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Travel Photography Tips

travel-photography1. Composition Is Key

Toward the day’s end, it’s not the camera with which you shot, the focal point or the ideal light, yet the picture itself that recounts the story. Slight changes in edge or timing can mean the distinction between the shot you expected and one that misses the mark. As a craftsman, it’s your eye that will settle on a ultimate conclusion. Which of the two pictures underneath holds you the most intrigued?

2. Nail The Exposure

A slightly darker initial exposure may allow for better detail and color recovery in the brighter parts of your images when developing in post production. Your camera’s light meter electronically assesses a scene and determines what it believes to be the average brightness. Depending on the scene, this can lead to blown out (pure white) areas of your image. By darkening your initial exposure, you can retain image detail and color quality. I’ve found in both SLR and phone camera images that much more detail is retained in the shadows than in the highlights. Below you can see how much we were able to recover in the slightly underexposed foreground, bringing the color and detail back in the field of flowers.

3. White Balance

Similar to exposure, your camera will apply an initial white balance to a scene. Often times, such as at sunset and sunrise or in shaded areas, this measurement can be very off. Using the Temperature and Tint adjustments in Lightroom for mobile we are able to more accurately represent the colors of a scene. I test the Temperature (yellow versus blue) and Tint (magenta versus green) of nearly every image by dragging the sliders both directions to get a quick glance at how the scene’s feeling changes.

4. The Basic Adjustments

Entire articles are dedicated to the “Basic” adjustments (as they are referred to in Lightroom CC and Lightroom for mobile), as they will likely be your most-used editing tools. After adjusting Temperature and Tint, the following adjustments relate to the tonal quality of light and the intensity and quality of color. Note: (+) values equal “brighter” or increased amounts of each setting, and (-) values equal “darker” or decreased amounts.

  • Exposure. Acts to lighten or darken the entire image equally.
  • Contrast. The difference between the darkest and lightest parts of the image.
  • Highlights. The highlights slider recovers detail in the brightest parts of an image.
  • Shadows. The shadows slider recovers detail in the darkest parts of an image.
  • Whites. This slider allows you to set your white point, which is the brightness value at which the brightest part of the image becomes pure white.
  • Blacks. This slider allows you to set your black point, which is the brightness value at which the darkest part of the image becomes pure black.
  • Clarity. This slider increases or decreases the mid tone contrast. It is similar to the contrast slider above, but does not affect the brightest or darkest parts of the image.
  • Vibrance. The vibrance slider allows you to recover some of the subtle color in your image, bringing back some of the ‘pop’ of color.

Below you’ll see the adjustments I used to edit this image. Generally, the order in which I adjust the sliders is Exposure, Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, Clarity, Vibrance. The best thing about all these settings being grouped together is that it is quick and simple to jump between settings and see in real time how they are affecting the entire image. When adjusting your Blacks slider further left, you may need to move your Exposure slider further right.

5. Understanding Luminance

Luminance is defined as “the intensity of light emitted from a surface.” We can use Luminance to create more intensity in our skies. By entering the “Color / B&W” tab, you can adjust each color’s Luminance values. By decreasing (sliding to the left) the Blue Luminance slider, you are decreasing the light intensity of the blues of an image, which often lead to more natural and vibrant skies. Below you can see the effects of sliding the Blue Luminance slider to the left and right.

6. You Can Copy And Paste Adjustments

Often you will end up trying several angles and compositions of a very similar scene. On these occasions it can be helpful to apply a basic set of edits to several images. Instead of manually applying the same edits to each image, the Copy and Paste Settings tool in Lightroom for mobile is very helpful. After editing the first image, tap and hold your screen to bring up the menu shown in the screen shots below. Click “Copy Settings” and a menu will prompt which settings to copy. In this case, we want to copy all settings, so we click “OK”. Tap and hold the screen on the photo to which you want to paste the settings, and the pop-up window will now display “Paste Settings” optioin. All the settings from your first image edit will be applied. Repeat as necessary.

7. Clean Your Image

Inevitably you will come across a scenario where there is something that sneaks into your image that you either missed or cannot control. It could be a tree branch, a dust spot on your lens, or in this case, a distracting marking on the wall of a building. With Photoshop Fix we can quickly and easily remove the distracting element from our scene.

Using Camera Phone for Photograph Food

camera-phone-for-photograph-foodWe as a whole know the mantra of the best camera being the camera that you have accessible with you. Taking after the same relationship, I chose to commit this post to capturing sustenance on camera telephones. Let’s be honest, our camera telephones are with us consistently, won’t be the last individual to concede that I utilize it more than some other gadget in my family unit. In this way, I think it cuts the bill of being “the best camera” when you require one in a jiffy.

In spite of the fact that I never genuinely considered shooting sustenance with a camera telephone, I got included in this procedure by being in a test bunch in Facebook and Instagram. This was an impeccable chance to see what I can concoct. These social stages are based on being associated with your gathering of people in a moment. Kid, it was moment okay! I needed to report each and every sustenance I ate for the duration of the day. I had just minutes (if not seconds) to style, photo and alter the photographs I took. I should include that there is a minor influence that will work further bolstering your good fortune. For evident reasons, online networking is somewhat more sympathetic than an expert photography blog. You can chill out when your scaled down and all around honed photographs don’t get judged cruelly to be so out of center and foggy.

All the basic principles of light, style, perspective, quantity, quality and timing still apply

If you are familiar with photography, and particularly food photography, you know that light, style, perspective, timing, quantity and quality of the subject all collectively make a great photo. These things are not much different when you photograph with your camera phone. Let’s break it all down, shall we?

# Light: Natural vs Artificial

When it comes to photographing food, light is everything. It doesn’t matter if you photograph with an iPhone or a high-end DSLR. If you do not have good amount of light, you will not be able to produce any decent shots. Natural, soft day light is perfect for this purpose and the more of it you have, the merrier. As long as you are not seated outside, right in the middle of the midday sun, chances of finding a cozy spot, next to a big window should not be a big problem. Make sure the light comes from a side window, as side light brings out the texture of your food more.

If the shadows are too deep and you are losing light quickly, using a reflector to fill in the shadows might give that “umph” to your photos, and you will not worry about opening up the shadows in camera phone post-production.

But what to do when natural daylight is not available at all? Just like in any type of photography, creating your own light gives you tremendous flexibility. There are many small portable devices (video lights and LED lights) that you can carry around with you or have handy at home. I occasionally went that route when I was photographing my dinner. As daylight was almost completely gone, I struggled with blurry and out of focus photos. To make my life easier, I used our Westcott Spyderlite continuous lights to fill in the gap. Techniques with shooting with a continuous light do not vary greatly from shooting with a natural day light. It may look a little different than daylight, but I liked the different feel that the artificial light gave to some of my shots. If you are a big fan of natural light for your food photography though, make sure that your light source is nicely diffused and does not come off very harsh.

# Understand the Perspective

If you like the aesthetics of beautiful bokeh and the three dimensional look, you will miss that a lot while photographing with you camera phone. Get mentally ready for two dimensional, flat-looking photos. Due to too much depth of field and a single focal length with slow apertures, camera phones cannot produce what your DSLR can. What it can offer you though, is the story and environment of your subject by showing everything around it, thus giving it more of a documentary feel.

# Styling

Styling food is very personal. I do not think that anyone can truly teach you how to style food correctly. With trial and error, you can develop your own eye and taste to styling food overtime. Practice, practice, practice and know what makes certain food appealing. I often find four basic things that go well with any food styling: color coordination, correct serving, garnish and a good background. A big white plate always works best for me and a little green garnish on otherwise dull dish gives a little liveliness to my presentation.

# Quantity

Always try to plate and photograph food that is prepared to be consumed by one person, in one setting. While sometimes the rules are meant to be broken, generally you want to stick to the idea of presenting pre-portioned food. Nicely plated, one serving of food will look more appetizing and pleasant to anyone who looks at it.

# Quality

Choose appetizing and good-looking food. Unfortunately, not all food is photogenic. During this project, I struggled a lot with coming up with food that was within the guidelines of the challenge group and also looked good after being cooked. Avoid photographing something that is not appealing. If you have to, then go back to styling it 🙂


Those of us who photograph with their camera phones live in the moment, and timing is most likely not an issue. I think the purpose of using a camera phone serves exactly that purpose. You have the phone, you have the food and you shoot. But I still wanted to give you a little reminder about trying to photograph your food fresh, when it gently sits on your plate hot, frozen and ready to be consumed. There is nothing appealing about food that has been sitting in your fridge for a few days! If you want to make good memories right there and then, photograph it “while it is hot” and you will live happily ever after 🙂 It is that simple!

# Editing

Editing photos on a camera phone might work differently for different platforms. I can only write about my own experience and share with you what I use for this purpose. Since I use an iPhone, I have a nifty app called VSCOcam. VSCOcam is essentially a photo editing tool that emulates film. There are plenty of options for you to choose from and the editing process is pretty easy. You start off by choosing a filter to your liking. From there you are free to choose the opacity of the filter by tapping on it. Further down, you can go into settings and fix white balance, exposure, saturation and many other things that need attention. I hear there are other apps which work similarly and produce great results. Whichever is your favorite, I would like to know about it!


Photography Tips for Amateur

photography-tipsI ought to stretch, these are just for an outright learner; in the event that you class yourself as a beginner photographer you’ll most likely giggle. For me, these tips essentially knocked my socks off.

The Rule of Thirds

This truly should be educated in school, and it’s so ludicrously simple to learn. Basically, photographs will look better if your subject isn’t focused. I know, that may sound thoroughly strange, however listen to me.

Every digital camera – even your iPhone – comes with a grid option, which overlays two vertical and two horizontal lines on the picture, splitting the image into 9 sections. Enable it now, and look around. Place items of visual interest onto these lines or at the intersections for a better composition. For example – if there’s a horizon in your shot, don’t place it dead in the center – align it along either the top third or bottom third line, depending on whether you want to place focus onto the sky or the ground/sea. If there’s a foreground subject – a person, or a tree – place them against either the left or right third lines.

Change your elevation or viewpoint

Logic dictates that you should take a photograph from eye-level right? Nope. Boring. Move the camera either up or down for a more interesting shot; obviously, this makes seeing the viewfinder somewhat more difficult, which is why a rotatable LCD screen can be a wonderful thing – you can hold the camera high above your head or on the ground, and still see what’s going on. This is especially important when photographing kids or animals.

Always take photos in full resolution and full quality

With memory cards so cheap nowadays, there’s absolutely no excuse for dropping the quality down on the camera side – if you need to optimize the image for sharing or sending over email, do this on the computer using any standard photo management app. Why take anything less than the best? The only excusable reason for doing this is to speed up the file saving process if you need to shoot continuously. For most of us, it’s simply a waste.

The Trifecta of Exposure (ISO), Aperture and Shutter Speed

This is the most difficult part of photography for me, so I want to thank Jackson for all his helpful advice. I’ll only explain these points briefly; for a thorough explanation head on over to the, which is where this helpful diagram is from.

To explain briefly then, these three factors determine everything.

  • ISO/Exposure is how sensitive the camera chip is to light; a high ISO will allow you to take photos even in very low light, but there’ll be more noise (“grainy”). Lower ISOs are better, but not always possible.
  • Aperture determines the focal length and is the size of the physical opening to the lens. A higher number means there’s a smaller hole letting light in, which results in more of the background being sharp and in focus. A smaller number is a larger opening, so background objects appear out of focus.
  • Shutter Speed is how long the shutter remains open for, allowing more light in. Leaving it open for a longer time will show motion in a photo, while a short time will show a single moment.

Learn the modes on your camera

Even your most basic point and shoot will have at least:

  • Manual mode where you can specify everything.
  • Automatic mode where the camera will make a best guess.
  • Programmed mode where certain characteristics are pre-determind.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to stay away from programmed mode and anything to do with adding effects to the photo – these can always be controlled better with manual mode, or applied afterwards. If you take a photo in black and white on a compact camera, you’re simply destroying data that you can never get back again.

  • Av: Aperture Value. This is the most widely used mode for general shooting and gives you control over the Aperture. The camera will calculate the best shutter speed and exposure to use.
  • Tv: Time Value. This gives you control over the shutter speed, allowing you to capture either motion or a single moment. The camera will calculate the best aperture and exposure values to use.

These two modes are where you’ll spend most of your time if you’re a beginner to DSLRphotography, like myself.


Moon Photography Tips

On the off chance that you possess a DSLR or a simple to use with an optical zoom, I’m certain that now and again you see a lovely moon and you consider taking a photo of it, particularly when the moon is full and excellent. There are different times when you detect a news declaration around a Lunar Eclipse and you consider catching the occasion, however don’t know how to do it right. Alternately you need to catch the moon together with a frontal area protest, for example, a house or a solitary tree, yet the photo is not turning out right on the grounds that the moon is much littler and resembles a white blob. On the off chance that you had any of these circumstances or essentially need to discover how to take a photo of the moon with a computerized camera, then this aide is for you.

1) Why does the moon look smaller in pictures?

Before we start talking about how to take a picture of the moon, let’s first answer some basic questions. I’m sure if you have already attempted to take a picture of the moon, you probably ran into a problem where the moon looks tiny in comparison to what you saw while taking the picture. Why does the moon get photographed so much smaller? The simple answer is – you are probably taking a picture of the moon with a wide-angle lens. Keep in mind that your eyes are like a 50mm fixed lens and if you are taking a picture with a wide-angle lens that is shorter than 50mm, the moon will be captured in smaller size! So, if you want to capture an object like a big tree or a house with the moon, you would need to stand further away and photograph the scene at least at 50mm to try to match what you saw with your eyes. And even at 50mm the moon might look smaller, especially if it was near the horizon when you took a picture of it. This also happens because of a phenomenon called “Moon Illusion“, where the moon appears bigger to your eyes, when in fact it is not.

2) Why do I see the moon as a white blob?

If you have taken a picture of the moon after sunset and it looked in the picture like a white circular object rather than the moon, it is because the moon was overexposed. When you take a picture of the moon with other objects around it (as in the example with a tree above), your camera by default will meter, or calculate the exposure, based on everything but the moon. This happens because the moon is too small in comparison with the objects around it and a single spot of light should not affect the overall exposure of the picture. Think of it as a light bulb – if you take a picture of a dimly lit room with a visible light bulb, the room will be exposed normally, while the light bulb will be overexposed. If the camera measured exposure on the light bulb, the room would be completely dark, while the light bulb is properly exposed. The same thing happens with the moon – it works just like the light bulb at night and it will always be overexposed. During the day, however, this is not a problem, because the amount of light coming from the moon would differ only slightly in comparison with the objects around it, including the sky. So, why do our eyes see everything normally, while a digital camera cannot? That’s because our eyes and our brain can see a much broader range of light. In photography terms, this is known as “dynamic range“.

3) Where and when to photograph the moon

Obviously, you should be taking a picture of the moon on a clear night with no clouds in the sky. Even a thin layer of clouds will make it impossible to get a clear picture of the moon, so absolutely make sure that the sky is clear. Pollution in large cities, especially in hot summer days will also play a big role, so I recommend getting out of town and traveling to a remote location with no light or air pollution, preferably at a higher elevation. The less the distance between you and the moon, the better the pictures.

4) Required equipment – Camera and Lens

  1. A DSLR camera with a 200mm+ telephoto lens or a point and shoot camera that has an optical zoom capability.
  2. A stable tripod.
  3. Remote camera trigger (optional). If you do not have one, a timer in your camera will also work

If you want to enlarge the moon and show the details of the moon surface, a good telephoto lens longer than 200mm is almost required. The longer the lens, the better. If you have a telephoto lens that can take teleconverters, I highly recommend adding a teleconverter to increase the overall focal length. For example, a 1.4x teleconverter will increase the focal length of a 300mm lens by 40% or to 420mm total, while a 2.0x teleconverter will increase the focal length of the same lens to 600mm. The only thing to keep in mind, is that teleconverters negatively impact image quality and decrease the maximum aperture of the lens, so if you had a 300mm f/4 lens, it would essentially become a 420mm f/5.6 lens (which is not that big of a deal, because you will be using higher apertures for moon photography anyway). As the focal length is increased, camera shake can also become a big problem. At long focal lengths of 300mm and above, even a slight move can screw up the picture. That’s why if you are using a telephoto lens, a stable tripod is required to be able to produce a sharp image of the moon. Having a remote camera trigger also helps reduce the camera shake and if you have a Mirror Lock Up (MLU) feature in your camera, you can almost completely eliminate all vibrations.

The best setup for moon photography is an astro-telescope with a camera mount. Basically, you mount a digital camera to a telescope, which works as a long telephoto lens. But those setups can get very expensive and are suited best for dedicated astrophotography.

5) How to photograph just the moon

To photograph just the moon by itself, without any objects in the foreground, you will need a long telephoto lens like explained above to magnify the moon and try to fill as much of the frame as possible. Even with a good telephoto lens setup though, you will most likely be cropping the final image, simply because only a telescope would be able to provide enough magnification to fill the entire frame. With your telephoto lens mounted in your camera, secure it on a tripod and point at the moon. Make sure that your tripod is good and stable enough to accommodate and hold your lens and your camera. When it comes toshutter speed, aperture and ISO, here is what I recommend for general use:

  1. Camera Mode: Set your camera mode to full Manual Mode.
  2. ISO: Set your ISO to 100 if you have a Canon DSLR and to 200 if you have a Nikon DSLR (basically, whatever base ISO you have in your camera). For most other brands, the base ISO is also 100. If you have a point and shoot camera, see if you can find a menu setting to set your ISO to 100. Make sure “Auto ISO” is turned Off.
  3. Aperture: Set your aperture to f/11.
  4. Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to 1/125 on cameras with base ISO 100, and to 1/250 on Nikon DSLRs with base ISO 200.
  5. Lens Focus: Set your lens to manual focus (either through a switch on the lens or on the camera) and set your focus to infinity. Be careful while setting the focus to infinity, as some lenses allow focusing beyond infinity. On more advanced DSLRs such as Nikon D300, there is a handy feature called “live-view with contrast detect”, which can accurately acquire focus on distant objects. I have used it many times for my moon photography and it works great! If you do not have such a feature in your camera, then try setting your lens to the center of the infinity sign, then take a picture and see if it came out sharp by zooming in the rear LCD of the camera.

6) How to take a picture of the moon with a foreground object?

Let’s now move on to how you can take a picture of the moon together with a foreground object – whether it’s a tree, a house or a large rock. As explainedhere, the moon will always look overexposed after sunset in comparison to everything else. The only way to capture the scene with the moon properly exposed, is to take two separate shots of the scene – one with the foreground properly exposed and the moon overexposed and one with the moon properly exposed and the foreground objects heavily underexposed.

7) Post-processing in Photoshop

No matter how good your image comes out of the camera, I still recommend doing some post-processing in Photoshop to enhance the look of your moon image.

8) Reuse the moon photo in other photographs

Once you have a couple of really nice pictures of the moon, why not reuse them for your other night photographs? You could make it whatever size you want (from small to large), you could get even more creative by adding clouds in Photoshop or changing the color of the moon to match your photo – basically, whatever you feel like doing!

Simple Ways to Head Shot Photography

Today, head shots are a basic bit of numerous business visionaries’ media pack, funding presentation and online networking nearness. A dynamic head shot for a few experts can frequently be the contrast between procuring an occupation or not.

A decent expert picture taker will know how to motivate somebody to unwind before the camera, bring out the best postures and give recommendations to emphasizing an individual’s certain components and qualities.

Below are some tips for achieving the perfect head shot.

1. Equipment.

A lens with a large aperture (with a small f number) is a must when choosing a camera for shooting head shots. Remember, even today’s smartphones have such apertures. Or you can use an in-camera filter as a substitute.

Avoid using wide-angle lens when photographing head shots. Unless you’re trying to achieve a dramatic, artistic style photo, the subject will appear unrealistic, with imperfections amplified as in a caricature.

2. Background.

The type of background is important, so try to have some design details, rather than an empty sky (which is dull, reminiscent of passport photos) or one with an isolated element (that can be visible). The key is to have a background that will allow your head shot to pop.

A plain background works best, but if the subject is in a crowd or busy area, blur the background as much as you can with the help of a telephoto lens, wide open.

The background adds context to the image, so avoid having the composition being too tight.

3. Facial expressions.

When it comes to facial expressions, confidence matters. I like to tell people that they can choose to smile (just without visible teeth) or not but never appear too serious. Make sure your subject looks at the camera and always have the camera slightly above to avoid the dreaded “double chin” look.

A subject might want to practice some facial expressions in the mirror. The photographer should always be aware of the direction of the eyes. This is very important to the composition.

4. Composition.

To avoid a passport-type look in a head shot, avoid symmetry in the person’s stance. Ask the individual to refrain from having the shoulders aligned but rather stand or sit with one in front and one turned to the back.

At the very minimum, try to fit the portrait into a composition with a symmetric frame behind. For example, if there’s a door or a window behind your subject, a nice composition would include the head in its middle. If there’s a corridor, try to fit the person’s head right in the middle.

If the image is taken from a low angle, the person will not only appear taller but also stronger and more powerful. If the shot is taken from above the person, the opposite effect results. Remember, shooting from the bottom up can be unflattering for any person.

Semi-profiles can be a good choice. If a photography subject chooses to look to the side, then the part of the composition where he or she is looking should have more space than the other side.

Don’t neglect to consider the person’s attire, even if it’s only partially in view. In addition, foreground elements can be good additions as long as they are abstract and not too distracting.

Always check your end result by testing it with a very small image. This is how the image will be printed most of the time. One good approach is to upload the photo to a social-media account and see how it looks at a small scale. Be sure to take lots of shots in various settings.

How To Photograph Clouds

Nature frequently remunerates us with mind blowing open doors for capturing dawns, nightfalls and sun beams puncturing through the mists, making dazzling perspectives. As a scene picture taker, I tend to sit tight for incompletely shady and stormy days, since mists make photos seem a great deal more sensational and clear. Without mists, dawns and dusks regularly look exhausting, compelling us to remove the sky and concentrate on closer view components. Conversely, in the event that you get the chance to witness a dawn or a dusk with puffy, stormy mists that are lit up from underneath with brilliant sun beams, making a red hot perspective, incorporating the mists in your photos would make the scene seem considerably more beautiful and alive. Truth be told, mists can be beautiful to the point, that they could turn into the principle component of structure in your photos. In this article, I won’t just discuss the way toward shooting mists, additionally will concentrate on making mists seem a great deal more dynamic and sensational in your photos.

Because clouds appear in all kinds of shapes and forms, they are grouped into different fancy categories like cumulus, cumulonimbus, stratus and stratocumulus. And each of these categories contains different types of species and varieties that one could observe. For example, the above cloud above Mt Rainier is classified as “lenticular” and can appear in different shapes and forms throughout the year, sometimes looking like a flying saucer or a mushroom. In the below photo, the lenticular clouds around Mount Herard in the Great Sand Dunes National Park appear layered, covering two peaks and creating a stunning, dramatic view of the scene:

Without the clouds, both photographs would not have made their way to my portfolio, most likely forcing me to focus on something different and cutting out most of the sky. In short, clouds are a far more essential element of your photographs than you might think.

So what is the best way to photograph clouds? Let’s go over the process and cover some of the techniques that I personally use when photographing cloudscapes.

1) Weather Conditions

One of the first mistakes many beginners make is wait for sunny days, trying to avoid bad weather at all costs. I remember I used to look at weather forecast back in my beginner days, only planning travel when I knew I would be safe from storms, rain and wind. Overtime, I realized that my best shots were taken in bad weather – stormy days opened up opportunities for amazing clouds, especially at sunrise and sunset times. For example, the clouds above Mount Herard above were captured when I was in complete misery, walking on sand dunes on an extremely windy day, reaching gusts up to 40-50 miles per hour! I was with my friend Sergey on that day and he was a bit scared, constantly telling me that we needed to get back. I waited for the sun to set and the above was my last shot of the day, captured hand-held with my Nikon D700 using a panoramic photography technique.

Hence, you will have a much higher chance of capturing something beautiful if you get out on partly cloudy, mostly cloudy and stormy days. But be careful with stormy days – if wind gusts exceed 50 miles per hour or if there is a chance for tornadoes or hurricanes, it might be best to stay safe at home.

2) Polarizing Filter

If you do not already have a polarizing filter, it is time to buy one! As explained in my article, using a polarizing filter can help separate the clouds from the sky and darken the sky. All you have to do is attach the polarizing filter in front of your lens, then rotate it until you see the effect in the viewfinder. At the right angle, a polarizing filter can make a huge difference and make clouds really “pop” from the sky, by blocking certain light waves from entering the lens. If you are new to photography and want to read up more on using different types of filters, check out my in-depth article on lens filters.

3) Graduated Neutral Density Filter

When photographing clouds at sunset and sunrise, the exposure range of the scene might be too large for your camera to be able to capture it. If you expose for the clouds, you risk underexposing the foreground elements. And if you expose for the foreground, you might overexpose or “blow out” the clouds. When dealing with such high dynamic range situations, there are two ways to capture the scene – by using the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique or by using a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter. Personally, I tend to stay away from using HDR, because it is hard to make it appear natural and it requires a lot of time and effort to make it look good. With a GND filter, you often do not need to worry about exposure variances, because the filter will help reduce the exposure gap and you can recover the rest during post-processing. It is all a matter of personal taste though, so I am not here to say that one technique is better than another.

Since most nature scenes do not have a straight horizon and include mountains, trees and other elements, I would recommend to get a soft-edge GND filter. You will need a filter holder to be able to move the filter up and down, as explained in my above-referenced article on lens filters. If you have budget limitations and only can afford a single GND filter, go for a three stop GND filter (often referenced as a Soft-Edge 0.9 GND). With a three stop difference, you will be able to easily see the effect in the viewfinder. The only thing you have to watch out for is the transition area – if you have tall trees or a mountain peak, the tip of the object(s) might get too dark for the scene.

Every once in a while you will be treated with an opportunity to silhouette your foreground element(s). In such situations, removing your GND filter or reversing it to darken the foreground might actually yield even better-looking and more engaging results!

4) Exposure Length

If you have moving water in your foreground, it might be tempting to use very long exposures to create a smooth, “silky” look. However, clouds often move very fast, especially when they are very low, so long exposures could completely ruin your images, removing all shapes and forms from the clouds. If that’s your intent and you are trying to capture a surreal sky, then by all means do it. However, if you want to bring out the clouds as separate elements, then it is best to use shorter exposure times. There is no magic formula for the shutter speed, as it all depends on what you are trying to do and how dark the scene is, so take a shot and zoom in to see if you are blurring the clouds or not. Obviously, if you are dealing with a low light situation and long exposure times, you will need to use a tripod.

If you are not sure about the proper exposure, another tip is to bracket your shots. A three bracket shot one stop apart can potentially give you more options during post-processing, even when using a graduated neutral density filter.

5) Composition

Every once in a while, clouds form in such a way that they might look interesting and engaging on their own. However, despite the temptation to capture just the clouds, I urge you to try including foreground elements to the scene. While clouds certainly can be the key element of the scene, they often serve better as backgrops instead. I tend to look at them as sky “fillers”, so before resorting to capturing them alone, I often look around and try to include something interesting. And if you have absolutely nothing around you and you are looking at an empty field, even including a very small portion of that field will often make a difference and give the scene a scale.

When the clouds are patchy and separated, it is important to properly frame your shot so that you are not chopping anything off. If there is a big patch of clouds, try to fit it in your scene without cutting it – zoom out or step back, if necessary. Also, I always recommend our readers and workshop participants to give a scene some “breathing” space. Try not to place those patchy clouds too close to the edge of the frame.

Whether you are photographing the clouds by themselves, or including clouds as part of a composition when photographing landscapes, don’t forget about the basic rules of composition. Rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, etc can all play a huge role in impacting the overall feel of the image. If clouds look beautiful and colorful, you could make them the main element of the scene and use up 2/3 of framing space or more. If they are just patchy clouds that add to the scene, reduce their presence to no more than 1/3 of the frame and use them as “fillers” instead.

If you are struggling with composition and need some help, Romanas has written some great composition articles for beginners before.

6) Post-Processing

Photographing clouds does not end with your camera – you can make clouds appear far more dramatic if you are willing to put some time in post-processing your shots. If you are struggling to make your cloudscape / landscape photographs appear more interesting, you probably need some help with post-processing! While there are many ways to enhance clouds in your photographs, I will show you the quickest method to increase the drama of the scene and make clouds “pop” in Lightroom.

Now there is much more definition, colors and contrast, making the scene appear more alive. The best part is that it only took me a minute to make these adjustments! All I had to do was drop a graduated filter in Lightroom, then add Contrast, Clarity and Saturation to the clouds. The “Clarity” setting is the key component here – it is what effectively brings out the cloud from the sky and makes them appear separated. As you can see, I also added Clarity to the overall image, so that other parts of the scene (the lake) have some separation as well. Be careful when experimenting with the Clarity setting though – it can create halos around buildings, mountain tops and other objects, so in those situations it might be best to use the Adjustment Brush and mask just the sky with the clouds.

About Street Photography

It is an extremely characteristic desire for picture takers to record the whirling life around them. We regularly get ourselves drawn into, as spectators, various circumstances and seeing intriguing insights about other individuals in the city. Photographically catching these minutes is an altogether different thing, in any case. While scene picture takers will as a rule get themselves alone and sports picture takers are relied upon to point immense focal points at individuals, it is an a great deal more reluctant procedure to photo irregular individuals in broad daylight places. I am certain a large portion of us have lamented leaving our cameras taken care of despite fascinating regular circumstances. In this article, I will give a few road photography tips to novices. Ideally, it will help you begin utilizing your apparatus all the more uninhibitedly without apprehension of being stood up to by your subjects.

# What is Street Photography?

In essence, street photography is a type of candid photography done in a public place, be it a street, a restaurant or even public transport. It is similar in approach to photojournalism and mostly involves people (and/or animals) in a populated environment (which provides the context of a story told), such as a city. However, street photographers often focus on everyday lives of strangers rather than some kind of important event photojournalists are more interested in. Usually, street photographers try as much as possible to stay unnoticed when photographing. The goal of street photography is to capture scenes unaffected by the author of the work so as to show a natural story and subject. Story and subject are possibly the most important aspects of a good street shot. Henri Cartier-Bresson, arguably the best street photographer of all times, “the father of photojournalism”, had once said: “Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

Noticing and telling a story through a photograph is one of the most difficult tasks to master when doing street photography. Crucially, it involves the not-so-simple matter of actually taking the shot.

# Be Daring About It

There’s no point in talking about gear and various street photography tricks unless you actually push yourself to take a picture. Now, it may not seem like such a big deal when reading this article, but once you’re out on the street, things can get a little less comfortable. Sure, every now and then people may smile at you or pay no attention to your camera at all, which is preferable. But at times, you may find yourself in less than friendly situation. See the image above? The two young men on the right started swearing at me while still about a hundred meters away. I didn’t put my camera down, but it wasn’t easy not to do so. They made interesting subjects in the end and I liked the emotional contrast between them and the old lady. Interestingly, it also gave me an idea of bringing a friend along whenever I felt like doing some street photography.

 Even when not dealing with the aggressive type, it takes a lot of courage to invade someone’s private space by photographing them without permission. Think of your motives. Why are you taking these photographs? Are you actually doing anything wrong in any way? Would you be angry or annoyed if you saw some other photographer taking a picture of you? There’s no reason why anyone should be angry at you for taking their photographs, unless you give them the reason to be angry. It is important to know how to behave in a friendly manner and not make your subjects angry. Getting into a conflict could potentially ruin both your and your subject’s mood for the day. Try to look friendly and interested, smile at people who notice you – being obviously secretive can lead to suspicion. Be sure you are not doing anything illegal. Read up any laws concerning photography in public places (you can start by reading our “Know Your Rights as a Photographer” article). In most countries such photography is permitted. Sometimes you may be approached by authorities when you’re not doing anything wrong – stay confident. However, photographing children, for example, may get you in more trouble. Laws concerning them are often more strict.

Of course, you may want to choose a different approach and actually ask for permission to take an image. While it will disrupt the natural turn of events (mind you, no one can guarantee anything worthy of attention will happen in the first place), some people make interesting subjects even when deliberately posing for your shot. Read more about approaching strangers in our “Are You Afraid to Ask?” article.

If you still feel uneasy, but really want to try your hand at street photography, start with simple situations. Not in all cases you will find your subject facing you. Finally, take up simple measures to draw your own attention away from being self-conscious. Try listening to your favorite music while you’re out, for example. This may help you feel more like an observer of the life surrounding you rather than a participant, and distance you from any unwanted reactions.

# Alright… But what if I Don’t Want to Be Noticed?

It gets a lot easier to remain hidden once you’ve learned how to react when you’re seen taking the picture. Natural behavior attracts much less attention. First and foremost, learn to anticipate. This will help you keep that camera off your eye for longer, yet allow you to capture that decisive moment. Watch everything around you. Look at what people are doing, where they are going and who are they likely to run into on their way. Notice the surroundings, too. Look for interesting shapes, colors, posters, ads and secondary subjects. Get into a suitable position beforehand. If there isn’t one, keep moving around. Finally, once you can see that story unfold, be quick about taking your photograph. Have the settings right before you even start, and pre-focus to an anticipated distance if you can – it will save you precious seconds. At that point, all that’s left to do is bring that camera to your eye and snap away.

You can also practice a more discreet technique by shooting from your waist with the camera hanging around on the strap. Just stop down your lens, choose a hyperfocal distance to ensure everything within reasonable focus distance is sharp, and shoot away merely by pointing your camera in the right direction. With time, you will find yourself getting to know your lens better. You will then handle composition much more confidently, too.

If, by a probable chance, you do get noticed and don’t feel like smiling in apology, don’t take the camera off your eye after you’ve taken the shot. Just keep photographing things around you, or pretend to do so. Turn off your auto-review function, too – your subject may not even realize you’ve photographed them already. Always remember – those people out on the street are probably just as afraid of talking to you as you are of photographing them. It is likely they will try to pretend they haven’t even seen you.

# What Gear Should I Use?

Now that you’re ready to storm the streets, it’s time to choose best tools for the job. What sort of camera and lens should you bring? In short – use anything you have. If it’s a big, professional DSLR – good for you. If it’s a point-and-shoot or a budget 5 megapixel smartphone – just as well. It’s best if there’s some manual control available, as in certain cases you may want to choose specific exposure settings. On some occasions, you may also prefer to set focus manually.

Street photography started with Leica. Today, this is where mirrorless system cameras come in their own. High quality, fast, small and quiet, they are likely among the most discreet photographic tools you will find and share many of the properties that made Leica rangefinder cameras so popular decades ago. Mind you, a pink Nikon J2 will get you noticed quickly, but an Olympus OM-D E-M5 should be a cracking camera for the job. Black or metallic colors work best. Still, don’t worry if you don’t own a mirrorless camera. Even with its loud shutter and big size, the more noticeable DSLR can also be great for street photography, as can lightweight, pocket-able point-and-shoot cameras. Remember that due to weight, size and overall presence, DSLR’s will require more skill in handling discreetly.

Lenses make for an interesting debate. There are photographers who believe using longer focal length and thus standing further away helps stay unnoticed and ensures that the subject remains natural. I personally find it to be a slightly creepy approach, never having used a longer than 85mm focal length for street photography (on a FF camera). Imagine a photographer pointing a monstrous 70-200mm lens at you from the other side of the street! I can’t see someone being too happy about it. Lets face it – large gear is scary for the non-photographers. All those huge white and black lenses are intimidating and will hardly leave your subject smiling, not to mention friendly even the slightest bit. This is one of the reasons why many good street photographers prefer small, wide-ish angle prime lenses. Among other things, these lenses also help with discretion. The most important advantage of a wide-angle lens is, however, the sense of presence. A perspective drawn by a wide-angle lens pulls the viewer in, makes him feel as if he’s in the captured image. As if he’s part of the story unfolding. Such a lens also allows for more background, which means more context.

Tele-lenses, on the other hand, compress perspective leaving out more detail that may otherwise be interesting. They make the subject seem more distant. Looking at an image taken with a 200mm lens feels like you’re looking at something that’s very far away. It’s just not as involving to observe. For this reason, I usually choose a wider-angle lens, ranging from 50mm to 24mm or even less. Your preference will vary.

# The Settings

When doing some street photography, I prefer to rely on manual exposure settings. This is because AE (auto exposure) readjusts shutter speed and/oraperture whenever you change framing. Settings chosen by AE hugely depend on the amount of lights and darks within the frame. So, if I want to photograph a person walking down the street, but frame my shot so that there’s a lot of sky in the picture, AE will underexpose. I find manual exposure to work quicker than AE-Lock, but that’s a matter of taste. I set up and fine-tune my camera exposure whenever I have a free minute. I try to memorize the exposure difference between light and shadowy areas of the scene. On a sunny day, the difference might reach even 3 stops!

Depending on the results you’re after, you will want to choose a decently quick shutter speed to stop movement. During day-time it’s not a problem, but as soon as light levels start to diminish choosing a higher ISO value will become essential. Consider 1/200th of a second to be your approximate minimum. At times, you may want to slow down your shutter speed in order to achieve movement blur around your stationary subject, thus separating it within the frame.

Aperture’s easy – select a value that leaves you with a quick enough shutter speed and also plenty of depth of field for backgrounds and foregrounds.

# Shallow Depth of Field Doesn’t Matter

Let’s face it – shallow depth of field is often enough to make even the most simple photograph look good. It is only too easy to get caught up in shallow depth of field aesthetics. Point that cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens at an old shoe and done – looks awesome. Even though it’s just a shoe. But we are not fooling anyone in street photography. Here, shallow depth of field is far from being enough to make that picture good. It’s about time we remember our lenses can also be stopped down to actually increase depth of field.

By no means am I saying you can’t do street photography wide-open. As a matter of fact, very rarely do I ever stop down my lens even slightly. But learning how to shoot with most of the frame in sharp focus can be a great experience. Extensive depth of field helps provide more background to the story, literally. Also, it counters any slight focus errors that may happen. Every now and then you may notice you’ve captured more than one interesting subject in the frame. Imagine being surprised at your own image! Whenever you’re out looking for good photographs, make shallow depth of field one of the options rather than default choice.

# …Nor Does Image Quality

Don’t take my words straight to your heart – you should always stride for high image quality when possible, unless you expect lower quality to add to the mood of your photograph. However, in street photography, this aspect moves down the list of importance. Subject, mood, story, light and composition – all these things are ultimately more important than sharpness and low noise. Getting the mentioned points right will result in a great photograph even if it’s somewhat blurry and noisy. However, even the sharpest image will be worthless if there’s nothing to really look at apart from crisp detail and clean tones.

Capture the moment using whatever settings necessary. As long as you make out faces and shapes, as long as there’s good light, interesting story and well thought-through composition, there’s a large enough probability you’ll be glad you did.

# Final Words

Look for particularly interesting subjects and focus on the story. Don’t lose your head trying to photograph every stranger you meet. By doing so, you are likely to fail to notice something that’s really worth your attention. Try to separate the more interesting people. Can you see someone eating on the run? Or is someone reading a paper and not looking properly at where they’re going? Is there someone heading for a deserted alley? Try finding a good background for your images, look for interesting light to emphasize your subject, possibly separate him from the rest of the world around.

Photograph Milky Way

Numerous travel and scene photographer, including myself, attempt to abstain from shooting landscape with an unmistakable blue sky. As much as we prefer seeing puffy or stormy mists to zest up our photos, we have no influence over what the nature gives every day. Now and then we get fortunate and catch delightful dawns and nightfalls with crimson skies, and different times we are screwed over thanks to an unmistakable, exhausting sky. When I end up in such a circumstance and I realize that the following morning will be clear, I some of the time investigate chances to photo the stars and the Milky Way during the evening. I am certain you have been in circumstances where you got out around evening time in a remote area and saw an inconceivably wonderful night sky with a large number of stars sparkling comfortable, with patches of stars in a “shady” arrangement that are a part of the Milky Way. On the off chance that you don’t know how to photo the night sky and the Milky Way, this aide may help you in comprehension the nuts and bolts.

Yes, we are here to just go over the basics, because astrophotography can get very complex, especially for capturing deep space photos of nebulas, constellations and star systems. Some photographers utilize telescopes, specialized robotic heads with ultra precision and cameras specifically created for astrophotography worth tens of thousands of dollars, to create amazingly beautiful photographs that are extremely hard or even impossible to capture with a regular DSLR. In this article, I will not be touching on such complex topics and rather focus on what you can capture with a camera you already own, whether it is a DSLR, a mirrorless camera or even an advanced point and shoot.

1) What You Will Need

Before we start talking about photographing the Milky Way, let me first go over what you will need in terms of gear and software:

  1. An Advanced Camera – you will need a camera that allows full manual exposure control of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. You also want the camera to be able to focus manually, since focusing at night will surely be a challenge for any autofocus system. Ideally, you need an advanced DSLR or a mirrorless camera that can handle noise well at high ISOs (more on this below). A dedicated astro-camera like the Canon 60Da is going to be the top choice for astrophotography, but that’s for those that want to explore astrophotography beyond the scope of this article. Some point and shoot cameras might be suitable for the job with manual controls, but the results will be obviously much inferior, especially on small sensor point and shoots.
  2. A Fast Lens – if you use an interchangeable lens camera, I would recommend to use a good, fast-aperture wide-angle lens (ideally in the f/1.4 – f/2.8 max aperture range). Top choices for photographing the stars are fast prime lenses that do very well wide open. My favorite lenses for night photography are the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (see our review), the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G (see our review) and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (see our review). All three are extremely sharp at their maximum apertures (wide open), so they are more than suitable for night photography. If you have a slow lens or you need to stop down your lens to get the maximum sharpness, you will have to crank up the ISO, which will result in grainy photos. That’s why a fast lens is the ideal choice. If you shoot Canon, you can get the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 for the Canon mount and Canon also has a 24mm f/1.4L in its arsenal. There is no 14-24mm equivalent, but you can use the excellent 16-35mm f/2.8L as well. Unfortunately, all these lenses are extremely expensive, so if you do not want to spend over a thousand dollars, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is going to be my top recommendation. If you are not planning to do astrophotography very often, budget f/1.8 lenses are also great alternatives. For example, Nikon’s 28mm f/1.8G or Canon’s 28mm f/1.8 are also great choices for astrophotography.
  3. A Sturdy Tripod – you will be shooting long exposures (10-15+ seconds), so a sturdy tripod is a must-have. You do not want a flimsy tripod that will shake like crazy during the exposure, especially if there is light wind.
  4. Sky Map App – this one is optional, but something I would highly recommend. A good sky map app such as Star Walk for iPhone or Google Sky Map for Android could show you exactly where the Milky Way is or will be, which can help a great deal with planning your shots.
  5. Post-Processing Software – you definitely want to process your shots in good software to get the best quality results and bring out the details. I would recommend either Adobe Photoshop or Elements for astrophotography. Lightroom can be used as well, but it is not flexible enough to do things like levels and advanced cloning / spot removal tools (to remove planes and other objects from the shots, etc). Post-processing is a big part of astrophotography, so I would highly recommend to get good software for the job if you do not already have it. In this article, I will show you how to take some simple steps in Photoshop/Elements to enhance your Milky Way photos.
  6. Flashlight – a good flashlight is not only useful to find a good spot at night, but can also be used for light painting at night, if you have interesting foreground elements.

There are other things you might need, such as a remote camera trigger (for 30+ second exposures), hand/leg warmers (if shooting in cold) and more, but those are optional or depend on conditions and what you are trying to achieve.

2) Location and Light Pollution Considerations

If you live in a big city, it will be extremely difficult to capture the night sky and the Milky Way. Big city lights can be a huge problem due to air and light pollution, so it is best to get out of town/city and find a good location that does not have such problems. Sometimes it means driving several hours away from where you live. You might not see the light pollution with your eyes, but the camera sure will!

National parks and wilderness areas are ideal for night photography, because the sky is crystal clear and there are no lights around.

3) Focusing

Before we talk about exposure settings, let’s first go over some important steps in ensuring that we end up with properly focused shots. Focusing at night can be a challenging and a frustrating experience, because the autofocus system on your camera will have very little contrast to be able to acquire proper focus. The best thing to do is to compose your shot, set one focal length (if using a zoom lens) and once you manually acquire perfect focus, do no touch the focus or zoom rings until you are completely done. Personally, I turn off autofocus right away and only rely on manual focusing using Live View – the goal is to set focus to infinity. Some people say that using the lens marker to set focus to infinity is a good practice, but in reality, unless you have an old manual focus lens with more or less precise infinity markings, I would not rely on it. Even a slight de-focus on a modern high resolution sensor will make the stars appear like circular blobs instead of defined stars, so your focus technique is critical here.

So what is the best way to get perfect focus? I often utilize a number of different techniques using camera’s Live View. Once you set your lens to Manual Focus and turn Live View on, zoom in to 100% and point your camera at the brightest source of light in the sky, which is usually the moon. Move the focus ring until you can clearly see the defined shape of the moon and simply turn off Live View – you are done. If the moon is not in the sky, try to find another source of light – perhaps some distant light. If you do not have either one of those, then another option is to turn your flashlight on and set it far enough away from you that it is at infinity, then focus on the flashlight using Live View. Some Live View modes in cameras are very good and will “boost” the night sky and reveal the stars. If you can see the stars in Live View, then you do not need to use any of the above techniques – just rotate the focus ring until the stars appear sharp. And lastly, if nothing works out, you can try using the infinity mark on top of the lens and take sample shots to see if focus is properly acquired or not. If you see blurry stars when zoomed in to 100%, then you know that you need to rotate the focus ring a tad to get better focus. It will take you some time to get it right, but it is definitely worth doing this right, than end up with blurry photos.

Now, if you have a foreground object in your shot, you obviously want both the foreground and the stars to be in perfect focus. Since you are shooting at wide open aperture, how do you achieve that? Well, the answer is in a technique called “focus stacking”. Basically, you take one picture focused on the sky, and another picture focused on your foreground. Then you use a blending technique in Photoshop to merge the two shots into a single composite, with perfect focus on both. I won’t go over the focus stacking technique in this article, but I do have plans to write about it in the future.

4) Camera Settings

While the sky might look magnificent to you at night, with millions of stars easily visible to your eyes, it does not mean that your camera will be easily able to capture it. Your eyes get adjusted to low light at night, which means that you are seeing everything at very high sensitivity levels, with the iris wide open, at its maximum size. So if you want your camera to be able to capture the night sky as you see it, and perhaps even better than that, you need to apply the same technique – use high ISO sensitivity levels and shoot at large apertures. This is where your camera and lens choices will play an important role on what you will be able to achieve. If you have a good lens that performs well at its maximum aperture, you do not have to use very high ISO levels on your camera, which means less grain to deal with in post-processing. If you have a fast lens and a camera that can handle high ISO well, then you will surely be able to capture the Milky Way in its full glory. For example, the first image in this article was captured using the Nikon D3s and 24mm f/1.4G lens at f/1.4, ISO 1600, 20 second long exposure. If I wanted to keep the length of the exposure the same and used a slower lens, say f/2.8 (two stops slower), I would have to increase my camera ISO from 1600 to 6400, which is pretty grainy for my taste.

So where do you start and what is the most important camera setting? What I would do first, is start out by determining the length of exposure. And this is where it gets tricky, because if you do it wrong, you will either end up with a black sky and a couple of stars, or the stars will look like lines instead of dots, commonly referred to as “star trails”. Those can look great in some shots, but star trail photography requires completely different techniques centered around the north star and obviously won’t work for Milky Way shots. Remember, earth constantly rotates and since we are shooting from a tripod that is fixed in one position, we really have to be careful about timing each exposure, as we need to keep stars as dots in our shots.

4.1) The 500 / 600 Rule

This one has a confusing name, because some people refer to this method as the “500 Rule”, while others call it the “600 Rule”. Basically, to determine the optical length of exposure, we take 500 / 600 and divide it by the focal length of the lens to get the optimal shutter speed. So if you are shooting with a 24mm lens, you take 500 and divide it by 24, which is 21 – that’s the longest shutter speed you should use before those stars start changing into trails. If you use the less strict / less conservative “600 Rule”, you end up with a 25 second exposure. So an exposure between 21 and 25 seconds should work best for a 24mm lens. Now what happens if you go really wide and use a 14mm lens? You could set your shutter speed to longer than 30 seconds (between 35 and 42 seconds) using the “BULB” mode and the stars will still be dots. At such long shutter speeds, you could either lower your ISO, or really bring out every single detail from the sky with much more to show than what your eyes can see. And what happens if you use a longer focal length like 50mm? Your exposure gets much shorter – in this case as low as 10 seconds, which might not be sufficient to capture enough details. So, longer focal lengths are going to be your enemy when photographing the Milky Way, since you will either end up with a lot of grain due to use of extremely high ISO, or you will get a very dark image with no visible details. Therefore, I would recommend to stay at 35mm or under in terms of focal length for full-frame cameras and 24mm or wider for cropped-sensor cameras.

4.2) JPEG or RAW?

If you are still shooting JPEG, slap yourself in the face – time to move to RAW and finally explore its benefits. You want to shoot RAW for astrophotography, because you will often find yourself playing with the white balance settings, which cannot be changed in JPEG images. There are many other benefits to shooting RAW, such as 14-bit RAW that gives the most amount of colors. See my RAW vs JPEG article for more details on why you should be shooting RAW.

4.3) Camera Mode

As I have already pointed out above, you must be shooting in full manual mode. This means that you need to turn off Auto ISO first, then set aperture to the maximum aperture like f/1.4, then the length of the exposure / shutter speed based on the 500 or 600 rule (typically between 20 to 30 seconds), followed by ISO (which I would set to 1600 as the base and move it up or down if needed). If you cannot clearly see the Milky Way in your shot after you take your first shot, you will need to raise ISO to a higher value like 3200 or more. Since you are shooting RAW, white balance does not matter.

5) Foreground Elements and Composition

While capturing a shot of the Milky Way as shown in the beginning of this article can be rewarding, it is often boring to just shoot the Milky Way by itself. The best thing to do for these types of shots is to incorporate interesting foreground elements into your shots. Whether it is a beautiful mountain, a surreal lake, a rock or some other interesting object, it will surely make the photo much more appealing to the viewer’s eye. These shots can be hard to plan and require some prior research to determine the location of the Milky Way but, if you get it all right, all that effort will surely pay off. If you are blessed with a beautiful moonlight that illuminates your subject(s), you might come back with killer pictures that will surely deserve a place on your wall.

While the Milky Way is not seen above the mountain tops, it is still pretty incredible that the shot was taken at night. The whole scene was illuminated just by moonlight! If you look closely, you will see that the stars are slightly trailed – that’s because I broke the 500 / 600 Rule with a 30 second exposure @ 29mm. I did that because I wanted a single shot that captured both the sky and the scenery and I wanted to shoot at lower ISO value (800) to get the best dynamic range, colors and least amount of noise. I also stopped down the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens that I used that day to f/3.2 to get a little sharper corners.

6) Post-Processing

Post-processing is a big part of astrophotography, because your camera will capture a low-contrast sky that needs some work. This means that you will need to play with different settings to bring out the details, increase contrast and colors.


Taking Good Photo of Plants

Despite the fact that I am basically a scene photographer, I have as of late found a lot of pleasure in capturing plants, both in botanic patio nurseries and in nature. Capturing these sorts of littler scenes feels more reflective than shooting scenes, as the procedure regularly incorporates backing off, searching out points of interest, and requiring significant investment to specialty photos of once in a while minor subjects. Another essential advantage of searching out these sorts of subjects is their commonness. Plants like those included in this post can be found in any scene or patio nursery, which implies it can be anything but difficult to discover convincing subjects near and dear. What’s more, since numerous picture takers go by these sorts of scenes without the slightest hesitation, you have sufficient chance to make one of a kind, innovative photos.

In terms of gear, all of the photographs discussed below have been created using a 100mm macro lens, a helpful but not essential tool. In my case, I use the Canon 100mm L f/2.8 lens but a basic macro lens or moderate telephoto lens from any manufacturer can work (the shorter the minimum focusing distance, the better). For the photographs with sharpness throughout, I selected a smaller aperture like f/16 or f/22 to get all of the main elements in focus (whereas smaller apertures on other lenses can degrade image quality, I have found that my particular lens still performs well at its limits). For those photos relying on low depth-of-field as a key technique, I selected a wider aperture like f/2.8 or f/4 to help pleasantly blur some of the details.

For all of the photos, I set up my lens quite close to the subject, often only inches away. In some cases, like the photo above, I set up a tripod and experiment with small changes until I find the composition I like most since small changes can often make a big difference with these types of photographs. For other photos, like the low depth-of-field examples below, I hand-hold my camera so I can freely move back and forth to experiment with small changes in position. In addition to these basic techniques, another six tips for taking these kinds of photographs of plants are shared below.

Look for Year-Round Opportunities

Both natural places and manicured gardens can provide opportunities for photographing plants year-round. While winter and early spring will often require more diligence in exploring for subjects, opportunities can still abound if you bring an open mind. In the case of this photograph, taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the middle of winter, the weight of the snow flattened the plants and made them a better subject than their more perky summer counterparts. Also, the cold of winter brought some lovely pastel colors that I had not seen any other time of year, as these plants are usually bright green, yellow, and orange. In addition to these plants, I also found grasses, cactus, succulents, and coniferous trees on the same winter day, all creating excellent but unexpected options for photography.

Look for Patterns and Textures

Nature offers up all sorts of patterns and textures for the careful observer. By taking the time to explore and notice the details of a place, photographers can identify all different kinds of small scenes worthy of photographing. Above, the repeating patterns and consistent color in this patch of wood sorrel are the two primary elements I used in composing this photograph. This plant is common along trails in the Pacific Northwest but it took some time to find a patch in good condition with the plants growing at a similar height, which makes getting all of the main elements in focus in a single exposure much easier. Next time you are out with your camera, set aside some time just to look for these kinds of patterns in nature. Groundcovers, bark, cactus, and all different sorts of plants can offer up interesting patterns and textures once you start looking for them.

Embrace Low Depth-of-Field

At least for landscape photographers, embracing low depth of field and the out of focus elements that come with it can be a major shift in mentality. When photographing small subjects like plants or flowers, low depth of field can often transform a subject from the literal to the abstract. Instead of photographing petals or stems or leaves, you are instead photographing lines and shapes like seen in the images above. These abstracts that can emerge make low depth of field an excellent creative technique when photographing plants.

In the case of the top photograph of a seed pod (about two inches in diameter), getting close, using a wide aperture like f/2.8, and experimenting with different focus points, I could emphasize the radiating nature of the plant’s center. The same plant looks entirely different with a slightly shifted focus point and different perspective in the second photograph, with the seeds looking like upside down umbrellas. Comparing these two images of the same subject taken within minutes of each other demonstrates the difference that a slight change in focus, depth of field, and perspective can make when working close to a subject using a wide aperture.

Experiment with Light

Although it is one of the more difficult types of light to photograph, backlighting – when the light source is behind your subject – can often add interest and mood to a photograph. For this photo, I laid on the ground eye-level with these bare winter bushes and faced into the low sun, using shallow depth of field to render bits of the light and bushes out of focus. Fuzzy subjects, like these pussy willows, cactus, and many flowers, catch backlighting well, giving a subject a natural glow that can translate well into a photograph. These images can take a lot of experimentation, persistence, and perfecting your technique to come together so be prepared to try again if your first attempt does not work out as you might have hoped.

Get Close

In almost all cases when photographing plants, I get quite close to my subject (often right at my lens’s minimum focusing distance). Getting close can help eliminate distractions, isolate your subject for a better composition, and emphasize the abstract elements of your subject. In the case of the subject above, each small rosette is about the size of a pencil eraser and the fist-sized plant itself was surrounded by rocks and dirt. A closer perspective helps eliminate all of those potential distractions, allowing the subject t of the photograph – the repeating rosettes – to fill the frame. This photograph also highlights the importance of looking around for details. These plants grow in tiny patches on canyon walls and slickrock in Zion National Park and without some effort to seek them out, most people will walk right by without a second thought.

Don’t Be Afraid to Look a Tiny Bit Foolish

Last summer, the Denver Botanic Gardens hosted a glass exhibit and the popularity of the gardens dramatically increased. The exhibit attracted large crowds which meant that setting up a tripod and leisurely photographing would not be possible. Still, on one particular visit to the garden, I saw this beautiful succulent rosette plant and felt like I had to photograph it before leaving. The plant was growing at an odd angle in a potted planter, right in front of the entrance that all visitors passed through upon arrival. Because of the location of the plant near the ground and its odd angle, I had to kneel down and contort my body to get the right angle. I heard a few snickers from visitors passing by, wondering what I could possibly be photographing. This general experience has repeated itself quite a few times and while I never want to get in the way of other visitors, I am willing to look a little foolish in public for a photograph. So, forget about what others will think and as long as you are not impacting their experience, feel free to embarrass yourself for a better photograph!

How to Take Photo in Bad Light?

Landscape photographer work essentially in common light, which exhibits a couple of issues — for one thing, the most wonderful lighting conditions every day keep going for close to a couple of hours. Different times, nightfalls will be lost behind overcast skies, making it difficult to see a scene taking care of business. At the point when the sky is dark or the sun is specifically overhead, it can be difficult to discover motivation for astounding photography. My trust with this article is to share a few tips that have worked for me when I photo in awful lighting conditions — something which each picture taker encounters sooner or later.

1) Look For Colors

The beauty of the light at sunset and sunrise is that it sculpts the landscape with saturated hues — in other words, the lighting provides the scene with color. When skies are overcast, though, natural lighting doesn’t offer the hues necessary for a richly-colored photograph. Instead, to create a colorful image, you must search for a vivid subject.

With an overcast sky, your light will soft and gentle. Take this opportunity to look for muted colors that would not be visible in the saturated light of sunset — soft purples and blues, perhaps. These colors may be too subtle to appear at sunset or sunrise, but a cloudy day allows them to shine.

After a rainstorm, too, it is possible to take beautiful images of deeply-saturated colors. Even with the dreariest of skies, a rainforest will always look vivid and green — a wonderful recipe for a landscape photographer. Remember to bring your polarizing filter!

2) Isolate Details

Although a grand landscape may look its best at sunrise, some detail-oriented photographs work just as well in cloudy conditions.

In part, this is because overcast skies are so drab — photos rarely benefit from having a featureless blob across the top. And even though some overcast skies still have texture in the clouds, it is important to ask yourself if they are helping your composition. If the sky is not interesting, it will not add interest to your photo.

On a cloudy day, my telephoto lens is nearly always glued to my camera. This brings the added possibility of wildlife photography, as well — another subject which can look beautiful under overcast lighting. Although I tend to stick with landscape photography when the sky is gray, I am careful to watch for other details to isolate as well.

3) Focus Closer

Another type of detail to keep in mind for gray days is the world of macro photography.

Overcast skies provide soft shadows, which makes it possible to see the true colors and tones of a close-up subject. Some macro photographers prefer to use a flash, of course, but clouds can lead to wonderful light as well.

The colors of macro scenes are naturally more saturated than distant scenes, since there is little atmospheric haze between your lens and your subject. Take advantage of this fact by searching for vivid objects to photograph — the macro world is full of color.

Often, following a rainstorm, you will be able to find drops of water to photograph as well. The geometric patterns of water droplets can be beautiful, and they are ideal subjects under overcast lighting.

4) Long Exposures

With an overcast sky, a crucial issue is that your photos will lose a sense of uniqueness. This problem is easy to fix, though — use a neutral-density filter.

As explained in our landscape photography filter guide, a neutral density filter is a darkened plate of glass that allows you to use a long (multi-second) shutter speed, even during the day.

Of course, such a filter does not help in every scene; for many, in fact, it has almost no effect. But when you have anything moving — clouds, water, people — a long exposure can provide an out-of-the-ordinary image regardless of the light.

Long exposures also tend to emphasize colors that are hard to see with the naked eye. If you set your camera to take pre-dawn long exposures, even on an overcast day, you could be pleasantly surprised by the amount of color in your photos.

5) Convert to Black and White

When the color in a scene is drab, I usually remove it. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of black and white photography — I often find it more effective and poetic than color photography — but many of my best monochromatic images would look bland in color.

With a cloudy sky, high-contrast monochromatic photos can still convey a sense of drama and beauty that would be impossible with the dull colors from overcast lighting. In part, this is because black and white photography is inherently surreal.

People tend to like landscape photos that show the world in an unusual way — more beautiful than they encounter day-to-day. Sunsets, of course, fulfill this requirement by showcasing landscapes with rarely-seen colors. Monochromatic photography does not have the same vividness, but high-contrast black and white photos can stand out just as much as their saturated counterparts.

Perhaps this is why high-contrast black and white photography remains so popular in the fine-art world. Such photos are simple by nature, yet they can be just as eye-catching as color images.

6) Mid-Day Light

So far, all of these techniques have been suggestions for photographing on overcast days. However, a landscape photographer also fears the complete opposite: the harsh sunlight of mid-day.

Such lighting is not as gloomy as an overcast sky, but it can be just as frustrating. On one hand, it becomes difficult to avoid harsh shadows and bright highlights, potentially rendering your photo as a contrasty mess. On the other hand, mid-day lighting is not particularly unique — few people will be awed by a landscape in its most typical state.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid photography when the sun is overhead, though. You just need to use the strengths of harsh sunlight to your advantage.

Personally, my first instinct with mid-day lighting is to look for shadows that can lead to an interesting composition. This technique may be tough for grand landscapes, but it works well for detail-oriented shots or cityscapes — shadows can give a scene personality.

Keep in mind that you want to retain highlight detail as much as possible, even at the expense of darkening your shadows. Feel free to dial in some negative exposure compensation — many famous street photos were taken at mid-day, with much of the image near-black.

7) Summary

At some point, all photographers will find themselves in amazing locations with sub-optimal light. Although everyone wants to photograph a scene with beautiful lighting, few people can wait for days or weeks to see a scene at its best.

Of course, a gray day can be a great time to edit old photos or scout new locations — indeed, many landscape photographers search for their next treasures when the light is dull. Many people, though, especially traveling photographers, do not have the time necessary to plan a shot so far in advance. However, although good lighting beats drab lighting by definition, photographers still can take wonderful images when the conditions are not ideal.

The takeaway is that you need to recognize the lighting conditions in a scene, then target your photos to take advantage of that light. In mid-day sun, look for strong shadows to fill your composition. In flat, gray lighting, search for saturated subjects to provide color to your images, or consider converting to black and white. No matter the lighting conditions, there are always good pictures to be made.

Cleaning Your SLR Camera using These Tips

1) Why Clean Camera Lens?

Other than the undeniable answer “since it is messy”, keeping your focal points clean will guarantee that you get the best and most noteworthy quality comes about because of utilizing your apparatus. Amid a Photo Walks that I drove two or three years prior, a beginner drew closer me with an inquiry concerning his camera. He let me know that his pictures look overcast and he had no clue why it was going on. I inquired as to whether I could investigate his camera to check whether I could discover anything amiss with it. When I opened the front focal point top, I knew precisely what the issue was. The front component of the focal point was extremely grimy and had slick fingerprints and other stuff everywhere. I demonstrated to him the focal point and inquired as to whether he thought about the issue. He let me know that he had a baby that likes his camera an excess of and evidently, that is the way the focal point wound up getting all the stuff on it. He didn’t know how to clean the focal point appropriately and in the wake of spending such a great amount of cash on the camera gear, he was excessively frightened, making it impossible to clean it himself. Happily, I generally convey my cleaning pack with me, so I took a photo before and afterward another in the wake of cleaning the focal point. We analyzed the pictures and obviously, the first for sure looked shady, while the second one was clear and sharp. This is one case of how tidy, earth and oil can influence your pictures.

Another important reason to clean your camera lens is keep your images free of particles that might show up in background highlights and other parts of the image. Take a look at my earlier post on “the effect of dust on lens bokeh” – you will see, that dust on the rear element of your lens will show up in your images, especially if you have large specks of dust there.

2) Dangers of Improper Lens Cleaning

Most people end up with bad equipment because of their creative ways to clean it. Remember, camera lenses are very similar to glass lenses on eyeglasses, which means that they can be easily scratched. Lenses are generally made of tough optical glass, but if you attempt to clean it with cloth that might have sand particles on it, you will surely scratch the optical surface. That’s because sand is harder than glass. If you use a wrong type of chemical liquid on lenses, you might damage the lens coating. If you put too much of the liquid on the lens, some of it might get inside the lens and give you all kinds of trouble afterwards. The list goes on and on.

If you decide to clean your lenses yourself, it is very important that you choose the right tools for the job and use them properly.

3) Using Protective Filters

Every lens I own and use has a high quality protective filter in front of it. I also suggest protecting expensive lenses in my articles on purchasing camera gearand other gear-related articles I post on this blog. Why? Because filters make it easier not only to protect your lens, but also to clean it. Some lenses have threads or “steps” right by the front lens element (separate from filter threads), which attract dust and even cut off pieces from microfiber cloth. Overtime, it gets difficult to keep the front of the lens clean due to all the stuff that gets attached to those threads. A protective filter will go over those threads and you will spend much less time cleaning your lenses. If you are too worried about image quality, don’t be – take a look at my gallery and Lola’s weddings page. Every picture you see was taken with a lens that had a protective filter. Do you see any problems with image quality? Just use professional multi-coated filters from companies like B+W and Hoya. Those filters will have the least impact on image quality, because they are made of high quality glass. They are expensive, but definitely worth it. When you consider the amount of time you will be spending on cleaning your lenses and when you weigh in all potential problems such as scratching your lens, you will quickly realize the benefits of using filters. If you happen to scratch or break your filter, you just buy another one and your lens stays protected.

4) Tools to clean lenses

There are plenty of different tools available on the market today for taking care of your lenses. I have used many different solutions before and I found some products to be more effective than others. Here is the list of tools that I personally use and recommend for cleaning lenses:

  1. Zeiss Liquid Lens Cleaner or Eclipse Optic Lens Cleaning Solution are the liquids I personally use and recommend for cleaning lenses
  2. Visible Dust Magic Cleaner is a large piece of microfiber cloth for cleaning lenses. Grab a couple of these.
  3. Tiffen Lens Cleaning Paper to clean the optical lens elements.
  4. Giotto’s Rocket Blower to blow off the dust from lenses.
  5. Giotto’s Hair Brush or any other soft & clean brush you can find for removing dust before cleaning lens elements.
  6. A hard toothbrush or some other hard brush for cleaning the rubber focus/zoom rings.

There are many other types of liquids and tools you can find online or in a local camera shop that also work great. Giotto’s Lens Cleaning Kit is also great if you don’t want to spend much – just don’t buy the other kit that comes with a small blower, you will need the large one.

5) Lens Cleaning Process

My process of cleaning lenses is divided into three parts:

  1. Cleaning the exterior of the lens, including the lens hood – I first start off by using wet microfiber cloth to remove any dust or dirt from lens exterior and lens hood. I apply the same optical formula that contains anti-static material on microfiber cloth or if the lens is too dirty, I start off by using regular water (distilled water would work best) and then finish off with using the solution. To clean the rubber zoom and focus rings, I use an ordinary toothbrush, which works great for removing particles in between the rubber lines.
  2. Cleaning the lens mount – a very important part of the process that sometimes requires me to clean the mount several times due to oil and dirt. Apply the same lens cleaning solution on microfiber cloth and clean the mount thoroughly. Don’t forget to clean the round contacts on the lens as well.
  3. Cleaning the rear and the front optical elements – I find microfiber cloth to be unsafe for cleaning optical lens elements, especially if you reuse the same microfiber cloth that you use to clean your lenses outside. Also, sometimes microfiber cloth will leave particles that are hard to remove with the rocket blower, so I rely on lens cleaning tissues instead. They clean glass very well and if they leave anything on the lens, it can be easily removed by the rocket blower.