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How to Make Creative Lightroom Develop Presets for Portraits.

August 9th, 2018

It’s natural for portrait photographers to take lots of photos during a shoot. Therefore, it’s also helpful to have a system in Lightroom that allows you to save time processing your portraits. The easiest way to do this is with Develop Presets.

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Using Backlight in Nature Photography.

August 7th, 2018

Backlight is when the sun is directly in front of you lighting the back of your subject.

Shooting a backlit scene is more difficult technically but that is no reason to shy away from what can become a dynamic and energizing image.

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Posing Tips for the Groom on the Wedding Day.

July 29th, 2018

A Post By: Andrew Szopory

Wedding photography is often thought of as one of the most challenging genres to document. On any given weeding day you need to be a fashion photographer, product, documentary and family photographer all in the space of a few hours.

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6 Tips to Take Your Architecture Photography to the Next Level

July 26th, 2018

Architectural photography may seem like an incredibly boring subject, but there is lots of creativity involved with shooting buildings, not to mention it’s a rather lucrative way to make a side income as a photographer. However, the rules of photographing a building versus a person are quite different. Whether you are a relatively seasoned architectural photographer looking to refine your approach, or a budding photographer curious about how to create impactful architectural photos, these tips should help take your photography to another level. This post is written for a photographer approaching an official architectural photography assignment, but the tips also apply to casual shooters.

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9 Tips that Make Couples Happy During a Portrait Session.

July 23rd, 2018

Whenever a camera appears, you can bet your caboose that there are emotions swirling for 99% of the human population. From fear and disdain, to reverting to the classic Chandler Bing smile, people tend to exaggerate or warp their behaviour in front of the camera in endlessly inventive ways. But unless you’re going for a Sears portrait look, your job as a photographer is to not only deliver an end-product that thrills your clients, it’s to make the shoot an awesome experience as well.

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Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography.

July 18th, 2018

A Post By: Michael Neal

If you’re like me, you may be wondering, “What exactly is commercial photography?” Well simply put, it is taking photos for commercial use. Common uses include ad space, websites, product placement, and items for sale. As you can imagine, having a working understanding of the essential elements of product photography can be extremely beneficial. Commercial shots influence consumers immensely. You can spruce up a client’s Etsy store, eBay listing, or even personal website with well done commercial shots.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

Commercial photography is a great way to sell your prints to businesses as well. Many businesses love to have nice, professional shots of their product hanging in their office space, hallways, or lobbies. Have fun shooting products you enjoy, and you never know if the business will be interested in buying and displaying the print.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

In this article, I’m going to talk about some essential tips for nailing commercial work. We’ll talk about how to set up a lightbox, selecting gear that’s right for the shoot, placing the product in flattering light, and how to touch up the image once it’s shot.

Equipment for commercial photography

First, it is highly beneficial to have a lightbox or light tent to use. The particular model I use folds and snaps together using magnets. You will first assemble your lightbox into its standing shape and then select the backdrop. Commonly used backdrop colors are black and white, and you will see that these are the ones I prefer to shoot against.

Feel free to have fun with the colors though! After all, you are the one behind the camera, so you call the shots. The use of a small stand may also be very beneficial for you. One tip though – be sure to position your camera in a way that the product will obscure the stand in the shot.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

Lens choice

My all-time favorite lens for commercial work is the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro. In fact, all of the images included in this article were shot with this lens. Macro lenses are great, in particular for small objects, to reveal extreme detail in the item.

Remember, that is a core component of shooting product photography – you want to advertise how great the item is to the audience of consumers! All the details matter, and all the resolving power of the lens counts. One thing to be wary of is that exact resolving power.

The magnification of macro lenses can become a heavy problem because they will make things like dust, scratches, and fingerprints appear clearly prevalent. Thankfully, I will share my tips to help edit these things out in Lightroom and Photoshop later.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

Lighting

Most light boxes, like mine, come equipped with a set of LEDs that are programmable or can be dimmed to various ratios of light. You will want to position the item you’re photographing so that the LEDs can light it in a flattering and dynamic way. Depending on what you’re shooting, you may want softer lighting or something that will really pop.

Be careful to avoid things like glare when positioning the item, as this problem will only become a headache in the touching up part of the job. In terms of positioning, I love to mess around with the shadows that are cast against the backdrop of my lightbox.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

Get ready to shoot

Now, it’s almost time to shoot! I would recommend canned air to blast some dust and dirt off the subject if it needs it. A tripod is also a MUST for this sort of work.

 I generally shoot at small apertures to keep the images as sharp as possible, with as much in focus as possible. However, sometimes it can be nice to shoot wide to create a nice depth of field perspectives with the shots. There is a delicate balance between showing artistic intent and making the shot distracting when advertising a product, so be sure to keep the client’s intent in mind when shooting.

Here you can see a real-world example of what the setup could look like when using a lightbox to shoot a product.

Practical Tips for Doing Commercial Product Photography

A remote trigger is also very helpful, as commercial work necessitates eliminating camera shake. If you don’t have a remote trigger, my advice is to use the delayed-timer on your camera. Simply set the camera (mounted to the tripod) on self-timer for 10 seconds or so, focus the shot, depress the shutter release, and wait. Naturally, this method can add time to the process, so it isn’t a bad idea for you to invest in a remote trigger.

Post-processing

Now that you have the shots you want, it’s time to touch them up. This part can be long and tedious, but it makes a huge difference in the end product. I generally lean toward Lightroom when touching up shots, but for commercial macro work, in particular, I gravitate to Photoshop. I will explain the process for each.

In Lightroom: I normally boost highlights and whites to blow out the backdrop and create a nice glow to the product. You can do this by sliding the adjustment sliders for both highlights and whites to the right. The amount really varies shot to shot, but don’t be afraid to experiment! Exposure can also be adjusted by moving the exposure slider to the right, however, make sure to not clip the highlights! I also may adjust clarity and make slight contrast adjustments. The real work comes in with spot removal on the dust specks, which I generally do in Photoshop.

Here you can see the lightbox shown with unattractive shadows and blacks, which can be boosted as explained above, to white out the background as shown in the image below.

Edits are done in Lighroom showing the effect on the image.

In Photoshop: You should always clean your product before shooting, but some dust will not be avoided. Luckily, with Photoshop, you can select Filter > Noise > Dust and Scratches. From here, you can select the radius in pixels to target the dust specks. You will have a tendency to lose some sharpness since the filter isn’t perfect. It can have a tendency to smooth out sharp edges or features you intended to remain in the shot.

For this reason, I always create new layers of areas I want to filter and then re-stack the layers to show the changes while leaving sharp edges unaffected. Select certain areas to target with the lasso tool, then copy those layers, run the filter, and restack the layers.

Original image showing the dust specks.

The masked image with the dust specks removed.

 

Outside of this dust removal, I generally reopen the image in Lightroom and do any other necessary edits there. Generally the discussed touch ups I talked about for Lightroom in conjunction with the dust/scratch removal in Photoshop is enough for my taste as long as I shot the frame with correct exposure and settings.

Conclusion

While commercial photography can be intimidating at first, I find that it can be extremely rewarding and versatile alongside other ventures. I’ve found it to be on the lucrative end of the photographic spectrum in terms of genres, and I definitely recommend it as a skill set to add to your photographic tool belt.

Be sure to pay attention to details when shooting product work, and also pay attention to how you market these images to organizations and businesses to ensure the highest possible level of success within the genre. Above all else, go out, purchase a small light box and shoot! You may find that you love commercial work as much as I do!

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

July 16th, 2018

A Post By: Nisha Ramroop

So what exactly is white balance and why is it so important to digital photography?

The rudimentary answer is that light (the foundation of photography) has variable color temperatures at different times of the day. Your eyes are much better at processing color than a digital camera. Thus a white object will always appear white to you, despite the conditions. White balance is the process that the camera uses to remove color casts produced by these different color temperatures and helps your camera emulate whaty our eyes do naturally when dealing with white.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Auto White Balance sometimes give very close results to what you see with your eyes.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Daylight White Balance can be used to enhance the existing colors of your scene.

Auto White Balance (AWB)

The Auto White Balance (AWB) setting helps your camera “guess” the best option or choose the one closest to what your eyes might see. Many times AWB works better when you are outdoors dealing with natural lighting, than with more complex lighting situations.

The White in White Balance

To understand when AWB works well and is applicable, it is also important you understand the different White Balance presets your camera offers. They include; Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, and Fluorescent. Added to these are Flash, Kelvin and Custom White Balance. Of note, the Custom White Balance Mode is used when you have especially challenging lighting conditions and need to lock in your whites based on those conditions. It is an under-used option that gives great results, so check your manual and experiment with it sometime.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Delicate Arch, Utah – shot with the AWB setting.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Delicate Arch, Utah – edited with a Custom White Balance setting.

The Auto White Balance setting assesses your scene and chooses the brightest part of your image as the white point, which unfortunately can vary from one shot to the next. Over the years though, significant improvements have been made to AWB systems and the results are getting better. Even with these developments, it is difficult for Auto White Balance to correct certain kinds of lighting (e.g. artificial or combination lighting setups). Another instance where it’s not recommended to use AWB is when doing panoramic shots, as you run the risk of varying light on your stitched image.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Boats shot with a Custom WB. In a panoramic shot, if AWB is used, it can vary from shot to shot

The opposite problem exists as well – when AWB corrects color casts you do not want it to, such as when you are shooting a sunset or any scene where the color of the light is essential to the image. Some of the White Balance presets listed above, are set in-camera to provide some level of correction to typical lighting scenarios. Here you tell the camera the right setting for the occasion and take more control over your final image.

If you shoot in RAW, you are probably aware that RAW files retain all the color data captured by your camera. This retention allows you to change or choose a different White Balance setting while post-processing your RAW files. Some argue that even with this handy feature, AWB does not give you the best colors.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Shot with Daylight WB (camera) vs processed Daylight WB (Photoshop)

Another perspective of setting White Balance in camera ensures that in the processing stage, your color rendition is consistent across all your shots (e.g. when shooting a wedding). Also of note, AWB can give you different results within the same scene. So you can go from one set of colors in a wide-angle shot to a different set of colors when you zoom in. Both of these are examples of losing the harmony when you are working on a series of images.

Taking Control

You may use AWB because it is easier to let the camera figure out the white balance based on the scene in front of you. However, as stated before, it is useful when you know how and when to use it. Setting white balance is not as daunting as it sounds though and when the conditions are not variable, you only need to set your white balance once (for those conditions).

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Using RAW and WB to take control of the appearance of your results.

So, if you are outdoors on a sunny day, set your white balance to Daylight or Sunny. If it is cloudy, choose the Cloudy white balance and similarly if you are in shade, choose Shade. These are very straightforward to remember based on the easy naming convention. When indoors, for incandescent lights, choose Tungsten (or Incandescent) and when shooting an area with fluorescent lights, choose Fluorescent. This is called setting your white balance to match your shooting conditions.

You can also set your white balance to modify your existing conditions. Once you start experimenting with white balance and understand how it affects your images, use it to get creative or make your image look either warmer or cooler.

Conclusion

Auto White Balance is a handy setting to have when you are unsure of what white balance would work for your scene. If you shoot in RAW, you can easily change your White Balance after the fact to find the best option.

If you want more control of your results, choose one of the camera white balance presets, already tailored for specific conditions, or create your own (custom white balance). Setting your white balance eliminates that extra post-processing step of fixing it from scene to scene and gives you more consistent results.

23 Star Struck Images of Celestial Subjects.

July 11th, 2018

A Post By: Darlene Hildebrandt

We can be star struck in more than one way. Celebrity sightings of famous Hollywood stars is one way, the other is by the celestial stars themselves – literally!

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Tips for Great Lighting for Pet Photography.

July 10th, 2018

A Post By: Mark C Hughes

Pet photography is both challenging and extremely rewarding. You may really enjoy taking pictures of your own pets but if you apply some of the general rules that apply to all pet photography with studio lighting, you can really help you up your game.

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3 Tips for Creating Double Exposures In-Camera Using Flash.

July 9th, 2018

Have you ever wondered how double exposures are done in digital cameras? I have. Back in film days, we knew that to double expose a frame, all you needed to do is rewind it back to the frame you have just exposed, thereby taking two separate shots using one frame of the film. Nowadays with digital SLRs, there is no film to re-expose and no rewind mechanism to go back to a previous photo so you can re-shoot on top of it. However, double exposure and multiple exposures can be done in post-production quite easily. But this little tutorial will focus on how to take double exposure in-camera using a digital camera.

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