Photography is like anything else in our culture; it tends to hold certain trends for periods of time, then changes based on variables around us. Some trends can reappear, such as we’ve seen with the influx of “vintage” post-processing in the last few years.
The style wasn’t imposed directly during the 60′s and 70′s, it was a result of the equipment, processing and photography techniques used at the time. The idea became popular again in the last 5 years, and photographers began attempting to recreate those tones and colors using the more modern methods available to them.
The results of using the various techniques we’ll discuss are, of course, subjective. We have a huge number of photographers using these techniques, each formulating their own methodology. This produces distinct and differing results, which is part of the beauty of our craft.
We’ve listed five techniques that have appeared time and time again, and have proven to be among the most popular in photography today. I’ve attempted to stay away from pure post-processing techniques, and keep the scope of this article instead in the realm of physical photo-taking methods.
After we’ve finished, I’ll challenge you to tell us about your favorite techniques, and maybe even show us some of the work that you’re most proud of!
Long Exposure Photography
Long exposure photography has recently taken a foothold in the halls of 500px and the like, due to the dramatic effects produced with the technique. The advent of more advanced digital cameras have made it much easier to produce these images, since the calculations, guesswork and luck have mostly been eliminated from the process.
Exposure for extended periods can give you smooth, ghost-like water and clouds in a landscape scene. Photo by Sacha Fernandez
There are essentially two basic ways of capturing these shots; with or without apolarizing or neutral density (ND) filter. Either method requires a tripod, as these shots involve too much open shutter time to attempt holding by hand. The object is to increase your exposure time for the shot without overexposing the image.
Longer exposure times allow you to capture clouds, water, or other moving objects in a smooth, flowing manner, while maintaining sharpness and clarity on still objects. A neutral density filter essentially allows for this extended amount of exposure time, without altering the hue or color of the image. Adding the filter is equivalent to stopping down one or more f-stops, and allows you to avoid making the photo too hot due to the amount of time the shutter will be open.
Waterfalls are often popular subjects of long exposure shots. Photo by See Ming Lee.
If you don’t have a ND or polarizing filter available, you’ll need to attempt these captures in lower light, such as in the early morning or late evening (it could be said that if possible, you shouldn’t be shooting at any other time anyway). Many photographers use long exposures to capture shots at night.
Begin experimenting with very small apertures during the golden hour (the hour before sunset or after sunrise) such as f/22 or higher, and bump the aperture up to f/8 or larger after night falls. You’ll end up with several attempts, since nailing a great exposure is largely trial and error. You’ll also need to play around with exposure times, and this depends on what moving object you are capturing.
Clouds need much longer times to properly capture their trek across the frame of the shot; 5 minutes is a good place to start. Rolling or crashing waves at a beach require much less, sometimes 15 to 30 seconds is enough to create the necessary motion in the image.
Long exposures at twilight can give dramatic results. Photo by Michael Bolognesi.
Due to the sensitivity of the camera during exposure times of this length, a remote shutter release would come in handy. Anything you can do to minimize shake will help preserve the sharpness of the non-moving elements in the photo.
Finally, be sure to do some pre-planning before actually clicking the shutter; try to visualize what the motion of all elements will be in your composition, including flowing elements (clouds, water, car lights), and still elements (rocks, buildings). This can help you better determine what settings you’ll need to capture the image you see in your mind.
Light painting is probably the fastest growing technique seen these days, and for good reason; the creative possibilities are endless, and can make for some stunningly beautiful art when done correctly. At its core, light painting is another long-exposure technique that utilises in-frame or out-of-frame light sources to create patterns within the photo or illuminate an object in specific locations.
It is possible for the artist to actually perform the painting in front of the camera without appearing in the final shot, due to the ratio of time the photographer is painting to the actual exposure duration.
LED lights + long exposure = awesome. Photo by Beo Beyond.
How it’s Done:
Any number of light sources can be used, although generally flashlights are the most common. Light pens, candles, and various fiber optics can be used as well. The sky is the limit, use your imagination! Like with other long-exposure photography methods, a tripod must be used. Set your camera for a long exposure (30 seconds or more), and use a remote shutter release if available (or the timer function available on almost all cameras will work as well).
The actual location you shoot in should be as dark as possible, obviously working at night is best. We want the object you’re drawing or highlighting to stand out as much as possible against the dark background. Since we’re shooting a long exposure, we can set our aperture to a smaller setting; start with f/8 to f/16 and experiment from there. This will ensure crisper shots with a full field of depth.
Using a broader light source such as a torch can give much softer and even lighting across your subject. Photo by William Cho.
If you are not painting a stationary object within the frame, you can stand facing the camera, and draw a figure with the light source on. Try to physically stay in frame for as little time as possible, this will help ensure you don’t show up in the final shot. If painting an object, you can highlight various parts with your light source, turning the light off and on as you go to target specific areas.
Spectacular results from a coordinated shot combined with an impressive skyscape. Photo byHoward Ignatitus.
As I mentioned earlier, the possibilities are literally endless with this technique; try different light sources, locations, objects, and colors. Anything that can change the color of the light, the speed of the movement, or the length of time painting can drastically alter the outcome. Have fun and be creative!
Digital Photography School offers a very nice series on light painting.
Although not quite as popular today as it was a few years ago, HDR photography is still a relevant artform. HDR shots are finished through your post-processing workflow, but start with your photography itself. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and refers to the range of dark and light levels we see in a photograph.
Modern cameras, even the most expensive models, lack the dynamic range we have in our own eyes. We humans are able to see a much broader range of colors and light levels. This is partially why scenes in photographs never quite appear as they did when we saw them for ourselves.
A dramatic, yet subtly processed HDR photo. Photo by John Mueller.
High dynamic range imaging is a technique that can help extend the range of levels beyond what our camera can normally capture. This is done by taking multiple shots of the same scene, at varying exposure levels, and combining them in our post-processing later. By doing this, we ensure that we’ll see the darker levels and colors as they should appear, as well as the lighter levels without the blown-out colors. Although many software suites (including Adobe Photoshop) offer a “one-shot” HDR tool that does not require multiple exposures, the results are usually not as accurate and dynamic as a true HDR photo.
How it’s Done:
Dynamic range in a photo is measured in EV, or exposure value, and is equivalent to one f stop; each increase of one EV doubles the amount of light captured, while each decrease of EV cuts it in half. Originally, a minimum of three images were shot, one being very underexposed, one properly exposed, and another overexposed, or blown out. However, most modern DSLR’s now have an AEB, or auto-bracketing setting. This allows you to set up a number of shots with a predefined EV range.
After being set, the photographer can press the shutter release once for each exposure, completing the range of shots in one instance. Whichever method you prefer, you’ll need to capture each image with a set EV difference between them for best results. Smaller EV values (such as 1) will result in less dynamic and drastic images than using 2 or 3 EV’s between each exposure.
A well done HDR photograph, with all interesting surfaces exposed properly, without any overcooking. Photo by Misjad Wilayah.
After the images have been captured, the process will need to be completed using software. Adobe Photoshop does offer an HDR assembly action that layers the exposures together, but I’ve found the results tend to be poor, and pale in comparison to a proper HDR-specific software package, such as HDRSoft Photomatix. Available for Windows and Mac systems, Photomatix has become an extremely popular standard for processing HDR shots.
After loading your images into Photomatix, you can adjust a few settings such as alignment (if the exposures were not taken from the exact same angle, for example), reducing noise and ghosting, as well as indicate what EV values were used. After the photos are loaded, you can use of the two methods for actually converting the image to HDR, Tonemapping and Exposure Fusion. The differences in these methods revolve around what point in the process they are applied. I seem to always have better results using the Tonemapping algorithm. After making visual adjustments, you can save the final, layered image as a flat file.
An unfortunate example of what happens when too much tonemapping is applied. Artifacts, halos and ugliness.
One issue regarding HDR photography is its own subjective nature; as it grew in popularity, people began using it to make extreme changes to their photos, and overusing the process. It’s very easy to use too much tonemapping and “overcook” the image, resulting in unnatural tones and ugly haloing effects. This, in turn, has caused some photographers to be wary of the method altogether. The best advice is to do what looks best to you.
Learn more about HDR by reading “20 HDR Photography Tutorials to Learn This Technique in One Day”.
Panoramic photography is another example of a method that has vastly increased in ease of use over time. What was once a long, tedious process in a darkroom, hunkering over photo paper, making cuts and separations to multiple photos, is now as simple as a click of a button on your camera.
Panoramic photos are simply multiple shots of a single scene that have been stitched together to form a continuous image. Even with a wide-angle lens, we can only capture so much of a particular scene. By taking multiple shots, we can combine those later and create a photo with a much wider field of view than previously possible.
A beautiful example of panoramic photography. Photo by Guy Lejeune.
As with our previous techniques, panoramic shots are best captured using a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release.
How it’s Done:
There are many cameras nowadays that have a panorama feature; this basically gives you guides and grids on your viewfinder or screen that make it easy to line up your shots. A horizontal photo can be taken by shooting, moving the camera to the left or right (while keeping it level), and taking another shot when the panorama assist shows that you are only minimally overlapping the previous shot. This overlap is necessary to prevent missing a slice of the scene in the final image. The assist usually shows your last shot, and what your current frame looks like next to it; this helps you create a set of accurate images to start with.
Panoramic stichings allow you to capture a much wider view than any wide-angle lens. Photo byJeremy Hall.
Some cameras, especially older DSLR’s, don’t have this feature, and the individual photos will have to be taken manually. This involves alot of guesswork and trial and error. Thankfully, some tools exist to help, specifically panoramic heads, or pano-heads. This is an attachment that sits on top of your tripod head and allows the camera to be rotated around a single axis (instead of the camera itself rotating on a single plane), and eliminates parallax. Parallax is a anomaly that occurs due to differing angles of viewing in a line of sight, and is not something we want in our final photo. Having a panoramic head allows smooth transitions to the next photo, and usually feature stops in regular increments to properly measure the angle of the next shot.
A pano head allows you to take level panoramics by rotating the camera around a fixed point, instead of rotating the camera itself.
Many software packages out there will help you align and combine separations for a single image, but this is also possible using Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has a feature called PhotoMerge that will handle this for you. You can access this by going to File > Automate > PhotoMerge. After loading your images, you can select a layout mode (start with auto first) and set a few other options. I recommend checking the blending, vignette removal, and distortion correction boxes. This will help if you’re not using a high-level lens setup.
After clicking OK, you will be presented with a preview of the automatic process. At this point, you might see a bending or curving near the top and bottom edges of the photo, due to improper alignment of the photos when they were taken; simply crop the photo to the desired point.
Stiching photos together using Photoshop’s Photomerge feature.
Of course there is much more to panoramic photography; vertical panoramas can be taken as well, and you can experiment with using more images to create larger and more intricate photos. It’s all up to you!
Digital Photography School has a great article discussing both panoramic setup and Photomerge.
Macro photography isn’t just popular now; it’s been popular for many years. There’s something intriguing about seeing everyday objects in a way that you never get to see, extremely up close and personal. The beautiful thing about shooting macro is the variety; you can shoot almost anything close up and come away with something totally different.
Macro photography allows you to capture small, fine details on a one-to-one scale. Photo byPyhooya.
Macro photography is a bit more equipment-centric than most other methods, meaning for the most part you can’t just go out with whatever you have as your default lens and take great close-up shots. The best results come with having the proper equipment, whether it be lenses, tubes, or reversing rings. That’s not to say you have to spend a small fortune to get the shot you want; many methods of macro shooting can be accomplished using inexpensive equipment. There are generally four categories of equipment that will help you capture those itty bitty details you’re looking for.
A beautiful and interesting combination of macro and HDR from Patrick Cartner.
If you’re serious about macro, the best way to go is by purchasing a dedicated macro lens. This is, of course, the most expensive option. These lenses are available in various focal lengths, generally from 50mm to 200mm. Macro lenses are specifically made for this type of photography, featuring a long barrel that accommodates extremely close focusing.
A 90mm macro lens from Vivitar.
As a general rule, the longer the focal length of the lens, the more distance between yourself and the subject you’ll have available. To capture the details of a butterfly, for example, a 50mm lens would require you to move in much too close. For close-ups of a flower, however, a 50mm would work perfectly. As with any lens, varying degrees of build quality are available, and it’s not impossible to pickup a decent macro lens for less than $200.
Reversing rings do just that; they simply allow you to screw your existing lens on your camera body backwards. A camera lens fitted properly is intended to take what it sees and size it down to be recorded on the camera’s sensor; reversing the lens does the opposite, working much like a microscope.
One major caveat to note here, since you’ll no longer have the electronic pins aligned, you’ll lose any automatic or electronic features such as aperture control or automatic focusing. On the upside, you’ll have a dirt-cheap method of getting extremely close and capturing ridiculous depth of field; many reversing rings can be had for $10 or less.
Extension tubes are another inexpensive way of getting up close. These are hollow pieces that increase the space between your camera body and your lens, which allows the lens to focus closer. These tubes usually come in sets of three different lengths, so you can choose which lengths to use or combine them for some fairly extreme results. You’ll probably struggle a bit with the razor-thin depth of field, but it’s hard to complain when you can pick up a set for under $50.
A standard set of extension tubes.
Close Up Lenses
Technically, these are filters, not lenses. Just like a neutral density or polarizing filter, these inexpensive pieces screw onto your existing lens. They are cheap, but since they are technically filters, the quality is usually not the bes; any screw-on type filter degrades image quality by some degree.
Learn more about lenses by reading DSLR Lens Reviews 2013: Which Lens To Buy?
We’ve taken a short tour through some of the more popular photography techniques around today, but we’ve only scratched the surface. Just with these 5 methods, the creative possibilities are endless. Challenge yourself each time you go out, and try something different.
Ok, your turn. What are your favorite photography techniques? Are they different from ones I outlined here? Where can we see your best light painting attempt? Join the conversation below!
Awesome, detailed post from Sam Agnew at PetaPixel on processing color negatives with C-41 chemistry at home. I’ve seen posts before on the process, but none as informative and hand-holding as this!
By Tim Gilbreath. Originally posted at Photodoto.com.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And that is true of our subject today, a list to end all lists, and what I like to call the Photographic 100.
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a foodie, and regularly read a few coffee and food blogs to get my fill of the subject. Read more…
Stop what you’re doing for a second.
Think about how content you are with your photography. The accolades. The compliments. Even if you think the only person who really appreciates the results is you. Think about how much work you put in to get those things.
Photo by under-milkwood
Experimentation with different filters, formats, and shooting locations, not to mention countless hours of post-processing and self-promotion on Flickr and the other 50 websites you keep your photos on.
Now imagine a random person, a thousand miles away and browsing your carefully curated site, plucking one of your prized shots from the page, whisking it away, and placing it next to their questionably-acquired text, and oh yeah…putting their name for the photo credit.
I have a bit of news for you, and it may or may not be surprising; not only can this scenario happen to you, it may have already happened, and you just might not know it yet. The good news? Two things actually; first, there are things you can do to help protect yourself, and second, it may not be the worst thing that could happen!
The Risk of Doing Business
Being artists in a digital age, we face different challenges than our photography forefathers; Ansel Adams never had to worry about some kid swiping his latest photo on 500px and using it without permission. With advancements in technology, new obstacles present themselves to be overcome. Here’s the bottom line…there’s nothing you can do to completely prevent your photos from being taken when you upload them online.
Although preventing all photo theft is nearly impossible, there are things you can do to discourage it.
Of course, there are things you can do to discourage this from happening, and to make it more difficult for the thief, but ultimately you are at the mercy of the same wonderful technology that allows you to instantly share your photos in the first place.
Why Does This Happen?
Without going into the inner workings of psychology, the short answer to the question “why do people use others’ photos without permission?” is, because they can. For some people, it is much easier to take someone else’s hard work and present it as their own than to do the work themselves. In some situations, however, it is accidental; it may not be clear that a certain photo is or is not royalty-free and a public domain image. In others, the user of the photo may have legitimately forgot to give credit for the shot.
Sifting through the HTML code of your website is one way thieves can take your images.
There are several methods of lifting photos from websites, including:
- Right-clicking an image within a browser window and selecting “Save As” or saving the entire HTML page (which also saves any images used on the page)
- Utilizing various methods to learn the full path of the image on the site, and then linking directly to it
- Using a smartphone or other digital camera to physically take a picture of the photo, then modifying and using it as their own
When all else fails, the thief’s coup de grâce is one of the most simple methods available; the screen shot. Regardless of what protection has been enabled, a screen shot will capture whatever can be actually seen on the screen at that time, and it is impossible to prevent.
This Can’t Be Legal, Right?
Luckily for us, no, it isn’t. A copyright is something that is created the moment you click the shutter and take the shot; no further action is required on your part to legally own that photo. You don’t even have to put a copyright notice on the photo itself after it has been uploaded online, although though there are arguments for doing this.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) came into being in 1998, and addresses many of the issues we face in the age of online image use. The act protects lawful owners of digital content and places some of the burden of enforcement oninternet service providers (ISP’s) to remove copyrighted material that is being used illegally.
You may decide that going the legal route through the system may not be worth it.
If one or more of your photos are lifted and used elsewhere without your permission, there are a few options available to you:
- The least invasive option is to simply request that credit be given for your work. This could be a letter or an e-mail explaining to the individual or company that an image they are using is protected by copyright, and that no permission has been given for its use. Since the infringement could have been accidental, you don’t want to accuse the user of theft right out of the gate. Let them know that you don’t mind if they use the image, as long as your name is given as the photographer and owner. You can request that a return link to your site or the image source be provided as well. Keep in mind that any images or content on other sites that link back to your own can help your visibility in the search engines.
- Prepare a “cease and desist” notice and send it to the person or company. This will provide some legal ground to stand on if the situation escalates in the future. Let the user know that the photo was found on their site or in their material without your permission, and that you would like the photo removed immediately. This can be sent via e-mail as well, although printed requests usually carry more clout than their digital counterparts.
- Prepare and send a DMCA Takedown Notice. This is an official notification to an ISP that copyrighted material is being hosted on their servers. This request will usually include examples of the illegal use as well as any other information the ISP may find useful to remove the content. DPReview.com has an excellent article that details how to find the correct ISP and outlines the letter that you would need to send. After proper notification, the ISP is then required to remove the photos in question.
- Do nothing. After considering your options, you may decide to just let it go. Sometimes the work involved in having a stolen image removed isn’t worth the effort. Also, many laws are different or do not apply internationally, so infringement that occurs in another country might be a lost cause.
Alright, So What Can I Do?
It’s not all doom and gloom! Although we can’t prevent theft completely, there are a few technical tricks we can employ to discourage it.
- Use watermarks on your photos. Watermarks are bits of text (usually a copyright logo or mark and the owner’s name) that are overlaid on the image, indicating that it is not for use without the owner’s permission. Larger watermarks can cover more of the photo, rendering it unusable to a would-be thief. Using watermarks tends to be a double-edged sword however, since any foreign text on top of a photo will take away from it and prove to be a distraction, even at a small size. Although a watermark can remind a viewer that the photo is not free for the taking, it is not required for the photo to be protected by a copyright, and its use is generally frowned upon.
If you decide to use a watermark, make sure it’s small and does not distract the viewer from the photo. Photo by Tim Gilbreath
- Layer another image on top of the real photo using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS allows us to control layering of content on a page, so that a transparent image can be placed directly over the actual photo. When a user attempts to right-click and save the photo, they will only save the transparent image. Again, this is simply a deterrent and not a foolproof solution.
- Slice your images into sections, making it difficult for the thief to get the whole image. Again, this is simply a way to slow the thief down. Dividing the image into several pieces in Photoshop and then reassembling them on your website will frustrate the user when they attempt to save the image; they’ll end up with only one small piece, and realize that they’ll need to download each piece and assemble them again in order to grab the entire image. This alone might make them think twice about stealing your photo in the first place.
- Don’t upload high resolution photos. For commercial photographers, this is a much more effective way of dealing with image theft. Loading only low resolution or low quality photos discourages the user from taking them, since they’d much rather have full resolution files to deal with. The smaller the physical size of the photo, the less incentive there is for the thief to use or print it. For amateur photographers still trying to get a leg up, however, this causes issues, since you want to display clean, attractive versions of your work for promotional purposes.
- Keep a central image repository. The easiest way to lose track of your photos and their use is by spreading them out over a large number of sites. It is too easy to have a copy of a photo on Flickr, another copy on 500px, one for your Tumblr, and so on. Keeping all of your images in one place and then linking to that single copy makes it easier to track the photo and where it’s being used.
- Keep tabs on your photos by checking yourself on Google every now and then. I’ve found that Google and other popular search engines have a pretty accurate record of your content on the web and how it’s being used. If you followed my previous point and know the URL of your photo, you can then find out if anyone is linking to that photo without your permission, or search for the photo and see if it has been lifted and placed on another site. What you find may surprise you!
Seriously, Did You Just Say ‘Look at the Bright Side’?
Well, not yet, but I planned on it. The truth is, although it’s maddening, having a photo stolen and used somewhere else isn’t the end of the world, unless you’re a professional photographer and are losing money because of the theft. It might be such a minor inconvenience that it isn’t even worth the time to resolve it, and if it is a big deal, copyright laws are generally on your side, and there’s a pretty good chance that you can get the whole thing resolved.
The silver lining in this dark cloud is, your photo was good enough for someone to think it was worth taking. Think of it this way; people generally take photos without permission because they like them and they’re too lazy to create something as good as that own their own.
Maybe we should start worrying if we never have anything stolen at all.
Have you had a copyright infringement experience? Tell us all about it by submitting a comment below! Now that you know how to protect your photos, see if you’re ready to become a professional photographer, or learn how to break out of the pack andtake your photography to new heights.
You’re walking down the street, sleek camera in hand. As luck would have it, a photogenic girl crosses your path, stopping at the curb long enough to pull her hair back. She is silhouetted against the glowing city light; this is the perfect photographic moment.
Photo by Luis Mariano Gonzalez
You reach for your camera, frame the shot, and…she’s gone. You didn’t hear the click of the shutter before she walked away, because you never pressed it. What just happened?
Fear, my friend. Fear.
It didn’t have to be that way. The fear of photographing people in public, as well as many others, can be overcome. As with most problems we face, it’s simply a matter of identifying the issue, and applying a corrective action. Next time, you don’t have to miss the girl walking across the street.
Photography, in general, is not a team sport. Photographers generally work alone, throughout the shooting, processing, and other decision-making. We have to promote ourselves in order to differentiate our work from the rest of the pack, and in that process, learn a little about what we’re afraid of in regards to our photography.
The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho once said,
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure”
While this can be applied to many things in life, it makes great sense to us as visual artists. Photography is an area that not only rewards passion and dedication, but creativity as well. There is infinite knowledge to be absorbed about the craft, and you’ll constantly be learning new things. People simply fear what is new and different.
While identifying your fears is important, so is recognizing what steps you can take to minimize them. So let’s identify some of the most intimidating aspects of photography, and what we can do to overcome them.
1. Shooting in Public
Personally, I’m an introverted person, and even outside of photography, trying something new and “grabbing the moment” is a challenge. When I’m shooting in public, I tend to worry about the people around me, thinking “Are they wondering what I”m doing here?” or “Are they afraid I’m going to take their picture?”. The reality is, people generally aren’t worried about what we’re doing at all, although we don’t realize it at that point.
A crowded street can bring on photography fears. Photo by Pixagraphic
Even if you’re not involved in street photography, chances are, you won’t be completely alone wherever you’re shooting. So regardless of your situation, this is a fear you’ll need to overcome quickly so you can be comfortable with what you’re doing.
Digital Photography School has a great article on dealing with street photography fears, which can be found here.
What can I do?
- Familiarize yourself with your rights as a photographer. Some fear may emanate from the possibility of infringing on someone else’s space or property, and being called out on it. Knowing where you can and cannot shoot will give you confidence in this area.
- The best way to conquer a fear is to face it head on, so if taking photos in public makes you cringe a bit, force yourself to do it often. Make it a point to go downtown or to another more populated area and walk around looking for shots.
- Focus on the subject of your photos, whatever that may be. Concentrate on what you’re trying to accomplish, what camera settings you’ll need to reach that goal, and anything else that takes your mind off of the people around you. When you’ve become comfortable with this, you can move on to taking photos of the people themselves.
Although I am not yet a professional photographer (and there’s no guarantee I ever will be), I am already thinking ahead of the challenges I’ll face. The trade requires you to be creative, technically adept, and an able businessperson. It also seems a hint of luck is involved. If we spent all of our time worrying about the infinite ways we could fail, we’d probably rethink our decision of getting involved with photography altogether.
There are some great examples of people who experienced failure and then great success.
Even as a hobby, we hold ourselves to a certain standard. We want our photos to turn out the way we had envisioned them in our minds, and we not only want to be happy with the results ourselves, we want others to think highly of them as well, especially those whose opinion we hold in high regard. Of course, it’s impossible to always be happy with your work, and even less likely that others will always hold a positive opinion on everything we do.
What can I do?
- Realize that failure isn’t always the worst-case scenario; failure can be beneficial as a teaching tool. Every mistake you make results in a lesson learned. Even if you don’t succeed, you have invested time in what you love to do, and you have gained experience.
- Use your fear to improve your final product. By nature, fearing the result of a situation forces you to think more completely about what you need to do to succeed at it. This can only help you focus on what’s important, and making the right decisions.
- Educate yourself on how failure didn’t stop others from their ultimate goal. A quick search on the internet will give you plenty of examples of historical figures that experienced adversity and failure, only to eventually reach their goal, in spectacular ways. Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs are just a few examples.
3. Dealing with People
People can be classified into two general types, introverts and extroverts. While extroverts are comfortable with communicating and socializing with other people, introverts have trouble getting that line of communication open, and in rarer cases avoid other people as much as possible.
Having strong knowledge of your field can make the fear of communicating with others easier to deal with.
It’s hard to go through life this way, since your inherent fears are often misunderstood for arrogance or unfriendliness. Add a profession like photography to the mix, and things get really tough. Unless you are planning to solely generate your income as a landscape stock photographer (which will be extremely challenging), you’re going to need to interact with others. There are a few things you can do, however to ease the apprehension you feel when you need to communicate with clients.
What can I do?
- Know your stuff, inside and out. One subconscious fear a lot of us have is misspeaking or not knowing important information, such as technical knowledge about what we do. We want to look professional, and a good way to do that is to be experts at the services we’re offering. Learn all you can so that you’ll be able to answer any question a client has, quickly and accurately.
- Keep in mind that you are serving a purpose to a client, and communicating with them effectively is part of how you serve that purpose. This can help keep the big picture in focus.
- Put forth your best effort. If this is a new client, doing a great job will keep them coming back, and communication will always get easier as the business relationship develops.
Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life, and it’s no different with photography. There are many ways you can experience it in this field. A client disliking image proofs you’ve given them, a stock photography site rejecting shots you’re uploaded, even family and friends giving constructive criticism on photos you’ve shown them.
Rejection can be hurtful, but can also serve as a learning tool.
The key point to remember with rejection is, it’s completely unavoidable; in many situations, there’s nothing you can do about it, and regardless of how well you know you’re equipment, your client, and your craft, rejection is bound to happen at one time or another. The best way to prepare for it is to educate yourself on how to accept it and turn it into a positive learning experience.
What can I do?
- Resist the urge to immediately think the problem is your photography. As a photographer looking to generate revenue from your work, it’s certainly important that clients and other people in certain positions like your product, but in the end, as photography is art, what you think of it is infinitely more important. Tastes are wide-ranging in people, and photography is inherently subjective; any shot you are happy with has the potential to be accepted by others.
- Grow tougher skin. As we learned earlier, there is no way around rejection in this field. Keep in mind that you will encounter this, particularly in the beginning. Make every rejection a learning experience. This will keep the rejections down in the future and bring about more successes.
- Communicate effectively. Sometimes rejection comes from initial miscommunications. Be honest and up front about your pricing, quality of work, and timelines. Don’t try to impress the client by promising something you can’t deliver. By being as transparent as possible in your business, you’ll give yourself an important advantage that can help keep the chances of rejection down when the shoot or project is complete.
5. Trying Something New
Many of us have a fear of trying new things. It’s just natural to us to stick with what we know, what we’re good at, and what we’re already comfortable with. Of course, doing this doesn’t allow us to grow in whatever we’re doing, and this applies to our photography as well.
Break out of your comfort zone and try something new; just make sure it’s legal first. Photo by Lewishamdreamer
Even for a hobbyist, breaking out and exploring new things has advantages. For professionals it’s even more important, especially if your scope of work is multifaceted and you flip back and forth between multiple disciplines of photography. Although this fear is usually not as scary to us as some of the others, it can be just as important to conquer.
What can I do?
- Try a new type of photography. Whether you intend on working in a particular discipline or not, it’s always a good thing to experiment anyway. If you’re stuck in a rut with landscape photography, grab a friend or your kids and try taking portraits for the day. Change to a macro lens and practice shooting food shots. Throwing yourself a curve ball is a surefire way to grow!
- Experiment with new gear. One of the safest ways to break out of your shell is to go a different route in regards to your equipment. Go rent a fisheye lens for a weekend, or force yourself to only shoot with a smartphone for an entire day. Experiment with alternative techniques; searching the internet will result in tons of new things to try, such as using a sandwich bag as a filter, or creating a unique bokeh effect by crafting a DIY lens cover.
- Make a list. Make a list and keep it easily accessible, perhaps in your camera bag. On this list, write down everything you can think of that you haven’t tried concerning photography. Lenses, camera types, post-processing, techniques, locations, everything. Make a habit of checking the list every now and then, and use your off days to pick an item, try it, and scratch it off the list. When you think of something new you haven’t attempted, add it to your list for the future. We usually do better with tangible things, so this is a good way of keeping yourself honest about what you have tried, and what you haven’t.
Hopefully some of what we discussed will help you along in dealing with your photography fears. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we all deal with them from time to time, and that regardless of what they are, we can turn them into positives and use them to our advantage.
We aren’t photographers because we have to be, we’re photographers because wewant to be; we get an enjoyment and sense of pride and purpose out of it, and keeping that in mind can help quell the mental roadblocks we encounter along the way.
Do you have a fear that we didn’t discuss? Let us know by submitting a comment below! And when you’re done, bolster your confidence a little more by reading 8 Tips for Working with Models Every Photographer Should Know.
Photoshop. For photographers, web developers and graphic designers alike, its the go-to program for creating and editing professional grade graphics. And like every beloved piece of software, it has to have a strong foundation to build upon; a base system that supports all other operations. For Photoshop, it’s layers.
Photo by Daniel Bosma
A Layer’s purpose in life
Layers are Photoshop’s way of organizing the content being produced within the software. They allow us to keep related content separate, and to make it easier for us to edit that content later. It’s almost impossible to imagine using the software in the days before layers were implemented.
Without layers, all content in an image would exist on the same plane; that is, any change applied to the image would affect the entire image, and there would be no way to easily modify a particular object, especially if that object overlapped other objects.
Imagine an image of two circles, one red, and one blue. If you needed the circles to partially overlap, you’d need to draw the circles precisely in their proper positions. Once the circles were in place, it would be difficult or impossible to edit them separately.
This is going to be a problem – our content is all on a single layer.
Enter layers. Since Photoshop 3, we have had the ability to place content or groups of content on separate layers, and those layers can be moved and edited separately. Even more helpful, these layers can now be organized further into folders, and can be modified with nondestructive adjustment layers.
Ahh, much better. Our circles are now on separate layers.
In our example above, we place each circle on its own layer. We can then perform independent actions on them, as well as move them around however we wish.
Creating and manipulating layers
The layers panel (Window > Layers) shows us all layers in the current image. This panel will also display the order of the layers, and any grouping, linking, or Smart Objects, which are special layers that contain multiple layers of content that can be modified non-destructively. A layer can be created by clicking the New Layer icon on the layers panel, or by clicking Layer > New > Layer.
The toolbar at the bottom of the Layers panel gives you several options.
Organizing your layers
One of the advantages of the layer system in Photoshop is the ability to keep them organized. This comes in handy when a project gets large and you’ve got layers coming out of your ears. We have a few options to satisfy our obsessive/compulsive tendencies, fortunately.
- Linking Layers
Sometimes several layers of content need to be grouped together, without actually merging them. This is where linking comes in handy. Layers can be linked together by selecting two or more layers (Click layers while holding down Control/Command) and then right clicking the layers and selecting “Link Layers”. Any layers can be unlinked the same way. Linked layers can be moved around together.
Layers can be linked together, which will allow them to be moved around as a single unit.
- Layer Groups
Layer groups give us even more control over the way our objects are organized. A new group can be created by clicking the New Layer Group icon at the bottom of the layer panel or by clicking Layer > New > Group. Selecting two or more layers and clicking the New Layer Group icon will place those layers together in a new layer group automatically.
Layer groups allow us to place similar object layers in folders to keep them separate.
- Smart Objects
Grouping layers into a Smart Object allows us to apply non-destructive adjustments to them simultaneously. This means that actual pixels in the image will not be effected, and the results can be reversed easily. We can convert layers over to a Smart Object by selecting two or more layers and then right-clicking them to bring up a contextual menu, then selecting Convert to Smart Object.Similarly, we can use the menus and click-through to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Objects.Smart objects can then have adjustments and filters applied to them, and can then be reversed if necessary. We also have the ability to convert the contents of a Smart Object to a standard layer (which is required to perform any pixel-altering functions) by clicking Layer > Rasterize > Smart Object.
Our two layers have been converted to a smart object. The layers are still separate within the smart object and can be restored.
Editing layers and adjustments
One of the most useful things about layers is the ability to edit them individually. We might have an image consisting of several layers, all of which could have different needs such as opacity changes, masking, or other adjustments.
Masks can be applied to individual layers by clicking the Layer Mask button at the bottom of the panel or by clicking Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All/Reveal All. This creates a new mask that is attached to that layer, and allows us to modify the mask independently. You can click the thumbnails within the layer to select either the mask or the layer itself.
Adjustment layers allow nondestructive adjustments such as levels and curves to the their affected layers, and can be turned off or deleted at any time. These can be added by clicking Layer > New Adjustment Layer and then selecting what adjustment you’d like to apply. Fill layers work in the same way. These layers affect all layersbelow them.
Adjustment layers allow us to apply non-destructive effects to individual objects.
Any and all layers can also be locked by clicking the small lock icon near the top of the layer panel. Locked panels can not be moved or edited.
Lastly, any layer can be hidden from view temporarily by clicking the small corresponding eye icon on the left hand edge of the panel.
Blending, opacity, and layer styles
Photoshop has grown exponentially over the years and continually add features that make it easier for us as designers to create the images we’ve envisioned. Layer styles are a good example of these additions. Now, we don’t have to experiment and go through the rigors of trial and error (wait, where’s the fun in that?) to apply effects to our images. We now have a dedicated panel (Window > Styles) that gives us a set of predefined styles to apply to our layers, simplifying the process of creating buttons, interfaces, and other graphics.
Using a layer style is as simple as clicking on a layer, and then clicking a style thumbnail in the Layer Styles panel. The image will instantly update, showing its new look. The layer in the Layers panel will also provide an indented list of what specific effects were applied to make that look possible. Each individual effect can be adjusted, or turned off altogether.
Our blue circle has been set to 50% opacity, allowing us to see through to the layer containing the red circle below.
Finally, we have the ability to control the opacity and blending of each layer. Opacity refers to the level of transparency for a layer. When a layer is selected, its opacity and fill percentages are displayed near the top of the panel, and can be adjusted independently. Layer blending settings are available as well at the top of the panel, and let us blend individual layers into the rest of the image with several presets.
We’ve set the blue circle’s layer blending mode to Multiply. Those mode multiplies the color data from the base color with the blend color; the result is always a darker hue.
Here, we’ve applied the Screen blending mode to the blue circle’s layer. Screen blending is basically the opposite of the Multiply mode, and results in a lighter color.
Go Play Around!
We’ve only scratched the surface of how powerful and important layers are to our workflow in Photoshop; luckily for us, the best way to learn how to use the software is by applying what you have learned, so crack it open and give it a shot!
You can delve deeper into the world of Photoshop by checking out some of our other related articles here on Photodoto such as making the popular Earlybird Instagram filter and Ann Davlin’s excellent series on retouching in Photoshop. Photoshop.com is also a great online tool created by Adobe that helps you along in learning about the software as well as improving and sharing your images.
- Photoshop action: Remove compositing artifacts & banding (maxrudberg.com)
- How to Extract a Raw File with Modified Settings from a Smart Object in Photoshop (blogs.adobe.com)
Originally posted at Photodoto by Tim Gilbreath.
It happens to all of us. Regardless of experience or skill level, at some point, we’ve all thought, “I have no idea where to take pictures!”. We’ve run out of new, fresh ideas and are seriously considering abandoning any photography this weekend.
Photo by Jaicca
Of course, we know that we haven’t literally run out of locations to shoot, we just aren’t thinking (here comes a vastly overused cliché) “outside of the box”. We sometimes get stuck in a rut, and that rut can be partly determined by our surroundings..if you live by the ocean, chances are, you take a lot of beach shots, and might have trouble trying something new or different.
There are, however, several good “starting points” that you may not have thought of, and make for good practice before you head to the beach for your staggering sunset photos. In no particular order, I’ve listed some alternatives to spending the coming weekend without your camera.
1. Your Own Backyard
To me, this is the most obvious. There are several advantages to taking your camera outside and milling around in your own yard. First, privacy. If you have a fenced-in area, you don’t have to worry about any prying eyes or curious onlookers; you can concentrate on taking some great shots that haven’t occurred to you before.
You never know what you can capture in your own backyard. by Tim Gilbreath
You can wait for the proper time of day, and have the best possible light available for your photos. Old fences, flora, birds, skyscapes, and spider webs are all things that could be waiting in your own backyard. Setup a still life arrangement on an old stump, or catch the sunset through a silhouetted tree.
This can also extend out into your neighborhood. There are streets to explore, full of trees, animals, and other objects. For most of us, there are infinite possibilities for photos within a few hundred feet of where we live.
The always excellent resource Digital Photography School has a specific article on various projects to shoot in your own backyard.
2. Alleyways and Back Streets
Alleyway photos tend to be gritty and grungy. by Tim Gilbreath
If you live in the city, or close to one, it gives you a great opportunity to explore the darker side of photography. Instead of concentrating on well-known landmarks or buildings, seek out the city’s alleyways. Great shots are possible here; interesting entryways, delivery trucks, workers, and uniquely lit streets. In a busier city, these scenes can change fairly quickly, and could present you with several possibilities in a short time span.
As with our next suggestion, I’d of course advise you to be safe and use caution in these situations. Make sure you know where you are, and how to quickly get out of the area if anything happens. Pay attention to your surroundings.
Unless you’re attempting some grungy street photography, try to take these shots during daylight hours. Getting a great shot is a satisfying feeling, but it’s definitely not worth getting mugged over.
3. Abandoned Buildings
Although a bit risky as well, shooting at abandoned locations can be result in some rewarding photos. Urban areas of all sizes are usually dotted with old, empty buildings and houses, and rural areas can offer rundown shacks and rustic barns that are no longer in use.
Urbex is a modern term that deals with “urban exploration”, or investigating locations like these for sport. Several websites are dedicated to the activity, such as Talk Urbex. Most metro areas have their own websites outlining local areas to explore, and usually include descriptions and photos of recently mapped locations.
Urban exploration can be challenging, but rewarding. by Nikki Graham
These types of areas offer great potential for black and white as well as color shots, although lighting may need to be provided, since some of these sites are either without power or below ground. In addition to obvious safety issues, there are legal considerations as well, including possibly trespassing on private property. Be sure to research the ramifications of an exploratory trip before you go, and of course, explore at your own risk.
Digital Photography School has a great article that goes into more into detail about this very subject, and it deals with specific lighting issues and gear you’d want to bring along.
4. Rural Locations
Locations away from the hustle and bustle of the city can offer a treasure trove of setups for great photography. With urban centers expanding outward, even city dwellers can reach a relatively low-populated area with just a short drive. Examples of possible subjects include farmhouses, barns, fences, horses and cattle, abandoned vehicles, picturesque pastures, farm equipment, crops and tree lines.
What will you find just off the beaten path? by Tim Gilbreath
As with shooting in your back yard, rural photography often allows for a little exploring and setup without many onlookers. After finding a suitable spot, park your car and walk a bit on foot; you might be surprised at what scenes you’ll find to frame up.
5. In Your Own House
Your outdoor area isn’t the only place you can look to for unique photos. If you’re stuck, try wandering around your home for ideas and inspiration. Again, the advantage is that you don’t have to go out into a public area and find an opportunity waiting for you; your own house might contain props and backdrops to use right now.
Your house probably has all the props you need. by Tim Gilbreath
Try shooting holiday decorations, wall decor, or interesting light coming through windows or glass doors; pets relaxing in their favorite areas or your kids involved in their daily activities. Your house can also serve as an instant studio of sorts as well, allowing you to control light as well as the subject. Interested in food photography? What better way to practice than by assembling a plate containing your favorite recipe and attempting to capture its mouth-watering properties through a photo!
Depending on what activities you do in your home, there could be countless other examples of shots waiting for you. All you have to do is take a few moments to discover where they are.
6. Theme Parks
I’ll admit, living an hour and a half from Orlando has its perks. Families come from all over the country, and the world, to visit the Disney and Universal Studios theme parks. Some people only get to see them once in their lifetime. For us, we can make it a once per month trip, if we like, since we can travel to and from the park, and enjoy much of what it has to offer, in a single day.
But our country is loaded with parks like these, and chances are, you’ve either been to one before or are planning a trip. Bringing a camera of some type is a no-brainer, but have you ever taken your DSLR? Recently, we took a day trip to Disney’s Epcot park in Orlando, and since we had both been there before recently, I brought my Canon and planned on spending as much time shooting as I spent gawking at the exhibits. Epcot is perfect, since it features the World Showcase, a huge expanse recreating some of the most iconic cities and countries in the world. When I cropped in close, it was almost impossible to tell I was in Orlando. I actually had people comment on my photos on Flickr, asking me which city in Italy that was.
A French skyline..well, the Orlando version, anyway. by Tim Gilbreath
But regardless of the park, opportunities exist for great photos. There are families, kids, smiles, and lots of them. Since parks are sometimes recreations of famous places, landscape shots are possible, and food vendors offer a chance for a food and street photography mash-up. Beautiful landscape and flowerbeds are usually present as well. Bottom line, with so much going on around you, running out of subjects to shoot in a park is a rarity.
7. Local City Parks
Shooting at a theme park is great, but isn’t something we usually do often on a spur of the moment. But what about your local parks? Most cities have multiple parks open to the public, and each can offer something different for us as photographers. If you need to brush up on portraits, take a friend or your kids to a local park, and look for backdrops. Most parks have lush grass, pathways, benches, bridges, and maybe even a lake or river. Small animals and birds can sometimes flock here, and in many places, dog parks exist, allowing you to practice shooting action shots.
Don’t forget to check out your local parks, sometimes they can yield great results! byTim Gilbreath
My city alone has dozens of city and county-maintained parks. I’ve captured some great photos by arriving early in the morning or late in the evening and capturing subjects in fog, or the failing light through the trees, creating an altogether different environment than during the midday hours.
8. Farmers Markets
Most areas, whether they be rural or urban, have some type of weekend market where vendors gather to sell their wares. Since there is so much going on at these events, you’d be hard pressed to not find an interesting subject. In addition to the people these markets draw in, you have many other subjects to work with. Rows of vegetables displayed in booths, a BBQ vendor smoking meat on an open pit, and kids getting their faces painted.
There’s content everywhere you look at your local market. by Jamie Wilson
Urban markets also feature interesting architecture through the buildings surrounding them. We have one held downtown locally that brings out big crowds every Saturday, and although I haven’t taken many photos there yet, a single day’s walk through gave me tons of inspiration. I’ll definitely be back.
The single thing to take from this is, be a wanderer. We all know of the common places most photographers shoot; the trick to getting unique photos is to wander off the beaten path, and try locations that are new and interesting to you.
And when you’re done, be sure to check out some of our other articles than can help you make your way through the world of photography, such as 5 Awesome Ways to Grow as a Photographer and How To Photograph People You Meet While Traveling.
What are some of your favorite “alternative” places to shoot? Have any shots taken in unusual locations that you’re proud of? Submit a comment below and tell us about it!
- 5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Beach Photography (sarasotatim.wordpress.com)
- An Urban Exploration Journey with Chris Luckhardt (twistedsifter.com)
- Underground Seattle a little Urban Exploration to start the day (studio5graphics.com)