can reduce the noise in post-processing. And good news: using Lightroom for dealing with noise is easy. In the Develop module, under the Detail section, you will find several interesting slides dedicated to Noise reduction: Luminance and Color Noise slides.

low light photography

low light photography

 

The Luminance Noise is the general noise caused by the brightness of the image, Color Noise is the color dots you see when you zoom in on an image that you shoot at high ISO. You can see them easier in the shadows of an image. Before starting to work on reducing the noise it is better to zoom in on the image by clicking the 1:1 in the Navigator and selecting on it the area you want to focus in.

low light photography

First thing to do is to reduce the Luminance Noise. A good value will be 30-40.

low light photography
These are the original image settings.
low light photography
By setting the Luminance Noise Reduction slider to a value of 40, we managed to reduce the noise a lot while keeping details in the image.

Keep in mind that when you decrease noises, you also lose definition. Everything has a price! Photos can get a painted look, so you aim to find the sweet spot where you reduce enough noise but still keep enough detail.

low light photography
This paint look produced by a too high Luminance Noise Reduction makes the Buddha figure look unnatural.

Once you are done with the Luminance Noise Reduction slider, you can adjust a little bringing some detail with the Detail Slide. Increasing the detail brings noise back though. You can also increase the contrast a little, but this one also brings noise back. In summary, The Luminance Noise slider is the one that you have to use to do the first Noise reduction and then you can tune it finer with the Detail and Contrast sliders.  It might be tricky at the beginning, but it gets better with some practice.

low light photography

Now you need to do the same with the Color Noise Reduction Slide. The default value is 25. If you don´t have a lot of noise, this value might be good, but if your image has a really high ISO value, you will need to increase it quite a lot. Try 50 and adjust accordingly. Then you can fine-tune it by increasing the detail, but remember that this will bring back the noise. You can also play a little with the Smoothness slide. I usually leave Detail and Smoothness on their default values.

low light photography

And finally, if you can’t beat the enemy, join him. Add a grainy effect. It might seem like you were looking for it! The trick here is to make the photo look clearly grainy, to let the viewers see that this effect is intentional.

low light photography
You can add a grain effect by increasing the amount of grain and its size in the “Effects” section (Develop mode).

Use a tripod or alternative stabilization methods

To increase the amount of light going into your sensor, you can also decrease the shutter speed. There is a limit where the speed is so low that the slight movements of your hands cause the photo to be smudged and blurry. This limit depends on the lens you use (more zoom, more evident is the shaking) as well as your personal abilities. Usually, the limit is around 1/80 sec. You can avoid it by simply using a tripod.

Tripod, great tool for low light situations

I find tripods really useful in low-light situation when you can stick to a spot and take photos of objects or places. However, if you need to be mobile, or you are in a busy event, the tripod can be uncomfortable and sometimes even impossible to use. In that case, you can use alternative stabilization methods, that might not be so efficient, but they can solve your situation. If you have money to spare, you can buy equipment such as monopods, or wearable chassis. Alternatively, you can use any surface you find to stabilize your camera (like tables, closets, chairs…anything can work). You can lean on a wall and shoot with the elbows tight to your sides to avoid shaking. You can also sit or lean forward with your elbows on your knees while shooting.

If you still get people blurry because they move all the time, you can try to ask them to freeze their movement for longer than usual (“excuse me, could you just not move for three seconds”). Try to make it sound fun and people will usually be fine with it.

I hope these tricks will help you in low light situations. Do you have any other strategies to handle it? Please, share it with us. We are always happy to learn new things. Have a happy shooting!

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!

Get Creative with an App – Cool Smartphone Apps for Photography

Smartphones have made our lives a lot easier especially for photographers. The continuous developments in technology and gadgets with improvised cameras on smartphones, allow us to capture any moment in one click. They also come with a range of applications to choose from for photo editing. Having used smartphones for a while now, some of my personal go to apps would be Snapseed, Hipstamatic, VSCO and SKRWT. Here are some tips about using these apps and why I have preferred them every time.

apps-sleeklens

Snapseed

Snapseed has always been my go-to app for editing most of my images; it’s like using Photoshop but a lot simpler. Snapseed is an app developed by Google, and it is available for iOS and Android. It is a well-developed app with all the necessary features you need to create crisp, clean and vibrant images. Editing with Snapseed allows you to play around with various features to create a picture that suits your taste.

snapseed2-sleeklens Before Edit

When you open the app, you pick an image that you’d like to edit. After choosing your image, you create the edit by selecting the features as shown below.

snapseed-sleeklens

After you choose the features and adjustments you need for your image, you click save, and you will have the edited image as seen below.

Some of the features I used in this edit were Tune Image, Structure, Drama and Blur. The Tune Image feature can be used to play with the brightness, contrast, saturation, ambience, highlight, shadow and warmth by increasing or decreasing them accordingly. To improve the details of the image, you can use structure by increasing it. I choose mostly not to sharpen my image depending on the need. Features like drama, blur or HDR, can be utilized depending on the mood you want to portray in the photo.

Standby Bikes at Old Town Standby Bikes at Old Town, Jakarta

There are other features in Snapseed which are worth trying like selective adjust when you want to brighten or darken a particular area in your image. The HDR scape feature can be used when you have people or landscapes in your image and would like to draw more attention to detail on them. The Black and White feature is also quite useful to transform your images from colour to Black and White.

SKRWT

Ever captured an image that is not in perfect symmetry? Unable to find the right app to get it in place?… SKRWT is the answer. It is relatively a newer app than Snapseed but works perfectly for putting your pictures into perspective. This app is available for iOS and Android.

skrwt2-sleeklens Before Edit

As you open the app, you choose your image, for example, the above image and then start playing around with the features to create your perspective. See image below.

skrwt-sleeklens After Edit

I enjoy using this app as the available features are easy to use, and you can quickly create an exceptional alignment and structure to your images. They also have a very active Instagram account with useful tips and discussions on photography.

VSCO

VSCO is an app with a variety of filters/presets to give your images a touch of nostalgia or clarity depending on the filter you choose. It also has a photo sharing community and is available on iOS and Android. This is my go-to app when I want to create a classic or mellow image.

After choosing preset After choosing preset

VSCO can be used to capture, edit and share images. Using the same image as SKRWT, I’d like to complete the picture processing with VSCO. Once you open the app and add your image, you can choose which preset you like. After selecting the preset you can use the other features to adjust brightness, contrast, highlight, saturation, sharpen, fade, etc. to compose your image. See picture below after the complete process.

vsco2-sleeklens

Hipstamatic

Last but not least, my all-time favorite app Hipstamatic. This app is only available on iOS. Hipstamatic is an app that provides you with numerous Film, Lens, and Flash to shoot. Recently, they have added the editing feature so; you can use any image from your camera roll and edit it using Hipstamatic film and lens. Trying to find the right combo for your images can be a challenge when you start using the app. But, as you use the app you understand more how it works. There are Instagram accounts like Hipstaconnect that help you with challenges on a weekly basis to familiarize yourself with the app.

hipstamatic-sleeklens Before Edit

When you open the app, you can choose the image you like and then choose one of the combos available at the bottom or create your combo of film, lens, and flash. See image below.

hipstamatic2-sleeklens Basel combo

After choosing the preferred combo, you can make other adjustments like brightness, contrast, fade, saturation, clarity, texture, depth of field, etc. to the image. See image below.

hipstamatic3-sleeklens

This is the second preferred app for me as it has a variety of features with specific details that you can use to create an image. The final version of the image after the edits can be seen below.

hipstamatic4-sleeklens ‘Si Jagur’ the Canon at Old City, Jakarta

There are some apps we can use to create images that suit our creativity and style. But, it is always best to draw it down to those very few that work for you regarding features and usage. The more apps you have, the harder, it will be for you to produce images fitting your style. Variety can make it confusing to pick the right app. If the app has useful features, is user-friendly and produces excellent images, it makes you want to keep going back to the app to edit your images. The apps above have worked for me till date as I always go back to them for all my edits.

Make your editing process a fun and creative aspect, to compose images into a stunning moment.

How to use a reflector to enhance your photography: a beginner’s guide

One of the most important elements of photography is, of course, light. If you like taking photos outdoors, one of the challenges you will face is that you can’t adjust the light sources so much. The sun and street lights can’t be moved, so you need to find the way to make their light work for you. Sunlight is also influenced by the time. For example, if it is high noon our light is coming from right above us and it is a very hard light. But if we are taking a photo at sunrise or sunset, the light will come at an angle. Light intensity also varies between sunny days and when the sky is hazy, foggy or cloudy.

Light variance allows us to take spectacular and diverse photos. However, sometimes we want to have a bit more control over the lighting. One of the simplest and most efficient means to do it is by using a reflector.

What is a reflector?

In my opinion, the best photography equipment that I ever got is my reflector. It took me several years into photography to get one. I guess that I always saw reflectors as something that only professionals use. In fact, reflectors are one of the most affordable pieces of equipment a photographer can have. Mine have cost me around 14 euros in Amazon.

reflector
The reflector I’m using. The envelope is made up of four pieces, the gold and the black are sewn together back to back, and so are the white and silver. A zipper connects the two pairs. this enables one frame to have 4 different colors. Together with the diffuser, it really is a 5 in 1!

A reflector is basically a surface which redirects the light towards a desired subject. You can even make one yourself with a cardboard and aluminum foil. There are many variations and kinds of reflectors available on the market. The most common and affordable ones are the collapsible round reflectors with multiple colors. They consist of a foldable frame with a translucent cloth stretched over them. These frames come with a reversible envelope which offers four different surfaces (usually white, silver, gold and black). Don’t repeat my mistake, get (or make) yourself a reflector soon. You will see how easily your images improve.

How to use a reflector

Using a reflector, you can bring in light from additional angles and lighten shadows. In other words, you use them to change the direction of the light sources in order to add light to dark areas that make your image look bad. Using a reflector is very similar to what we did when we were kids and we played with the light beams from mirrors, but in a more delicate way.

A common use of the reflector is for portrait photography in the middle of the day, when the light is coming from above the model’s head. In this situation, the model’s face will be full of shadows and hard lights. In addition, the eyebrows cast a shadow under the eyes, making him/her look a bit like a raccoon. By using our reflector, we can bring light from a lower angle and lighten the model’s face, this way we avoid the “raccoon effect”.

You can set the reflector on a stand or hold by yourself. However if you are holding the camera it can get really complicated. You can also ask an assistant or a friend to hold it. Another option is that your model holds it. A good option is to let your model sit and put the reflector on top of his/her knees. In some situations you might need to use your imagination and have the reflector standing on walls, cars, columns or even lying on the floor. Don’t be shy and try different options until you get the results you want. This is part of the fun of a photo session!!

Gold and silver sides of the reflector

Keep in mind that both the silver and the gold colors are metallic and reflect a lot of light. For that reason they should be used from a certain distance (that will vary according to light conditions). If you are using it to reflect light on a person or animal, it might be even blinding. Take care and if you need it, ask the model to close the eyes until you adjust the light reflection to an intensity that will be comfortable for him/her.

sleeklens-43-4
The metallic colors reflect the light almost like a mirror, be careful when you aim it at people.

As the silver side reflects the light without softening it, besides being a good option for greater distances, it is also great for weaker lighting conditions. Silver is also a good one to start getting used to reflectors because you can see the effect very vividly, making your life easier at the beginning.

sleeklens-43-13
In the first photo I didn’t use the reflector, the middle one was taken with the reflector too close to the model, the last one was taken with the reflector set at a greater distance. See how the light is much more delicate in the last photo in comparison with the others

The gold is very much like the silver except that it is giving the reflected light a warm yellow shade, similar to the golden hour light. It can be great for emphasizing sun tan, or if you want to bring out a certain color in the photo. But take care, because the yellow light can be overpowering.

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In this photo you can see how the golden-yellow light reflected from the gold emphasizes my friend Nita‘s sun tan. you can also see how the shadows articulate her muscles

White side of the reflector

The white side reflects a very soft and delicate light, you need to place it very close to your subject in order for it to have an effect and it won’t work if the lighting is bad (like at dusk, or if it is cloudy), but the result will be a very warm and soft photo, which is great for portraits (family, children, pregnancy photos, flowers).

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Here you can see how the different colors affect the photo: in the top left I didn’t use the reflector, in the top right I used the silver and you see that the illumination is almost equal on both sides of Porky, the bottom left photo was taken using the white and you can see how the light on Porky is softer, the bottom right photo was taken with the golden reflector and you can see Porky has here a much warmer light.

Black side of the reflector

Finally, a reflector can be used as a light blocker too. If you have a light coming from an undesired direction. For example, if you have light reflecting from a window,  you can reduce the reflecting light by placing the reflector with the black side towards your subject.

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Here you can see the effect of the black side of the reflector, on the left I didn’t use a reflector and on the left photo I used the black. Do you see the difference?

Using the reflector’s frame as diffuser

Besides reflecting the light, the reflector’s frame (the one with a semi opaque cloth) can be used as a diffuser. Diffusers soften the light coming directly from a light source and make the shadows less hard..

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These two photos were taken in the same spot moment one after the other. In the upper photo I took the photo when Inna was subjected to the hard mid day light, in the lower photo Inna was “sheltered” from the harshest light by the diffusing inner frame of the reflector.

I want to thank my friends Inna and Nita for being my models and also my nephew for letting me use Porky to illustrate this article. Now that you have the basic information about reflectors, it is time to grab yours and start experimenting with it!

Enjoy and have a happy shooting!!

Activities to improve your photography skills easily

If you are new to photography, you might feel a bit lost. It is easy to get stuck in using auto mode because it is fast, easy, and many times can produce a decent result. However, if you feel like you could improve your photography skills and get more out of the camera it is time to take matters into you own hands.

There are tons of things to learn and it is hard to decide what to do first. You can easily spend days and weeks just reading photography books and articles, watching tutorials or jumping from one website to other and adding more and more into your to-do list. If you want to improve your skills as a photographer at some point you need to put theory aside and start taking photos yourself. However, with our usually busy life, it is easy to let weeks pass without touching your camera and shoot a single image. For that reason I thought it might be useful to make a list of easy photography activities that will help encourage you to grab your camera and start practicing your craft without complicating things so much.

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If you started photography recently, it is normal that you feel a bit overwhelmed. It feels a little like being lost in a new country.

A theme a day/week

If you don’t know which subject to pick, you can start by choosing one color or a geometric shape. You can even ask somebody to help you decide. They don’t even need to know why you are asking them. It can be something like: Which is your favorite color? Do you prefer squares or circles? Once you know your photography subject, take photos of only this. Focusing on one photography subject might seem restrictive at first, but it will push you to develop your creativity. Extra mile: once you have all your photos, select the best ones and build a composition. Then share it with the person that helped you to pick the subject. He/she will love it!

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One day I took photos of circles. This forced me to pay attention to objects that I usually don’t even look at! It was a really interesting experience.

Practicing one photography composition element for one day, week or month

Learning composition can be one of the most overwhelming things in photography. Composition is based on the relation that the different elements of your image have between themselves and with the frame. Trying to control all these relations might be overwhelming, even when you have been already taking photos for a while. To make it easy, you can create a list of composition elements (lines, negative space, symmetry, patterns, texture…) and focus on one of them each time. The amount of time you work on each element is up to you. When you finish the list, you will have a nice photo collection which will illustrate how you understand composition. If you repeat this activity over time (every certain months or every year), you will be able to see your how you evolve as a photographer.

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Man made structures are good for practicing symmetry.

Blurring people

When I started, I was obsessed about sharpness. I wanted everything inside the frame to be clear. No blurriness allowed! However, I changed my mind when I started to see the potential of showing movement in my photos. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not talking about out of focus images. I am talking about movement! A great way to practice is by going somewhere relatively crowded, set your shutter speed on a high value (slow speed, like a quarter of a second) and take photos of the people moving.

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In this photo I combined the movement of passers by with the stillness of my friend Nita while she is practicing yoga

Try to combine different degrees of blurriness: everybody blurry, just some people blurry and also nobody blurry. For this you need to play with different shutter speeds. You might need a tripod if your shutter speeds are too low. I, for example, need a tripod at any speed slower than 1/60 seconds. Decreasing shutter speed means that light will enter into the sensor for longer. If for that reason you are getting photos with too much light, you can close the aperture and decrease your ISO. If it is still too much light, a Neutral Density filter might help.

Play with the different light angles and look for the shadows

You don’t need any fancy studio light. You can do it with a home lamp or a flashlight. Pick an object you like and shine the light on it. Try different light positions, directions, add light modifiers (color papers, clothes…) and see the affect light has on the shadows of your object. You can also do this exercise outdoors placing your object in different positions regarding to the sun, or taking photos in the same place but at different times of the day.

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For this activity I took some of my nephew’s toys and a flashlight. I practiced the effect of light on the shadows of these little guys by changing the position of the light and the angle of incidence. In the upper photo I didn’t use the flashlight. The light was really soft, so there are no shadows. In the other two photos I used the flashlight and I changed its position to get 2 different shadow orientation.

Photo sequences

Taking photo sequences is a great way of telling stories with your photos. Photo sequences add a dynamic effect and they are great to give a sense of action and movement. You can do photo sequences of tones of subjects. You can start with friends/family or animals. Take 2 or 3 photos of any activity they are doing: walking, cooking, putting make up, dancing, doing homework… take a lot of photos (shooting in continuous might help) and afterwards choose the 2 or 3 that work better together. You can also do it with objects by placing them in different ways in your frame to build a little story.

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“Correfocs”, which means fire-run, are one of the outstanding traditions of Catalan Festivals. People dressed up as demons run through several streets while holding lighten fireworks. This photo sequence was taken in Vilanova i la Geltru, Catalonia.

 

Dust buster

Take the photography equipment you are using the least (lens, tripod, external flash, filters etc.) and make it your point to use them for the day. You might realize that you should use them more, or you might realize you should give them away. Either way, it will help you to be more efficient.

Close ups- animals

Try to take photos of animals from as close as you can, this will help you to understand how to approach animals, how close should you try to get, from which direction and how fast you should move.

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Cats are extremely tricky to approach, mostly because they are unpredictable. However, the more experience you have, the less likely it is that they will surprise you

I hope you like these activities and that you find them useful. Do you like any other activity to practice your skills? Now it is your turn: grab your camera and have fun with it!! Happy shooting!!!

How to Start a Fashion Photography Blog

Starting a fashion photography blog is a great way to practice and sell your work. You can get some money selling ads on your page, plus your blog also operates as a great online portfolio. Having a fashion photography blog that looks professional is an excellent way to start your career. Starting a blog is a long process and it will take some time before it hits it big. If you stick to your passion, and work hard, you’ll have an amazing fashion photography blog. And through it, you’ll be able to launch a rewarding and successful fashion photography career.

Step One: Buy a Domain Name

Even if you’re still in the “Thinking-about-it” phase of starting a blog, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name. Think of something that’s unique and interesting. Don’t name your blog something simple like “Jane’s Blog”. If you want to use your name in your blog title, go with something fun, like “Jane’s Scrumptious Blog of Scrutiny”. Anything to help get your fashion photography blog noticed in the sea of blogs. The reason that you want to buy your domain name right away is to make sure it’s yours when you are ready to get started.

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Why pay for a domain name when you can get one for free? Some domain names are free because another business has their name on your blog. Instead of Janesblog.com it’s coolblogsite.janesblog.com. You may not want to go this way because you don’t want to give another business free advertising. Not only that, but not owning your own domain name can look unprofessional. If you send that link to an employer, they’re going to get an unprofessional first opinion of you. Buy your own domain name and host it on a website blog like WordPress.

Step Two: Choose the Right Content

Having a successful blog isn’t just about publishing content you think is cool. You need to make posts that everyone will think is cool. Of course, you still need to be passionate about what you write about. However, you need to try and make sure that people will want to read what you write about. Try to write posts and take pictures that people will relate to. Maybe you’ll take an interest in shooting fashion photos of plus-sized models. Writing a companion post about plus-sized clothing is an interesting way to show off your photos and your unique ideas.

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The first step in finding good content – if you can’t think of anything quickly – is to research. Find some successful  fashion photography blogs, or even just blogs that you enjoy.

  • What are they writing about?
  • What trends are they following?
  • Which posts are people commenting on the most?

These are the posts you need to pay attention to. Take these ideas and re-work them in your own words with your own opinions. While it is important to write about the current trends, also try to write about things that are going to outlast the modern day styles. Some of your best posts will be tip posts to help other fashion photographers improve their work.

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Step Three: Network

When it comes to promoting your blog, you’ll need to make friends. Networking is more about building relationships. Don’t go into a relationship just worrying about how they’re going to help you. To run a successful fashion photography blog, you want people to respect you.

Operate under the “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” philosophy. Always think about how you can help them, not how they can help you. In the blogging world, your best relationships will be other bloggers. Remember that list of blogs you made for research? Contact the owners and start a relationship. Eventually you’ll be comfortable enough to ask them for dual advertising. You’ll add a link to them on your blog, and they’ll add a link to you on theirs.

A great way to start off the relationship is a collaboration post; each of you write part of a post and share the posting on your blogs. Remember to always be polite and courteous, and always say thank you. A little smile goes a long way.

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Having a fashion photography blog is a great first step in starting a fashion photography career. It can take a while for it to take off, but it doesn’t have to be entirely difficult. By following the above steps you can create an excellent blog that will help launch your career.

If you start by getting a stellar domain name on an approved site, you can present yourself as a professional. By following the best blogs, you can come up with content that will be popular. And by focusing on building long lasting relationships (and friendships) with other photographer bloggers, you’ll be able to get more exposure for your work. Building a professional and unique fashion photography blog will allow you to refine your craft and build a portfolio that gets results.

Tips for learning photography when you have no free time

I started photography just six years ago. At that time I already had a professional career as a Biologist. I moved from Barcelona to France and then to Israel for work reasons. Now I just moved back to Barcelona because I found a new job in a private laboratory. I work there 40 hours/week. Besides that, I need to take care of some things for my family while still trying to do yoga and sport to keep healthy. I also cook my meals, I need to go to the supermarket…. Well, let’s say that I am quite busy in my daily life, and I guess that if you are reading this article, this sounds familiar to you.

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I am Biologist and I spend 40 hours each week working in a laboratory analyzing the microbiological quality of water samples.

Photography is one of my passions. For that reason, although I don’t have a lot of free time, I still want to develop myself as a photographer. The biggest challenge is to combine my everyday life with my more artistic side. Along the years I have developed some strategies that help me to organize myself better and keep learning photography even during busy times.

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Time is gold… Nowadays we have extremely busy life. But if you organize yourself well, you might find some time to invest in your passions!

Take profit of the trips to and back from work

Maybe you are lucky and you live a 5 minutes walking distance from your workplace. But if you need to invest time every day going and coming back from work, I have good news for you: your photography might benefit from these traveling times. Taking photos on your way to work might not be convenient or at all possible, but you can still use this time by learning the theory or feeding your creativity with some resources.

If you are using public transportation, you can invest this time in reading photography or art related books. An electronic format might help you to travel lighter (this is extremely important when you are already carrying your meals and some other things you might need throughout your day). If you don’t want to carry a book with you, using the phone is an excellent alternative. You can use a RSS reader application to make lists of interesting photography articles that you can later read on your way to work.  I am using one now that I like a lot and it is called “Feedly”. Another thing you can do for taking advantage of your trips to work is searching; for new photography resources or courses, doing some networking with other photographers…

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It takes me 40 min to get to work by subway. I like investing at least one of the two trips I do each day in photography related activities. Doing so, I get at least 200 minutes of catching up on photography each week. At the end of the year, I managed to accumulate a lot of learning time.

If you drive or walk to work, you can listen to photography broadcasts. You might also listen to some TED talks about photography or creativity. You just need to plan ahead which information you would like to listen to. Sometimes you can even download the broadcasts/talks.

Learn in baby steps

I don’t know about you, but when I decide to learn about a new subject, I get excited and I want to learn everything about it right now! But if you are a busy person, this way of thinking can lead you to frustration: since you are busy, you never have what you think is the right amount of free time for learning the subject properly. You wait until you have enough time to learn a particular photography subject. After some time you get mad with yourself because you didn’t manage to learn anything because you just can’t get a whole afternoon off two times a week… If this happens to you, it is time to change your learning strategy! Divide the subject you want to learn into small lessons that will require less time to finish or just decide on an amount of time you can invest each day on the subject.

For example, you might decide to read 3 pages of a book each time you have a chance, or read one photography article each time, or invest 15 minutes after dinner each day in learning something.  It might not seem a lot at first, but if you are consistent, you will notice improvement in your learning curve along time. If you do this, I recommend you take notes or write a summary of what you learned. That way, when you have the time, it will be that much easier to catch up on what you read already but might have forgotten a little.

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Learning step by step might take you far.

Take photos with what you have at the moment

I wish I could always take photos with my DSLR camera, lenses, and tripod. However, because of my everyday obligations, it is quite difficult for me to carry my gear everywhere I go. I used to think that if I don’t have my DSRL camera, then I can’t practice photography. Nowadays I know this is not true. We don’t leave the house without our phones. And all of them have a camera. Depending on your phone, you might not have the best camera, but it is still a camera!  For example, I have a simple camera on my phone. I can’t set it’s aperture or shutter speed and when there is not a lot of light, the photos can turn out quite noisy. But I can still take photos with it to practice my composition or storytelling skills. I’d rather practice photography with my phone than not at all. When I have the chance to take my DSLR and gear with me, I practice all the other things that my phone doesn’t allow me to do.

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If you can’t carry your camera, you can always use your phone.

Join a photo challenge

You can decide to take upon yourself a challenge and take one photo every day/week/month. One photo a week might seem  an achievable goal even if you are busy. But to be honest, I find it quite difficult if I am doing it alone. One alternative is to join a photo challenge. It is usually easier to accomplish things every week if others are doing it too, because you feel encouraged.  You can find several online. If you are a busy person, I recommend you to have a look at 52frames.  Each week there is a subject and you need to submit one photo. I recommend this challenge because the community is really welcoming and the policy is about enjoying your photography and improving by being consistent. You don’t need to submit a masterpiece each time, but you need to submit something. And by doing so, you assure a bit of creativity in your life every week!

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I joined recently 52frames because I think it will keep me motivated even in busy times. This is the photo I submitted in Week 2. The subject was “Rule of thirds”.

Be patient with yourself

There is a tendency in our society to do a lot of things and do them fast and now. This trend is somehow making us less patient with ourselves.  As we love photography, we might have the feeling that we need to take great photos  NOW. However, there is a learning process. And this process takes time. If you are a busy person, you have to understand that you can invest just a bit of time on photography every day/week and in consequence, it will take you longer to improve your craft, but if you are consistent, I assure you that you will improve. Whatever you do, don’t turn photography into something stressful. If you are extremely tired one day, you might consider skipping your practice and rest. The same goes for times when you have an unexpected event that changes your entire schedule and miss your photography plan of the day. These things happen and it is OK to skip your photography practice. Just make sure you come back to your practice routine as soon as you can if you want to develop your photography skills. Patience and persistence will take you far on a long road.

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Our society is leading us to have a maybe too busy lifestyle.

Do you have any other strategy for learning photography during busy times? I would love to hear about them and include them in my list. Have a happy photography learning!

Getting Your First Gallery Show

A great way to make money as a photographer and get noticed is to have a gallery show. But getting your first art show can be extremely difficult. Galleries spend a lot of money putting a show together. They are less willing to put on a show for a new, unestablished artist. But do not lose hope. It is possible to get a gallery show with persistence and passion. Through hard work and enough patience, you can land your first gallery show and get plenty more in the future.

Get Established

Before you go after a gallery, it would be best to do a bunch of small jobs or even a few big photography jobs. If you have proof that your work has already been bought, the gallery is more likely to show your work. An artist who already has a name for themselves (however small) is less of a risk to the gallery. Also, an artist that has already sold their work will have a higher chance of selling work at an art show. You don’t necessarily need previous work to get a gallery, but having a past list of jobs will certainly help.

Find the Right Gallery

Finding the right gallery is difficult. Most cities will have at least one gallery somewhere, but if you live close enough to the major cities (especially New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago), you’ll have more luck. The more galleries there are, the more room there will be for new artists, and the better chance you’ll have.

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When picking out the gallery you want, start small. It is not wise to go after the biggest and best galleries when you have little to no professional work. However, some major galleries do a new-artist spotlight, so it can be useful to keep an eye on them. To start, make a list of the smaller galleries that show work similar to your own. This means visiting the galleries to see what they’re selling.

Meet in Person

It’s not enough to simply call a gallery and hope for the best. Most galleries receive several calls a day and you’re likely to get lost in the shuffle. The best thing to do is to go to the galleries in person and make appointments to meet with the art directors. A lot of galleries will say they don’t accept new artists, but keep trying. The most important thing to do is be polite. Be persistent, but don’t be rude. Most places just want you to prove you’re committed. After you show them a great portfolio that proves you are passionate about your work, you’ll get an interview with an art director about your work.

On a Budget

Some galleries will pay to print and frame your work. However, when you’re starting out, you’ll have to pay for that work yourself. It’s a good idea to get a professional relationship with printers and framers in your area.

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Most businesses offer deals on bulk work and by building an artist relationship with them you can sometimes get discounts on supplies. The more work you do with a business the stronger your relationship and the better work they will do for you.

Inventory Versus Show

A lot of times, getting in with a gallery does not guarantee a show. Especially if you’re a new artist and don’t have a lot of stellar pictures to sell. Often your work will sit in the back room as part of the galleries inventory. This work won’t be showcased to the public but will be available for potential buyers.

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You won’t make a lot of money and won’t get any critical attention. However, starting out in a small gallery, even just being in the background, will help get you into bigger and better galleries. After some time you might be able to break into a show, or team up with other artists to do a combined show that is less of a risk for the gallery.

Gallery Policy

Before approaching a gallery, check their policies. You can either ask on the phone or check if they have a website with the information. Some galleries only accept new submissions at certain times of the year. It is also important to know whether the gallery has an open or closed policy. With a closed policy, you won’t be able to sell your work through other galleries. With an open policy, you can work with other galleries but your original one will get a cut of the payment. Keep these in mind as you move forward.

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Getting a gallery show is an important step in the career of a professional photographer. You won’t always get a spot-light show right away, but starting small is a good step. Make sure to check the policy of the galleries you look at and always try to get an in-person meeting. With enough passion and commitment, you can get a good gallery to show off your work.

Tips for Amazing Fireworks Photography

If you want to test your skills as a photographer, then fireworks photography is the way to do it! Not only will you be shooting at night, the subject of your shot is a moving pyrotechnics display. If you want to include more in the frame, such as the crowd or the skyline, you’re adding more complications to the process. Let’s get started by looking at what equipment you’ll need.

What to Pack in Your Bag

The following are absolutely essential to bring with you:

  • Tripod
  • Cable release
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • An SLR or DSLR camera

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The flashlight will come in handy when you’re trying to find equipment or change settings on your camera. You’ll need the tripod and cable release to keep the camera steady, and this is very important for good fireworks photography. A slight shake of your hand, or even from pressing the shutter release, will cause blurring and distortion. Don’t skip out on the battery either, you’ll be using settings that can drain the power faster than usual.

Get There Early

As with any event photography, you want to get there before the crowds and scout a good location. There are different elements to take into account when you’re focusing on fireworks instead of people. One factor is smoke from the fireworks. This will get increasingly worse as the night goes on, so make sure you’re upwind from the display to minimize the problem.

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The other things to take into account are how you want to frame the shot and what you want to include within it. If you want the horizon line, especially if there are buildings or bridges silhouetted against it, you need to make sure your shot is even. While an angle can produce a unique artistic effect, you’re going to want to stick with the same frame throughout the evening. It’s better to go with a level shot unless you want all your photographs to be taken from that artistic angle.

Camera Settings for Fireworks Photography

This is where things start to get a little tricky. It’s best to use manual mode, and you’re going to have to play around to get the exact look that you’re going for. Here’s a rundown of the basic settings and how you can manipulate them for different shots:

  • Shutter Speed: A slow shutter speed is best for fireworks. Anywhere between 2.5 to 8 seconds will work depending on what look you want. Too low and you’ll get stunted fireworks without long trails, too high and the middle of the fireworks will turn out almost solid white. If your camera has a bulb setting, use it. This will allow you complete control over the exposure of each individual shot.
  • Aperture: You can play around with this, but suggested settings fall between f/8 and f/16. The middle range is best and will produce nice sharp images.
  • ISO: Low range is adequate as a higher ISO will produce more noise. Try a setting of 100/200. There will already be smoke interference, so it’s best not to add to it.
  • White Balance: This is a matter of preference in some ways as the white balance will alter the color of the fireworks. For RAW, just set the white balance to auto. If you’re not using RAW, you can play with automatic color filters to see if one gives a truer color than another.
  • Focus: Turn off autofocus! It’s far better to frame the shot early, when it’s still light out, and choose the focus manually. You can also start with autofocus, then switch to manual. That way, the camera automatically chooses a good focus without wasting time by refocusing between shots.

You should turn off noise reduction, flash, and vibration reduction as these settings will ultimately work against you.

A Handy Trick from the Professionals

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If your camera has the bulb setting, you can use a small black piece of cardboard to create a neat effect. Make sure it’s not glossy as this will ruin the end result. Basically, hold the cardboard in front of your lens at the end of a burst of fireworks, then remove it at the beginning of the next one. The reason you need the bulb to do this is so that you can hold the exposure from the end of one burst and the beginning of another. If you do it right, the image will have double exposure and should show both firework bursts in the same shot. It can be tricky to do, but it’s well worth the effort.

No matter what, remember to have some fun with it. Not only are you at a beautiful fireworks display, you get to photograph it! Even if your shots don’t come out right, you’ll learn something from the process. Keep trying and you’re sure to land an amazing shot one day!

Building a Fashion Photography Portfolio

It’s hard to break into the world of fashion photography. It is especially difficult when you don’t have anything to show future employers. Just because you’re starting out doesn’t mean you can’t show off great work. Having a professional fashion photography portfolio is a great way to get into the business. Building a stellar portfolio is about more than just putting pictures in a book. You have to have a creative image that will show your talents to agents and company owners. This article will help you get amazing pictures, at good prices, to build your professional fashion photography portfolio.

On a Budget

Creating your first portfolio doesn’t have to break the bank. Getting models and stylists can be expensive, however, you are not the only new worker on the scene. It’s just as hard to get into a model and stylist career. The great thing is that you can help each other. Models and stylists will often work for free to get practice and their own portfolios. By working with someone who is also new in the industry you can get the pictures you need. This also helps multiple people get into their careers and build portfolios.

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Paper Versus Digital

Today, a lot of work is done digitally. It’s easier to edit photos on a computer. It’s also easier and cheaper to showcase photos online. However, there are still a lot of editors and agents that prefer the paper copy of a portfolio. It’s best to have one of each when breaking into the business. A paper fashion photography portfolio is best for physically arranging photos and producing only your best work. However, online portfolios (including blogs) are a great way to show off all of your work and make some extra cash selling ads if your work is popular enough.

Choosing the Best Photos

The most important part of your first portfolio is showing off your style. When you have no previous credentials you have to rely on your creativity to get you a job. After you’ve had some professional experience, you can build a portfolio of published work. This shows your best pictures and tells your employer that you are a serious photographer. Until then, you need to pick the pictures that tell the best story.

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Not every picture in your fashion photography portfolio has to be related to each other. However, your portfolio should have a sense of unity.  This can be achieved by making sure that the fashion you shoot shares a commonality (either in color or shape). You can also create a unified portfolio in the poses that you choose to include. You want to get poses that are unique and fun but that also show off the clothes. Having a creative outlook is important, but it’s more important to prove that you understand how fashion works in your photos.

From Start to Finish

When organizing your portfolio, don’t save the best for last. Your agent or employer is going to get an impression of you based on the first couple of photos they see. At the same time, you need to mix up your photos. You don’t want to have all of the same type of photos (or model or outfit) all at the start. This makes it hard for the viewer to see your style because all they can focus on is the similarities in your work.

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Editing

Don’t get discouraged if your portfolio doesn’t lead immediately to a job. The best thing you can do is take the comments from your meeting and use them to edit your portfolio. This can mean leaving behind your favorite pictures to add something that works better as a whole. Sometimes you’ll need to get more or different pictures.

Listen to whatever is said during a meeting and take it into consideration when editing. After being turned away, politely contact the client and ask for advice moving forward. This can help you get more advice for making a better fashion photography portfolio. This also shows the agent/employer that you care about your work and you are a professional. They will be more likely to look at your work in the future and consider you as an employee.

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Breaking into the world of fashion photography is hard. It’s one of the most common and steady jobs for photographers. There’s also not a lot of photographers leaving the industry, so new jobs are hard to come by. It’s best to start out working small jobs, such as helping a friend build a fashion blog. It is also a good idea to do some free work to get practice and build a portfolio of great images. You don’t have to spend a lot of money building your portfolio and can sometimes get away with a digital one. By working hard and not giving up, you can create a perfect fashion photography portfolio that will help land the job.

Panning technique and Moving Object Photography

I’ve you have ever opened motorsports magazine you’ve seen them everywhere – the panning shots. It’s the technique when the photographer manages to make a speeding vehicle look perfectly still, whilst successfully catching the feel of motion by making the background a blur of color.

Even thou, it’s a technique mainly used for motorsports, it has wide application in other types of photography, it can help make your wildlife and nature shots look out of this world. It can be used even for people, basically, everywhere you need to show the motion of the subject.

The best part is that you don’t need expensive lenses or equipment specifically for this purpose. You can do it with any DSLR camera and kit lenses (yes, 18-55).

Panning image of Supermoto race: ISO-100, f/5.6, 1/250sec.
ISO-100, f/5.6, 1/250sec.

So, how does it work?

The main catch is the shutter speed. You will most likely be using shutter speeds much slower than you usually do. How does 1/100 sound? Or even 1/30? Sometimes slower, sometimes faster, this will depend on the subject you are shooting. For example, in motorsports you can pan fast motorcycle even with a shutter speed of 1/250, on the other hand, to catch panning image of a person on a bicycle you should set the shutter to 1/50 or less. The light has plenty to do with it, so you will have to play with the shutter speed a bit.

Don’t forget that you need to be positioned against the moving subject, and not to have any objects between your camera and the subject. Panning trough smaller subjects like street signs can sometimes be interesting if it’s before or after the subject, but usually, it will get in the way so try always to have clear sight.

Panning image of motocross rider: ISO-800, f/25, 1/100 sec.
ISO-800, f/25, 1/100 sec.

How to do it?

Switch the dial to Manual mode, set the shutter speed to 1/100 and then play around with slower or faster settings depending on the subject. The speed of the subject is important, so you can set a fixed shutter speed for let’s say car. If it’s a slow-moving car you will need 1/30, if it’s fast moving the car, set it to 1/160. Big difference, but you will have to find what will work for you.

Since we are setting slow shutter speeds, we need to raise the aperture. I’m talking about f10 or something in that range. On some cloudy days, I’ve done panning images even with f/25. So again, you will have to check and see what will work best for you and your camera. ISO settings can be totally up to you, start with 200, then go up/down depending on the light conditions.

Panning technique - ISO-200, f/10, 1/160 sec.
ISO-200, f/10, 1/250 sec.

Go out on the street, start with the moving cars as a test subject, that way you have a never-ending supply of subjects. Panning for the first time can be quite fun, but sometimes can be really frustrating. Approach it with a clear mind, this is a new technique for you so no need to lose nerves if you don’t succeed the first time you try it.

Stand still (using monopod or tripod might help you) and point the camera to the moving subject, follow it through the viewfinder as it comes and goes by you. Do this several times, just to get the feeling what will you be doing. It’s important to follow the movement of the object with your camera, left to right or right to left, you need to follow it as it passes you. As soon as you are comfortable with it, start focusing on the subject, push the shutter half way and stay with the moving object.

It’s important to set the focus on your camera to Continuous Focus or Tracking (Servo) depending on the DSLR model you have. If you use camera which doe