Find Your Best Photos Using Lightroom Compare View

photos, coffee mugFor photographers who tend to capture a lot of photos, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which one is the best within a group of similar pictures or the photos of the same thing taken at different angles. This is where comparing the images becomes necessary. Comparison allows choosing the best images to edit in Lightroom.

If you take 500 snaps on a single shoot, you would definitely not want to develop them all. You would prefer to pick the best 20 or 25 photos and use your time and attention on developing them to their fullest potential. Adobe Photoshop’s Lightroom allows users to quickly compare the photos through the Compare View feature. Users can see the images side by side and decide which photo they want to use, edit or send to the client.

Lightroom Grid View

The starting point of using Compare View is the Grid View. First of all, you should select the photographs you are willing to compare. The first image you select is called the most selected image and it will feature a lighter frame than other images in the selection. Next, press the ‘C’ key on the keyboard to enter the Compare View. The most selected image is displayed on the leftmost. This photo is known as Select and the next photo is displayed on its right. This image is known as the Candidate.

Alternatively, users can select an image by clicking on it and then click on another image on the filmstrip to compare the first image with. Both the photos are then displayed side by side.

The Candidate photo can be changed using the arrow button to move to the next image in the Filmstrip. If you decide not to keep the Select image as the set image, it is possible to change the Select image using the Swap button. In this case, the Candidate image becomes the new Select image.

Info Overlay

Hitting the ‘I’ key on your keyboard displays the date and time the image was shot and the pixel size. Hitting the ‘I’ button again shows up other information like your camera settings, lens info and more. Press it once more and the information disappears.

If you select a photo and go to Compare View, the software uses the photo and the previously selected photo, last photo or the subsequent photo in the filmstrip. The Select image remains constant on the left while it is possible to choose different images for the Candidate. You can do this by using the left and right arrow buttons in the toolbar.

Compare View Icons

There are some icons under the images in Compare View. Here is what you can do with each of them.

Zoom

An interesting feature of Compare View is the ability to zoom in on your photograph which is not possible in other modes. This can be done using the Zoom option.

You can use key combinations like Ctrl+ to zoom in and Ctrl- to zoom out. When zooming in, you can have a closer inspection by clicking and dragging the image around.

Swap

This control can be used to change the image showing up in the Select panel. Swap button changes the Select image with the one in the Candidate panel. It is possible to swap the images by clicking on any of the photos in the filmstrip.

Make Select

Clicking on this option moves the currently selected image to the Select panel and make the next filmstrip image as the Candidate.

Clicking on the arrows for previous and next lets you move through the photos in the Candidate panel.

Link Focus

Resembling a clock in appearance, the Link focus option is quite useful for comparing images with a somewhat different composition. When you scroll through a zoomed image, the other image also moves. You can unlock the photo using the lock option to scroll around only one photo at a time.

Sync

When the Link Focus is unlocked, you can zoom into any of the images without touching the other. The Sync button can be used to bring the other photo into sync with the current one you are moving or zooming.

How to Use Lightroom Compare View

One of the major purposes of using Compare View is comparing similar images to figure out which photos you want to develop in the Develop Module. Another purpose can be comparing the photos that you have partly or fully developed before.

You can use the arrow buttons to move through the photos in your selection and Make Select and Swap options to compare various images. The learning curve is minimal and you can quickly work your way through tons of images using Lightroom Compare View.

Photographers use rating methods like star rating, flagging and color label to organize the images. This can be done in Compare View as well. Flagging is one of the simplest ways to rate the photos. Here is how you can do it. If you decide to develop an image, you can click the grey flag icon beneath the photo to flag it as a Pick.

You can leave the photos unpicked when you decide not to develop them. When you are done, you can return to the Grid View and select the Flagged option to delete all the useless photos and stop seeing them in the filmstrip.

Next, choose the Select All option from the Edit menu to select the flagged photos and send them to a collection which contains only those photos you want to develop using Lightroom.

Benefit from Lightroom’s powerful and handy features to filter through lots of photographs at a time. Getting rid of photos which are not useful or images which you have rejected is quite easy and quick. Doing this frees up a lot of memory and makes life convenient when it comes to going through filmstrip and searching for the right photos.

The INCREDIBLE Power of Luminosity Masks In Photoshop

flower, perfume bottlePost-processing has always remained an integral part of photography and with digital advancement, we have more possibilities than ever before, regardless of how hard you want to manipulate the photos. Luminosity Masks are one of the possibilities and is such a powerful technique that it is worth considering for everybody working with Photoshop.

Though these masks are not direct adjustments and don’t change anything by themselves, they are blended with adjustments like color balance, curves and others for better enhancements. Luminosity Masks are generally used by landscape photographers to create a dynamic range image through digital blending. The power and benefits of this technique lie in its ability to create a highly focused selection and its self-feathering profile.

What are Luminosity Masks?

In simple words, they are tone-based selections which make it possible to alter particular tones in a photo by making use of luminance value of a pixel and assigning a grey-scale value in the mask. A Luminosity Mask is essentially a gray-scale version of a photo but it is possible to refine it further by targeting dark, bright or midtone pixels.

There are three basic kinds of Luminosity Masks – Darks (Shadows), Midtones and Brights (Highlights). All these three types of masks can be tuned to create restricted selections. The initial selection is basically a gray-scale image representation but we change the number of targeted pixels by refining the masks further.

Why Use Luminosity Masks?

There are several benefits of using selective refinement but one of the most important is the flexibility of altering just the parts you need. Those who work with Photoshop would know that there are many ways to remove refinement with a mask like Quick Selection and Lasso Tool.

Though such tools work, they are not as precise as the luminosity mask. This technique allows a precise selection which results in a seamless transition from adjustment to non-adjustment portions and vice versa.

Color Adjustment

One of the most common ways of using Luminosity Masks is to make targeted selection to apply color adjustments to only the areas you are interested in. As this selection is made on the basis of the pixel luminance, you should not directly apply the adjustment on the layer but paint the adjustments in.

When applying a saturation adjustment to parts of your photo using luminosity masks, target the required areas first as others will be masked. Once done, apply the luminosity mask to the black layer while painting the areas of your interest with white.

Tonal Adjustment

Another amazing way to use luminosity masks is making a focused selection to apply the tonal adjustment. Luminosity masks give you the ability to recover the details in shadows or highlights in particular areas of the photo without affecting others.

Sharpening

Everybody has his unique way to achieve sharpening, whether they are high pass filter or unsharp mask. Many of us often simply apply an overall sharpening adjustment to the photo. It is possible to mask out the areas you need not sharpen using a layer mask but the unmasked areas get a total sharpening effect, causing the image to look slightly unnatural.

Using a luminosity mask is an ideal way to solve this problem. Applying the mask to the sharpening adjustment layer lets you achieve the desired result.

Here are the steps to do this:

1. Apply a sharpening adjustment layer and add a layer mask then fill it with black.

2. Select a luminosity mask covering the area you want to sharpen and get it on to the layer mask.

3. Use painting on the layer mask with a white brush on the parts you want to sharpen.

Dodge & Burn

Though used frequently in the darkroom, this technique is not so popular in digital photography. Dodge and Burn use white and black to brighten and lighten image parts. It is applicable to black-white as well as color images. Dodging & burning with luminosity masks is an extremely artistic and easy way to improve contrast and make the image pop.

Firstly, you create two layers named ‘burn’ and ‘dodge’ and fill both with 50 percent gray and then change the blend mode to overlay for dodge and soft light for burn. There is no magic formula that works here. All you need to do is focus on a single tiny part at a time. Select the part you want to burn or dodge and ignore the others. Then, find a luminosity mask targeting the particular area of your interest, load it onto the burn or dodge layer and apply adjustments. Once you get satisfactory results, move on to the other portions. You can always return and adjust the same part.

Working with Luminosity Masks

Once you get the main Luminosity Masks created, you can start making the adjustments with them. To work with Luminosity Masks, first, select the mask you wish to work with using the Ctrl button and clicking on the thumbnail. After making the selection, open the Curves Adjustment Layer. If you have used the Brights mask, you will find that the Layer Mask resembles the Brights mask. This means the adjustments you make will be applied to only the white parts on the mask.

Next, you can drag down the curve to darken the highlights. You will note that only the bright portions of the photo are affected. Try using Shift+click on the Layer Mask to reveal and hide and see the difference in refinement with and without the mask.

Luminosity Masks offer an excellent way to transform your images while maintaining the natural look. It can be applied to any type of photographs. The possibilities with luminosity masks are limited just by your imagination.

Using luminosity masks may sound difficult and confusing if you are new to Photoshop but that should not discourage you from utilizing the power of this technique. You can explore and use some of the most comprehensive tutorials available online to take advantage of these powerful tools which would soon take a natural place in your workflow.

6 Creative Tips to Improve Your Photography

creative paintChanging up your photography and thinking of new ideas is probably the most difficult part of being a creative photographer. Creativity is the most important skill to develop and seperates the amateurs from the professional photographers. So here’s a few ways to improve your photography and get better results.

1. Play with Focus Points

It’s common with most photographers to focus on the main subject in your photo and ensuring the whole of this subject is sharp, and this isn’t a bad practice and works well. For more interesting results try setting your aperture to the widest setting and focus on something behind or in front of the main subject. Another idea is to change the focus to manual and throw the whole image out of focus.

2. Get on the Ground

Changing your viewpoint can really make your images more eye catching and interesting. Taking every photo at eye level will give you a photo that the viewer sees over and over in other photos, but getting down on the ground or higher to show angles people don’t regulary see from can give great results.

3. Long Exposures

Using slower shutter speeds is quite common but there’s lots of ways of doing this. To get a slower shutter speed without overexposing there’s a few options, such as using high f numbers (narrow apertures) or using neutral density filters. Some ways of using these slower shutter speeds is for shooting rivers for example, which gives the water a nice smooth surreal effect. Also on a windy day you could find a field with crops moving in the wind for a cool effect.

4. Panoramas

Panoramas are great for getting in a lot more of the scene in your photos, and this technique is most commonly used for landscape shots. If you’re using a camera phone or a modern compact system camera for example, these often come with an inbuilt panorama mode where you simply move the camera left or right across the scene and the camera will do the rest. But if you’re using a camera without this option then there’s another way to do this. Firstly you need to avoid as much vertical movement and camera shake as possible, and next you simply take a photo then move to the left or right of this point and take another so this photo overlaps the previous by a tiny amount. Once you’ve taken a few photos the next step is editing them using photo editing software, but we won’t go into detail of how to do this, but simply put you will stitch all the photos together and the software should do a good job at doing all this.

5. Panning

Panning is very common in sports photography to capture moving subjects and is a good way to emphasize movement and speed of the subject by adding blur to the background while keeping the subject mostly sharp. It’s pretty simple to do and involves simply moving the camera with your subject keeping it in the same position in the lens and then taking the shot. You might need to play around with the shutter speeds a bit to get the right amount of blur and sharpness of the subject.

6. Surreal Effects

Creating surreal, unreal effects can give some striking results that will definitely keep the viewers attention. So here’s a couple of examples you could try out:

-Try out some levitating effects by getting your subject to jump in the air and use a fast shutter speed to capture them in mid air. It’s important to keep the subject as sharp as possible to make it appear like they aren’t moving and not so obvious they are jumping.

-Light painting is an interesting technique for more arty types of photos. All you need for this are dark conditions and some kind of light source. You will need a long exposure for this and all you simply do is move the light source around creating patterns while the camera is exposing, and this will create some interesting light trails in whatever shapes you choose.

-Infrared photography is not that common and can create some very unreal looking photos which you can’t possibly see with the human eye. This type of photo will show trees as whites and the sky as black for example. Some cameras come with this option built in so you’ll need to check if your camera has this or not.

34 Creative Photography Ideas

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to shoot next and looking for some inspiration, this article will hopefully give you a few creative ideas you can try out, whether you’re a full time professional or a beginner.

1: Write on different objects and photograph them

Photograph text on different objects, for example you could write in a book, on a banana skin or plastic bottle. Also you could try setting your camera to a 30 second exposure or bulb mode, and photograph the object as you write the text.

2: Create your own pinhole camera

A pinhole camera is essentially a light proof box with a hole in it, from which light from the scene projects on the opposite wall inside the box. You can create your own pinhole camera from common household materials, a useful instruction guide for making one can be found here.

3: Convert your photos to black and white or monochrome

An obvious idea but often overlooked, try converting your photos to black and white. This usually gives photos a more contrasting look, and works well with scenes with strong dark and light areas.

4: Remove all colour from your photo except for 1 or 2 colours

This can be done easily in Photoshop, simply turn the saturation down for the colours you want to remove from the photo, and leave 1 or 2 colours, or even increase their saturation slightly for a punchier look.

5: Photograph your food

Cook a dish of your favourite food and arrange it in a stylish way, then photograph it. You could do this for all of your meals for a week.

6: Create a photo illusion

Create a photo illusion such as a human in the foreground (close to the camera) eating a mountain in the distance (so it appears smaller) or more commonly done, place your index finger in the foreground with a human in the distance, so it appears you’re lifting them with your finger.

7: Photograph a water droplet

Take a photo of a water droplet landing in water, or you could try capturing the splash of an object landing in water.

8: Photograph a scene in a mirror

Try placing a mirror in front of your camera and taking a photo of the scene shown in the mirror instead of the scene head on.

9: Paint on a black and white photograph

You could try this with an old black and white photo (preferably not a valuable one), and paint colour on the photo so it looks like you would have imagined it to be, had it been in colour, or you could do this on a digital photo using paint tools in Photoshop.

10: Create a pattern of objects

Arranging identical objects into a pattern can make for an interesting shot, or you could duplicate the object in Photoshop with a bit of know-how.

11: Capture peoples lives

You may need to ask the permission of each person but photographing people as they go about their daily lives can get you some interesting photos.

12: Capture your own life

Take a self portrait of yourself in different situations throughout the day, emphasising the change in your surroundings, mood etc.

13: Take a photo of the night sky

Take a photo of the stars by using bulb mode on your camera and a remote shutter release to reduce camera shake from pressing the shutter. Or if you don’t have a remote shutter release you can use a timer with a 30 second exposure. You may need to experiment with different exposure times to get this right, and if you live in a city or light polluted area, an orange glow may show up on your photo with longer exposures, potentially ruining it.

14: Human figurine in different scenes

Try photographing a small human model figurine in different scenes, such as surrounded by fruit and vegetables, or even take it to work and photograph it in the different situations you find yourself.

15: Set objects on fire

You could try photographing things on fire such as a match or book, but take proper precautions when doing this.

16: Photograph abandoned ruins

Find a local abandoned building and photograph the remains.

17: Try using a film camera

An old film camera in particular would be best to use, since this will give you a more pronounced arty film camera style photo.

18: Car light trails

Try taking a long exposure of moving car headlights at night, a good place to do this is on a bridge above a road or next to it. Don’t limit it to just car lights though, you could try this with a Ferris wheel or fireworks also.

19: Shoot the same scene every day for a year

A good scene for this is usually a natural one with trees or anything that changes throughout the seasons. Also you could try taking a self portrait of yourself in that scene for a year, or even longer. It will take a while to complete, but is well worth the effort.

20: Close ups of every day objects

Take macro shots of every day objects you use, such as a pencil, food, or your clothing for some great photos.

21: Camera shake

Moving your camera intentionally while you photograph a subject can make for some interesting abstract shots. You will need a slower shutter speed for this, which you can experiment with until you get the desired effect.

22: Shadows

On a sunny day, try using a shadow as the main subject of your photo, such as for a portrait you could use the persons shadow as the main focus of the scene, while placing the person further to the edge of the photo.

23: Prism

Using a prism in front of your camera lens can give you some interesting abstract shots, and have unpredictable results.

24: Unfocused

Try putting your camera out of focus, this can be done with any subject, but works well with lights and uncomplicated scenes. To put your SLR out of focus, set the focus mode to manual, and then move the focus wheel until you get the desired photo.

25: Geocaching

The reason I chose to include this one is because some of the locations can be very interesting and you may come across places you never knew existed before, nearby to where you live. If you haven’t heard of it before, geocaching is like a treasure hunt on a global scale. Boxes are hidden in locations all around the world, and you can get the GPS coordinates for any of these, you then find one of the boxes at the coordinates provided, which should have some kind of treasure hidden inside, then you replace the treasure with your own and re hide the box. Check out the geocaching website for more information.

26: Homeless

Homeless people always make for a good photo, perhaps you could offer some money in return for a photograph of them.

27: Pick a theme

Choose a theme to photograph, such as trees, roads or shops etc. and shoot photos of all of the subjects you can find based on your theme.

28: Light Painting

Light painting involves taking a long exposure and moving a light source around in front of the camera while exposing. This can be done by moving the light around in mid air to create a kind of light painting, or you can point your light source at different parts of an object to give it an unreal kind of look.

29: Clone a person

Clone yourself or someone else so there are multiple copies of you in the same scene. Simply put, this is done by taking multiple exposures of the same scene with the person in different positions, and then merging all the photos together.

30: Use your phone

You can now take professional looking photos with just your phone. There are many apps available that you should consider using that will give you more options you would normally see on a DSLR. One recommended app if you’re an android user is Open Camera which includes options such as auto stabilizing, zoom, and the ability to set ISO and exposure.

31: Aerial photography

This idea involves lifting your camera with a kite or drone, although you will probably need a GoPro camera to do this due to their smaller size and weight. Also if you’re interested in using a drone, you can buy some with cameras already built in.

32: Tilt-shift

Tilt shift involves taking a photo of a real scene and making everything appear smaller, like a miniature model. There are a few ways to get this effect, such as using a tilt-shift lens and editing the photo in Photoshop, to blur parts of the photo. Some basics for taking a tilt-shift photo are, you will need a well lit scene, and the photo should be taken from above, since this is the view you would normally take a photo of a small model at.

33: Visit your local zoo

If you’re interested in wildlife photography, or would like to get started at it, go to your local zoo or safari park and practice your photography skills. This is a much easier option than waiting around to see the animals in the wild.

34: A-Z

Find something to photograph for each letter of the alphabet, or as an alternative find something that looks like each letter, for example a car wheel for the letter O.

Top 19 Photography Tips For Beginners

Tip 1: Use RAW File Format

This is one neat tip that you should learn from experimenting with your camera. A lot of cameras offer RAW, if yours has this feature, use it. The RAW file format stores more data and so allows you to capture more detail and colour enabling you more room for tweaking the settings in post production. This allows you to maintain a realistic look when editing files, which will make a whole lot of difference to the end result. Also all changes made to RAW files can be undone and restored to the original photo.

Tip 2: Light and Darkness

Before you take the shot, take a look at your subject for dark and light areas, such as shadows and strong sunlight, and try to include both of these in the photo as this should create a pleasing contrast. A good example of this would be dark clouds with shafts of sunlight appearing through, or with a portrait shot you may want to place the subject with a shadow across part of the face.

Tip 3: Composition

A simple tip for composition is using lead in lines, which are vertical lines starting near the bottom of your photo which lead up to the main subject of your photo. Try arranging your photo with a subject in the foreground area for a more interesting landscape photo. Also look out for contrasting areas such as shadows and highlights to shoot.

Tip 4: ISO

This requires a bit of practice when set manually, but as a general rule use the lowest ISO possible to get a sharp image. Increasing ISO gives you faster shutter speeds, which will allow you to take photos hand held in darker conditions and at night without using a tripod. Increasing ISO is also useful for using a smaller aperture, for example in a landscape photo. The negative side to this is, the higher you increase the ISO, the more noise you will add to your photos, although higher end cameras suffer less with this.

Tip 5: Try an ND Filter 

An ND (neutral density) filter is useful for taking photos with a slower shutter speed, such as when you want to add blur to your photo. By adding an ND filter, the amount of light entering the camera decreases which means the shutter speed also needs to be decreased in order to capture the photo at the correct exposure. An ND graduated filter can also be used to darken just part of the photo, and is usually used to darken clouds.

Tip 6: Flat Light

Light that has a small exposure range, more common on a cloudy day is known as flat light. These conditions are often bad for some types of photography such as landscapes, but can be good for portrait photography, by creating a more even, soft lighting, but you may want to add some flash if the conditions are too dim. In the event of flat lighting, you may want to look for very contrasting subjects, for example snow and a dark path.

Tip 7: Add Some Blur

Add some blur to your photo, or part of your photo for a more creative shot. A common subject that is often blurred is water, such as a river or waterfall. You can add blur by decreasing your shutter speed using ND filters and a smaller Aperture on your camera. When increasing the shutter speed, you will need to use a tripod to prevent any unwanted blur to the rest of your image.

Tip 8: Night Photography

Using bulb mode (B) you can take an exposure of more than 30 seconds, which is useful for taking photos in the dark. This is also useful for taking photographs of the sky at night, but make sure to remove any filters such as skylight or UV since these may produce flares or halos from light sources, which could be a problem if shooting for example in a lit up city.

Tip 9: Take Unique Photos

Take some different or unique looking photos by thinking outside of the box. Some different types of photography you could try are black and white photography, underwater photography and HDR photography. You could also try tweaking your camera settings to over or under expose your photos for a unique looking effect. You can do almost anything to your photos in Photoshop, such as removing all of the colour and just leaving one or two colours in, or adding a photo filter.

Tip 10: Burst Mode

Burst mode can be of use when capturing fast moving scenes, such as in sports. This mode captures photos in quick succession, and can be utilized by pressing and holding down the shutter button. Burst is useful for freezing movement and getting a sharp photo of a fast moving object, and more photos means you have a higher chance of getting the perfect shot. Also when you press the shutter button, this jerks the camera and so the first image may be blurry, but subsequent shots will be sharper.

Tip 11: Timing and Contrast

Different times of the day bring different conditions, and each have their own advantages, but generally the morning and evening has the most dramatic lighting conditions, since shadows are longer and the lighting is usually more colourful at these times. The time of the year also dictates different conditions, such as on a winter morning there may be fog and frost or snow which can create an interesting atmosphere and contrast. But in summer the sun is much higher in the sky and the shadows will be shorter and less dramatic.

Tip 12: HDR (High Dynamic Range)

High Dynamic Range (HDR) allows you to capture a larger range of colours and lighting from a scene and so capture more of the detail. An example of this is if you were to take a photo of a bright sky with a dark landscape below (likely the sky will be overexposed, or the landscape underexposed), but using HDR you can capture the sky and landscape at the correct exposures. For some useful software to create HDR photos, check out Photomatix.

Tip 13: Outdoor Flash

Flash is useful both indoors and out. On a dull, cloudy day, some fill in flash may come in useful to light up the scene, although this will only be useful in the foreground and works best with portraits. Also on a sunny day when taking a portrait the subjects face may be covered in a shadow, so some fill in flash will also be useful then to light up the face.

Tip 14: Manual Mode

Manual mode takes some time and work to master, but once you understand how to use aperture and shutter priority modes, it’s time to start using manual. This mode is useful for situations where the light level is consistent and you want to get the same exposure each time, without the camera automatically changing any settings between shots which is common in other modes. It will take a lot of trial and error to get the correct exposure at first, but with time you will learn what works in different situations.

Tip 15: Edit your photos

Editing your photos is frowned at by some people as unauthentic and unnatural, but almost any great photo will have been edited to some degree, whether it be, levels adjustment, saturation or simply cropping. There are more advanced tools available to use now, and one which I would recommend you to use is Lightroom. Some of the useful tools available in Lightroom are clarity, vibrance and black & white mix.

Tip 16: Find different angles

Don’t just take the photo from the first available location you can find, take a look around and test out different positions. You may get a more interesting shot from low on the ground or much higher up, or try getting in closer.

Tip 17: Use a Polarizing Filter

Probably one of the most useful filters you can buy is a polarizer. They can be used to remove reflections in things such as water and glass, and to enhance the colours in your photos. They are very useful for landscapes in particular, and will make the sky appear darker and more blue.

Tip 18: Take lots of shots

Don’t just take 1 shot and expect it to be the best you will get, there may be a slight blur or the focus may be off, which you may not see when reviewing the photo on your camera screen. Take lots of photos of the same subject, perhaps changing up the angle or camera settings for each shot, and you have a much better chance of getting that perfect shot.

Tip 19: Prevent Blur

Blurred photos is perhaps one of the most annoying and common things that can be prevented by taking some simple measures. A slow shutter speed is most commonly the cause of blurred photos, as a general rule you should aim to use a shutter speed at least equal to the focal length of your lens. For example if using a lens at a focal length of 50mm, you should aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/60, and this applies when you zoom in also, so if you zoom to 200mm you should aim for 1/250 at least.

Photography Basics For Beginners

This guide covers the basics of photography and should be useful for any beginner photographers wishing to gain a basic understanding of photography.

Part 1: Camera Modes

Auto
This mode is the easiest to use, everything is set automatically so all you need to do is point and shoot.

Manual
The most difficult mode to use, which allows you to set everything yourself such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

Program
This mode sets the shutter speed and aperture for you, but allows you to set the ISO.

Shutter Priority
Shutter priority allows you to set the shutter speed and ISO manually while the camera will set the aperture accordingly.

Aperture Priority
Aperture priority allows you to set the aperture and ISO manually while the camera sets the shutter speed.

Scene Modes
Most cameras have scene modes, which like auto mode set everything for you, but with more suitable settings for different scenes, such as landscape, portrait and night modes.

Part 2: Camera Settings

There are three important settings on an SLR camera that everyone should learn. They are aperture, ISO and shutter speed, and changing any one of these will affect the exposure of your photo.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time light is allowed into your camera and exposed to the image sensor. The shutter speed all depends on how much light there is in your surrounding, such as on a very sunny day you can use a much faster shutter speed, since this is all that is needed to get the correct exposure. If the weather was cloudy, or towards the evening when it’s darker, you may need a much slower shutter speed to get the same exposure as on a much sunnier day.

There is also a minimum shutter speed you should use when taking photos hand held to avoid your photos blurring caused by camera shake from your hands. The minimum shutter speed as a rough guide should be equal to or slightly more than your focal length, so if your focal length is 50mm you will need a minimum shutter speed of at least 1/60 to avoid blur.

Aperture

Aperture is the amount of light that’s let into the camera, controlled by the size of the opening inside the lens. It is measured using f stops, so the higher the f number the less light is let into the camera e.g. f/16, and the lower the number the more light e.g. f/1.4. Aperture’s main use is for changing the depth of field, which dictates how much of the scene is detailed and in focus.

Different apertures are useful for different subjects, such as if you want to focus on one subject in the foreground like a model, and have the background blurred, you would use a wider aperture, such as f/1.4, but for landscapes where you want all of the scene in focus, you would need a narrower aperture such as f/11 to f/16. Although it seems counter intuitive, narrower apertures are higher f numbers, and wider apertures lower f numbers.

Aperture also affects the shutter speed, so the larger the f number, the less light is let in, and so you would need a longer shutter speed than a smaller f number, which would allow a lot more light in.

ISO

ISO is the film speed of the camera and the sensitivity to light. Before digital cameras, film cameras used films that had a rating on them of say 100, 200, 400 etc. which were useful for different situations, such as 100 for taking photos outdoors and 800 for indoors. The same rules still apply to digital cameras, but without the film. Higher ISO numbers will increase the cameras sensitivity to light and therefore give you a lighter photo and allow you to use faster shutter speeds.

A higher ISO is useful for taking photos in darker conditions, such as at night where if you tried to use an ISO of 100 and hand hold the camera, the photo would almost certainly come out blurred. But if you use a much higher ISO of say 1600, you would be able to use a much faster shutter speed and therefore capture a sharp photo.

The downside to higher ISO is the quality of the photo suffers, and it will come out more grainy or noisy, so usually you will want to use the lowest ISO possible to capture the photo.

Exposure Compensation

This setting is useful for situations in which the camera doesn’t get the exposure quite right, and you want a easy way of changing it. Scenes that have very contrasting colours, such as dark blacks and bright whites are commonly exposed wrong, a common example of this is snow which is usually underexposed. To rectify this simply change the exposure compensation to +1 or +2 or until the snow exposes correctly.

Flash Modes

Flash is useful both indoors and out, and is usually used when you need to light up areas in the foreground. Indoors in can be useful for lighting up a room, where it’s often too dark to get a good exposure, or outside it can be used to fill in shadowy areas in the foreground.

No flash
Flash will not fire.

Forced flash
Flash will fire every time, in any conditions.

Auto flash
The flash will fire whenever the camera decides it’s necessary because there isn’t enough light.

Auto flash with red eye reduction
The same as auto, except two flashes occur in order to minimize the chance of red eye.

Slow sync
This mode uses a slower shutter speed so the background of the photo where the flash doesn’t reach is exposed properly, because this is often underexposed when using flash.

White Balance

If you’ve ever taken a picture and it looks either too blue or orange, this is what white balance is. Different types of lighting give different colour temperatures, which are measured on a temperature scale in kelvin. An example of this is candle light, which will give you a very warm, orange colour cast to your photo, whereas a cloudy sky during the day will give you a much colder, blue colour cast.

Some of the optional white balance settings are-

Auto
The easiest option and will give good results in most situations, but you may get different results between shots.

Tungsten
This is useful for most indoor lighting and adds more cool colours.

Fluorescent
Adds more warm colour to the photo.

Daylight
The midday sun gives a very neutral light, so this mode leaves the colours looking neutral.

Cloudy
Slightly warms up the photo, because cloud gives a more cool colour cast.

Shade
Shade gives a cool colour cast, so this mode adds some warmth.

Flash
Flash has quite a cool light, so this adds some warmth.

Histogram

The histogram is a useful tool which shows you the tonal range of your photos from the black tones to white tones. The graph displays the amount of each tone in the photo, with the darkest tones on the left and the lightest on the right. So if the graph has large peaks to the left of it, this means the photo has a lot of dark areas, which could mean the photo is underexposed, whereas large peaks to the right means there are lots of lighter tones, which could mean the photo is overexposed. But peaks in the middle of the graph indicate the photo has a lot of midtones present.

Every photo displays a different histogram, and there is no perfect one. What many people think is an ideal histogram would have peaks in the middle of the graph, with some at either end, but this all depends on what you’re trying to capture, such as a high contrast black and white photo would show peaks at either end, with little in the middle.

One more thing to look out for is for tones that are touching either edge of the histogram, which means those tones are being clipped and therefore details will be lost.

Part 3: Composition

The Rule Of Thirds

The most commonly known and probably the first composition technique that every photographer learns is the rule of thirds. This rule involves splitting the scene into thirds with two horizontal and two vertical lines, and then placing points of interest at one of the four intersecting points or along the lines.

For example in a landscape shot you may want to place the horizon along one of the two horizontal lines, or for a portrait, place the person at one of the four intersecting points. The subject doesn’t have to be exactly on a point or line either, but close by to them is acceptable for the rule to still apply. This is more of a guide than a rule though, and you will find many of your photos deviate from this with decent results.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are useful for drawing the viewers eye into your photo, and for adding an element of depth. Most lines usually start at or near the bottom of the photo, such as a photo taken standing in the middle of a footpath or road is very common.

Balance

A balanced photo is an important part of photography, and every photographer tries to achieve this whether consciously or not. Not every photo needs to be balanced, and sometimes an unbalanced photo can work as well as a balanced one. If you split your image down the middle vertically, as a general rule you want to have equal parts of a scene on the left and right, although this isn’t necessary for the top and bottom parts of an image.

12 Black and White Photography Tips

A long time ago photographers didn’t have the choice of using colour, so they were forced to take all their photos in black and white. Now that colour photography is here, some have started migrating back to black and white, perhaps unimpressed by the realistic, down-to-earth feeling colour photos give. However, even black and white photography enthusiasts still take some of their photos in colour, because it is better suited for some subjects.

Tip 1: Visualize In Black And White

Visualizing how a scene would look in B&W is key to being successful at black and white photography. First try visualizing how the contrasting textures and tones will translate into black and white. Contrasting colours won’t necessarily equal contrasting shades of grey though, some contrasting colours are very similar shades in black and white, but with a bit of practice you’ll be taking eye catching photos in no time. You don’t need to take every photo in black and white, eventually you’ll learn what works better in black and white and what works better in colour. To get some practice you could try converting all your old colour photos into black and white in Photoshop and you’ll soon work out what works and what doesn’t.

Tip 2: Choosing A Subject

Certain subjects are more suited for black and white, while others are more dramatic left in colour. Scenes with very strong, contrasting colours, like autumn foliage or a sunset make a much better image leaving the colours in, and converting to black and white can create a dull image with very little contrast. Some good subjects that work well in black and white are portraits of people, because this better emphasizes the shapes and lines of the subjects face, older people are especially good for this. Older, vintage items work well in black and white also, and often create a vintage looking photo that looks like it was taken decades ago. Also, snowy winter landscapes have lots of contrasting tones and textures which work very well in black and white.

Tip 3: Composing The Shot

All the same composition rules that apply to colour photography such as lead in lines and the rule of thirds also apply to black and white. But there’s a few differences in what you need to look for in the scene. For a colour photo you will usually be looking for strong, contrasting colours but for black and white you should focus more on textures and how the different colour tones will look in black and white. Some things to look out for are simple, strong shapes and very high and low key areas such as sunlight through clouds and dark shadows.

Tip 4: Contrast, Shape And Texture

For black and white photography you’re relying on a range of shades of grey, and so the larger the range, the more contrast and eye catching your image will turn out. A good image would usually have a large range of shades of grey, but a mostly high key or low key (light or dark) shot works well also. Also take note that strong contrasting colours doesn’t always translate to contrasting blacks and whites, for example reds and greens when converted tend to come out similar shades of grey. Also look out for simple shapes, which are often defined by the contrast between dark, shadowy areas and lighter areas of the photo. Texture is also an important part of black and white photography, some good subjects to include are clouds or waves breaking on a beach. Texture is best emphasized by side or backlighting (facing towards the light source), but if you use frontlighting (the light source behind you), you can often lose a lot of the texture.

Tip 5: Keep It Simple

Don’t clutter your photo with lots of unnecessary, distracting objects. Using black and white is all about removing the endless range of colours which can be distracting, and instead focusing on the simple shapes and form of your subject. This is a good tip when taking portraits, try removing any objects in the background, and blur it using a small F number then focus on the subjects face.

Tip 6: Use Colour

Always take your photos in colour, because image editing software like Photoshop can convert your photos much better than your camera. Also you have more options when editing them to adjust settings like black and white mix, which you can’t do if the camera takes them in black and white, because all the colour information is discarded. If you want to take the photo in black and white, a way around this is to set the image mode to JPEG and Raw which will give you a JPEG in black and white and a Raw file with all the original colour information.

Tip 7: Filters

To get the most out of your black and white photos it’s useful to learn when and what filters to use. When shooting in colour, a polarizer is useful for bringing out colour contrast such as clouds against a blue sky. Also very useful is an ND graduated filter, which is usually used to stop the sky from overexposing and the details being washed out. Single colour filters are a good option for bringing out more contrast, especially in the sky. They come in a range of colours such as red, orange and yellow. The red filter will give you the strongest effect by turning blue skies very dark and outputting very dramatic photos, although this can be too much for some people. The yellow filter is the weakest and doesn’t always give enough of an effect, but the orange filter should be a good choice for most scenes. If you don’t want to carry colour filters around, an alternative is to use colour filter modes, which is an option most DSLR’s give of replicating the effect of the filters in-camera.

Tip 8: Lighting

The positioning of your light source is very important because this determines if shadows are in the scene on your photo or not. Shooting towards the sun when it’s low in the sky will emphasize the long shadows your subject creates, and can act as lead in lines which is a bonus. For portrait photography generally you want back or sidelighting, because although frontlighting will fully light up the subject, you lose some of the texture and often create a more uninteresting photo. If you choose to use backlighting for your subject, depending on the position of the sun they will probably end up hidden in shadow, but a way to remedy this is to use some fill in flash although this will remove the shadows you wanted to create in the first place.

Tip 9: Flat Light

Flat light is every photographers nightmare, and for some subjects in these conditions you might not be able to get a decent shot, but if you look for light and dark contrasting areas you can still make it work. For example, mist and snow works well to create lighter areas, and rocks, footpaths and roads make a good contrast with these.

Tip 10: HDR

Black and white relies heavily on the range of tones in the image, so to make the most of this, taking a few images at different exposures and combining them will give you many more tones to work with, and this often creates a more dramatic photo. You can do this by using an in-camera setting if yours has one for taking multiple exposures, or by combining multiple exposures in Photoshop using layer blending modes.

Tip 11: ISO

In black and white there’s no right setting concerning ISO. Depending how high or low you set your ISO, you will get a more or less grainy image, with higher ISO settings giving more grain. On newer, higher end cameras this is dealt with a lot better and you would need a much higher ISO to notice any grain than on a cheaper camera. But grain can add an old, vintage look to your photo which is sometimes desirable, but once you’ve made the choice there’s no undoing it, so grain is probably best added in post production.

Tip 12: Post Production

Rarely will you achieve an acceptable image just by converting it to black and white, almost all images need at least some adjusting in editing software. Probably the most popular applications used for image editing are Photoshop and Lightroom.

Here’s a few black and white photography tips for editing your photos in Lightroom

  • Try increasing the clarity, this should bring out the details better, giving your photos a more sharp, contrasty, realistic look.
  • The black and white sliders are useful for increasing or decreasing the brightness of the blacks and whites, which is useful for getting those dark blacks and bright whites,
  • If you capture your photo in colour or RAW format, with the black and white mix you can change the tones of the blacks and whites for each colour, for example moving the red slider changes the black or white intensity of all the reds from the original colour photo.


Here’s a few black and white photography tips for editing your photos in Photoshop

  • The black and white adjustment tool is great for adjusting the brightness of each colour. This tool gives you 6 colour sliders, which you can move to make the corresponding colour lighter or darker in black and white.
  • The levels adjustment tool is useful for changing the brightness of the shadows, midtones and highlights individually, and so you can use this to make a more dramatic photo by making the shadows dark blacks and the highlights bright whites.
  • If you don’t have a newer version of Photoshop, you can use the channel mixer tool instead of the black and white adjustment tool. This tool gives you the ability to change the brightness of 3 colours- red, blue and green, but if you have a newer version the black and white adjustment tool is a better option with 6 colour sliders.

10 Landscape Photography Tips

If you don’t know what to look for in a landscape to create your final shot you could end up disappointed with the results, even in perfect locations. These tips will hopefully give you some new ideas to capture the best landscape shot possible.

Tip 1: Location

Location is key to a good landscape photo, so if you’re in a bad location you’ll probably end up with a bad shot. Finding a good location is one of the biggest challenges for landscape photographers, but there are a few websites that can help you find the perfect place for your shot.

Shot Hotspot
With Shot Hotspot you can type in a location to search for hotspots in that area, after that it displays a map with hotspot points, then you click on one to view photos taken in that area. You can also filter the location by type, such as landscape, nature and urban.

MapMyPhoto
MapMyPhoto is similar to Shot Hotspot in that you type in a location to find hotspots in that area, and then a map is displayed with hotspot points which you can click on to view photos taken of that location. This website also has the ability to search by type, such as landmark, landscape and nature, but also gives the option to search by what lens is required to take the photo, such as wide angle and telephoto.

For more ideas on locations worth shooting, you could simply browse google images or a photo sharing website such as Flickr for some landscape shots you like, then take a note of where they were shot. A good location doesn’t always equal a great photo though, because there are many things such as smells and sounds that the camera won’t pick up.

 

Tip 2: Background

First try and find a viewpoint that catches your attention. Once you’ve found one, you can start looking at the background and composition. Try to find a key subject to include in the background, such as a big building or mountains that catch your eye.

Tip 3: Foreground

After you’ve chosen your background subject, look for some objects in the foreground to include.

Here’s a few ideas for your foreground:

  • If you’re on a beach perhaps a sun lounger or a washed up buoy.
  • A large rock or tree is a good choice with mountains in the background.
  • A river or waterfall.

 

Tip 4: Arranging The Elements

A good tip to catch the viewers attention is to have one focal point in your image, which is the main, and usually most interesting subject in your image. When you’ve chosen your foreground and background subjects they need positioning in your shot, and for this you can use lead in lines and the rules of thirds. Lead in lines are useful for draw the viewers eye into the image, usually from the foreground to the focal point of your image. These are usually vertical lines beginning at the bottom of your image moving up towards or into the focal point. Some examples of common lead in lines are roads, fences and shorelines. Next you can use the rule of thirds to place your foreground subject at one of the intersecting lines at the bottom, and your background on the line a third from the top or at an intersecting point. Finally, with landscape shots you may want to show a sense of scale in the photo, for example if you have mountains in the background you could try including some trees or a building below them. These rules are really just guidelines, but they are useful to create an image that’s pleasing to the eye.

 

Tip 5: Lighting

Lighting is a big factor which can make or break a photo, but unfortunately it’s out of our control, so watching the weather forecast and predicting what the conditions will be like is well worth your time if you’re serious about landscape photography. The best times to shoot a photo, especially for landscapes are at sunrise and sunset. The light created at these times is often much warmer and dramatic, creates long shadows, and emphasizes forms and textures. The light at midday is often a lot flatter than at sunset and sunrise, especially in summer, and you will usually get a much cooler white balance to your photo at this time of day. If the light is flat, which is common on an overcast and cloudy day, you’ll struggle to get a good landscape shot and it may be worth waiting for the sun to appear. In the event of flat light there are some subjects you can photograph that work well in these conditions, such as plants and macro photography.

 

Tip 6: Exposure

A common problem with landscape shots is getting the sky and landscape at the correct exposures, because often the sky is a lot brighter than the landscape and so the camera will underexpose the shot to compensate, which makes the landscape too dark, and details lost. There’s a few ways to overcome this, one of which involves taking different exposures of the same shot, (which you’ll need a tripod for) then combining them in Photoshop. Another option is using an ND graduated filter to make the sky darker, and then the image should expose correctly.

Tip 7: Evaluate

Take a look at all the photos you’ve taken in the past and evaluate all their strengths and weaknesses. You can start with evaluating the most important technical details such as shutter speed, aperture and exposure and decide whether you would change any of them if you were to shoot them again. This is a useful practice for learning what settings work for different scenes, and eventually you will know what settings to use automatically. Take a look at the composition and think of ways you could compose it differently- you could try cropping your photo if there’s a lot of wasted space, or your main subjects aren’t quite catching your attention. If your photo doesn’t conform to the rule of thirds and looks unbalanced or not quite right, cropping your photo to move the subjects onto the lines and intersecting points could improve your photo substantially. Finally take a look at the weather and lighting in your photos, perhaps the light is very weak, and waiting longer for a gap in the clouds would’ve lit the scene up better.

Tip 8: Get Creative

By simply tweaking a few camera settings you can change the whole focus and look of your shot. If you want to add a bit of movement to your photos, for example if you’re photographing long grass and it’s a windy day, you can try blurring it to give the appearance of motion by simply using a slower shutter speed. Also you could try this with moving water, such as a waterfall or river to give it a smooth and unreal look. When using a slower shutter speed you need to use a tripod to keep the rest of your image sharp. To get a slower shutter speed there are a few options, such as using a smaller aperture, decreasing the ISO if you can, or using an ND filter to reduce the amount of light going through the lens. Also playing around with the aperture (using a wider aperture) can create some interesting results by only focusing on part of your landscape, while blurring the rest of the scene.

 

Tip 9: Filters

To get the most out of your scene, and capture all the colours and details possible, learning to use different filters is a good idea. The two most important ones for landscapes are the ND grad and polarizer. The ND grad is useful for darkening a part of your image, which is usually the sky because this often overexposes, being a lot brighter than the landscape, so this filter will balance out the exposure across your image and ensure no details are lost in the sky or landscape. Also useful is the polarizer filter, which slightly darkens your photo, but it’s main use in landscapes is for removing reflections such as water reflections and increasing the saturation, for example a blue sky will appear a lot darker and bluer.

 

Tip 10: Camera Settings

  • Always use RAW or RAW+JPEG if you do a lot of post processing.
  • Aperture priority mode is the best option for landscapes, because you will be changing the aperture for every photo, or full manual mode is even better if you know what you’re doing.
  • Use the lowest ISO possible to reduce the amount of grain in your photos.
  • Your shutter speed should always be at least equal to your focal length to avoid blur, for example a 50mm focal length should have a shutter speed of at least 1/60s.

12 Portrait Photography Tips

Tip 1: Preparation

Before you start shooting your portraits you need to do some planning, which is essential if you want the shoot to go well and get the photos you visualized. First you need to find a model, but you don’t necessarily need to pay for an expensive model, instead you could take a self portrait or get a friend to help out. Some things to consider before the shoot are the weather, which could ruin your shoot if you don’t plan ahead, also some locations you may need permission to shoot at, and you should find this out before the shoot. A few more things to consider are- do you have clothes for the model or will they be using their own, also do they have somewhere to get changed and do their make-up and hair.

Tip 2: Vision

Before you decide on a model or location you should think about the photo you’re trying to create. The first step is picking a theme for your photos, such as business, glamour, holiday, travel, nature, sports, self portrait or abstract. If you need some inspiration for a theme, you could try searching the internet or magazines for ideas.

Tip 3: Model

If you’re looking at paying a professional model to work for you, there’s many websites you can use to get in contact with one. If you’re on a budget though, you can always do a self portrait, by simply setting up your camera on a tripod and using remote shutter release or a timer. Also a good alternative is to get a friend to model for you. After you’ve got your model, on the day of the shoot you’ll need to consider the models hair and make-up. You could hire a make-up artist for this, but most models will probably be able to do a good job themselves. For the models clothes you need to think about the theme of the shoot which you should’ve decided on by now. If your theme is a business theme, appropriate clothing would be a business suit. Also you should consider any props you might want, so for a business theme a briefcase or phone would work.

Tip 4: Location

The location you choose needs to fit in with the theme of the shoot. If you’re dressing your model up in a tuxedo, shooting them sunbathing on a beach would look very strange, so you should be thinking of locations like fancy restaurants. For example if you decided on a western American theme, a good location would be somewhere arid like a desert. Before you take the model to your location to shoot, you should take a look around before hand and perhaps take some photos to get an idea of areas you want to use.

Tip 5: Taking The Shot

Once the day of the shoot arrives you should be well prepared for any eventuality, and have a plan in your mind for each shot. Don’t pick a location and take just one or two shots at the same angle, move around to new locations and try zooming in or including more of the model in the photo. Also you’ll need to think about any poses you want your model to do, because they’ll be expecting you to tell them what to do. If you’re stuck for ideas on poses, try browsing through other peoples work on photo sharing websites.

Tip 6: Camera Settings

The best modes for portrait photography are aperture priority or manual mode. Shutter priority wouldn’t be a good idea, because in this mode aperture is set automatically, and the aperture needs to be set manually for portraits. Usually portraits use a wide or the widest aperture (smaller F number), because this puts all the focus onto the model and blurs the background. Your shutter speed is also important, because a badly set shutter speed can equal a blurred and ruined photo, which you may not notice until you upload them to your computer. The shutter speed should be equal or more than the focal length of your lens, so with a focal length of 85mm you should aim for at least 1/125s shutter speed. For your ISO, use the lowest possible setting. The ISO can be increased if you need a faster shutter speed to avoid blur, but higher ISO equals a more grainy photo. If the conditions you’re shooting in are dark you should consider using a tripod so you can use a lower ISO, but then you need to take into account the model moving when using slower shutter speeds, so a higher ISO and faster shutter speed may be needed.

Tip 7: Lenses

Lens choice is an important part of portrait photography. Some lenses are more suited for portraits than others, and will give you different effects. A telephoto or zoom lens is the most common choice, because using a longer focal length gives a smaller depth of field, so they blur out the background a lot better than a wide angle lens would. If you use a wide angle lens for portraits the background will be a lot sharper and not give the nice background blur effect that a longer focal length gives. Also wide angle tends to warp photos, which is often the intended effect for landscapes or architecture photography, but for portraits this isn’t a good idea since it will warp the models face and make the closest parts of the model to the camera appear bigger, which is usually the nose.

Tip 8: Outdoors

If you’re taking your photos outdoors don’t face the subject to the sun, thinking it’s a good idea to light up the models face and avoid shadows, in reality you will end up with a dull and flat photo. Placing the sun behind or to the side of the model will have a more dramatic look, or even in the shade. If the models face appears too dark you can then overexpose the image or use some fill in flash.

Tip 9: Model Release

Make sure you get the model to sign a release, because if you don’t you won’t be able to use the photos for anything, and they’ll stay sitting on your hard drive forever.

Tip 10: Flash

Never use on camera flash for your photos, because this often creates a flat light and will probably ruin your photo. The problem with on camera flash is it shoots a flash of light from a very small area, and when this hits the subject head on it usually creates a harsh, shadowy area around them. If you’re serious about portrait photography you should think about investing in a flashgun. Flash guns are much better than on camera flash, because of the bigger light source and the use of a diffuser, which spreads the light over a much larger area and gives you a softer light. Flash is often only used in doors when the conditions are too dark, but the best time to use it is outside as a fill in, when your subject is in shadow or underexposed.

Tip 11: Focus

If you’re using a wide aperture it will be harder to get all of the face in focus, and sometimes you won’t want the whole face in focus. But if you do, it’s best to use a single AF point and then focus on the eyes. You can do this by first composing your shot and then move your camera to the eyes, then press the shutter button down halfway to focus, then while keeping the shutter half pressed down, recompose and take the photo.

Tip 12: Get To Know Your Model

Making the model feel comfortable is important, and it will benefit your photos by giving them the freedom to show their emotions and appear more natural. So get to know your model by talking and being friendly and you’ll be rewarded with better photos.

Essential Camera Filters Guide

There are many filters that are useful for different situations and types of photography, but there are two filters that are a must have for every serious photographer, and they are the ND grad and polariser filters. But do we really need to use filters now that we can recreate their effects in-camera, using Photoshop and even on smartphones?

Filter Types

As a rough guide, there are two types of filters- coloured filters and light adjusting filters. Coloured filters can be easily replicated in software such as Photoshop, whereas light adjusting filters such as the polariser it’s not so easy to. Two types of coloured filters are colour cast filters, such as warming and cooling filters and black and white coloured filters. Examples of light modifying filters are the polariser, UV and ND filters. Filters come in different types, the cheapest of which are resin filters, and the more expensive, higher quality glass filters. Coated filters are much higher quality than uncoated, and give additional benefits such as reducing flare, scratches and water repellent properties. If you’re looking to buy a filter, Cokin and Lee filters are probably the two most popular and best brands you should take a look at.

  • Circular filters are the most common type of filter, and can be mounted straight onto the lens. Some examples of filters that come in circular form are polarisers, UV, ND and colour filters.
  • Slot in filters are most often used for landscape photography, and can be stacked on top of each other. They are slotted into a filter holder that is attached to the lens by an adaptor ring.

ND Grads

ND Grad filters are almost always used to darken the sky in landscape photos, because the sky is often much lighter than the rest of the image, and so will usually overexpose or the rest of the image underexpose to compensate. Overexposing the sky can result in lost details and contrast, and so to remedy this an ND Grad is used to darken the sky and so balance the brightness between sky and land and expose the whole photo correctly. Graduated filters are half clear and half tinted to reduce the amount of light entering, and they come in strengths according to their light blocking ability, for example x2, x4 and x8 which translates to one, two and three stops of light blockage.

ND Filters

As opposed to ND grad filters, neutral density filters reduce the amount of light for the whole of the image and so are useful for different situations. If you need a long exposure and using a smaller aperture and ISO isn’t an option, an ND filter will enable you to do this, even in daylight. They are often used to add blur or create a smooth water effect, which is done taking a long exposure of a waterfall or river.

Polarisers

Polarisers are probably the most useful filter which everyone should have one of. They are often used to increase saturation, and especially useful for creating dark blue skies. Polarisers can also reduce reflections in water or glass etc. by reducing the amount of reflected light going through the filter. They can also be used as a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, which equates to about two to three F stops of light. For the best effects the camera needs to be pointing in a direction about 90 degrees from the sun, but if you point the camera directly towards the sun you might not notice any effects at all. You can then rotate the filter and you will notice reflections and saturation changing as you rotate.

UV Filters

Ultraviolet light can’t be seen by the naked eye, but some of the effects of it can. When UV light interacts with air, it creates a haze that you often see in landscapes in the distance. A UV filter can help reduce this haze, and as a result increase the contrast. A lot of good lenses filter UV to a degree, but it is also worth investing in a UV filter. A lot of photographers use UV filters as a lens protector, which is kept on all the time to reduce dust and scratches from reaching the lens, and can be replaced a lot cheaper than a lens. The negatives of UV filters are cheap ones can reduce the image quality and contrast and increase the chances of flares.

Protector

These are clear filters that are designed to protect your lens from dirt, scratches and bumps. They don’t modify the light entering through them, but buying a quality one is essential if you want the best image quality possible.

White Balance Filters

Cooling and warming filters are used to change the white balance of your photo, and correct any colour casts. They are not used as much now as they were in the film camera era, due to advanced in-camera white balance settings and post processing which can correct this problem easily. But in some rare situations where the camera isn’t able to fully correct the white balance, a filter could come in handy.

Black And White Filters

The problem with black and white photography is when converting contrasting colours to black and white, they often don’t retain the same contrast and turn out differently to what you expected. Filters for black and white photography come in a range of colours, most commonly red, orange, yellow, green and blue. They work by reducing the amount of light from all the other colours except the filter colour, and have the effect of increasing the brightness of the corresponding filter colour in the scene. For example using a green filter would increase the brightness of all the green things in the scene, such as foliage and make it appear a lighter grey or white, while decreasing the brightness of all the other colours making them appear as dark greys to blacks. Red filters are known for creating the most dramatic effect, and in landscape photos will turn a blue sky and clouds very dark and contrasty. However yellow filters have the weakest effect of all the filters, and are useful for slightly increasing contrast in the sky and are good for foliage. The orange filter is probably the most commonly used, and strikes a good balance between the red and yellow filters, and is useful for portraits, urban and landscape photos.

Close-up Filter

Close-up filters magnify your subject much like a magnifying glass, and allow you to take shots closer to your subject, which is useful for macro photography. The focus distance capabilities of your camera then moves a lot closer, so if you try using one of these filters for anything further away, it might not be possible to focus.

Soft Focus

Soft focus filters reduce the sharpness in your image, and are especially useful for portrait photos to reduce the appearance of blemishes and give the skin a soft and smooth look.