Image Management in Lightroom

One of the key areas that we will be focusing during our upcoming post-processing workshops, is image management and its effect on your workflow process. Unfortunately, many of us end up using Lightroom just for editing images and might not be aware of the powerful filtering and image management tools built right into the software. Before I started using Lightroom, I used to have a very messy folder structure in my computer, with images residing in multiple folders and several drives. I never really bothered to organize images in my file system, because there was no good way to do it – most operating systems cannot even properly read image EXIF data and lack built-in functionality to effectively sort through thousands of images. After discovering Lightroom, I was able to finally organize all of my images in my computer and once I developed a good methodology, I have been using the same process successfully for many years now. I wrote a detailed guide on this a while ago in my “how to organize images in Lightroom” article, where I go into more details on the import process. In short, if you have a messy folder structure today, I highly recommend that you organize it as soon as possible. Not only will it save you from a lot of headaches when searching for a particular image, but it will also standardize your workflow process and make your backup process simple.

I recorded a video earlier today, where I demonstrate the image management capabilities of Lightroom and talk about why you should be managing your files directly from Lightroom rather than your operating system. Here is the video:

For those that cannot watch the video, I will soon be updating my article on organizing images in Lightroom for the latest version and include many of the notes from the above video.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below. I hope you find the above video useful and I hope it will motivate you to re-organize your photo library.

Tips on Photographing Food Outdoors

Food can be photographed anywhere and anytime, given that a photographer has the right tools for the project. Photographing in a controlled environment indoors like in a full professional studio or a mini self-made studio can take a lot of effort to set up and can be very costly. But what if you do not have the required tools for the job or cannot afford a good lighting setup initially? You resort to using natural daylight, which is free for all, thankfully. And while daylight is available for us every day to use, it can be challenging to work with. In this short article, I will provide some tips on photographing food outdoors and talk about using very inexpensive tools that will make a huge difference when dealing with harsh lighting.

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1) Timing

If you are planning to photograph outdoors for a paid gig or as a personal project, your first step is to time the photo shoot correctly. While there are some great tools available that will come to your rescue if need be, selecting a desirable time of the day to photograph the process will always give you more flexibility and quicker results. Generally, food photography calls for soft, less contrasted and very appetizing frames. To achieve such look in a natural environment, pick a time during early mornings or late afternoons, when the light is very soft and the sun is not too direct and harsh. If it is a cloudy day, that’s even better, since clouds do an excellent job of diffusing light (with clouds, you can shoot any time of the day, no matter where you are). Simple and basic, but it works!

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How to Photograph Family Portraits

Of all things photography I love photographing family portraits. For me, family portraiture is generally more flexible than any other type of photography, and it gives me lots of opportunities to express my creativity. If you are thinking about getting into family portraiture or perhaps someone asked you to photograph their family, you might not know where to start and how to plan it all out. In this article, I will talk about photographing family portraits and provide some tips on simple things you can do to come back with photos that the family will treasure for years to come.

Family Portraits

1) Communication

It goes without saying that communication is key in people photography. From the day you receive the first e-mail from the client, make sure that you stay continuously engaged. Respond to inquiries promptly and keep your clients informed at all times, especially on any potential schedule changes. Portrait sessions are not weddings and there is always a chance that your client might forget when and where the photo shoot is supposed to take place. Therefore, put some reminders in your calendar to notify your client several days in advance about the upcoming session. I typically remind my clients about a week in advance via email, phone or Facebook first, then send another reminder the day before the session. If my client does not respond, I call them and make sure that they get my message. Effective communication is important for a busy pro, because the schedule can get packed very quickly. Rescheduling a missed photo shoot can get costly, especially if you have that one weekend day planned for a family outing.

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How to Use a Reflector

In the world of photography, nothing happens without light. In most cases, there are two types of light that photographers work with: natural light and artificial light. Although I often find myself using artificial light sources, I prefer using natural light whenever possible and consider myself to be a natural light photographer. One of the tools that has made the biggest difference to my natural light photography (and, for that matter, studio photography) is a reflector. In this guide, I will show you how to use a reflector effectively to enhance your photographs by simply bouncing natural light.

1) Choosing a Reflector

If you have never purchased a reflector before, the options that you find once you start looking might be overwhelming. There are large and small reflectors. There are round, rectangular and triangular reflectors. There are white, gold and silver reflectors, as well as combinations of these three colors with names like Sunfire, SoftSilver, Zebra and Sparkling Sun.

One of the first things you’ll want to decide on is the size of reflector you’ll need. If you’re mainly shooting individual portraits, a smaller reflector might work better for you than a larger one. Of course, a larger reflector will generally produce a larger area of softer light, but larger reflectors are also more difficult to handle, so there is a compromise to be made. A 42″ reflector is a pretty common size that is a nice combination of ease of use and nice light.

Once you know the general size you’re looking for, you can start looking at different brands and shapes. You’ll find reflectors that have handles, brackets or frames. You’ll also find reflectors that don’t have any fancy features. You’ll usually pay a premium and have fewer options if you choose a reflector that has a handle or a frame, but the added ease of use might just make it worth the extra money.

Reflectors

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How to Read MTF Charts

When my article on field curvature was published a while ago, where I talked about how one could do a quick analysis of lens MTF data and determine if it exhibits any field curvature, some of our readers expressed interest in understanding how to read MTF charts. Since we talk quite a bit about lens performance and MTF data here at Photography Life, I decided to write a detailed article on the subject and do my best to thoroughly explain everything related to MTF curves, charts and all the verbiage that comes with them.

How to Read MTF Charts

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Wedding Photography Tips: Synchronize Your Cameras

Due to popular demand, we are starting our new series of articles on commercial wedding photography. Since I have been helping out my wife with her wedding business, being a second shooter during weddings and engagement sessions, I have been writing down some helpful tips, which I am planning to provide on Photography Life. These tips range from very basic things like preparing for the wedding day, to complex setups involving specific situations, like setting up flashes indoors. Our first wedding photography tip is about properly synchronizing time on cameras when working with second shooters and assistants. If you have been commercially photographing weddings, you might have already been frustrated to see photographs from multiple cameras get mixed up when you import them to an Aperture or Lightroom catalog. It is not pleasant to see ceremony images mixed with images from the dance floor and it is certainly not fun to try to go through hundreds, if not thousands of photos and sort through them one by one. Gladly, there are workarounds to situations where it had already happened, which I will share with you in this article. First things first, let’s talk about the proper way to synchronize time between multiple cameras.

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How to Properly Synchronize Time Between Multiple Cameras

The easiest method that works every time for us and many others, is to have each person hold his/her camera, get into the camera menu and set specific time. On Nikon DSLRs, for example, time can be changed via “Setup Menu”->”Time Zone and Date” or “Setup Menu”->”World Time”->”Date and Time”. Once time is set to an exact hour, minute and second, everyone in the party must press the “OK” button at the same time. This will make sure that the timer starts at that exact time on every camera. If you use two cameras yourself, just set the time on each camera, then press the OK button simultaneously. The idea is to have the time set exactly the same, second to second, across all cameras, so that shots appear in proper order later. The set time does not have to match real time. As long as all cameras have the same clock time, your images will appear in correct order when post-processing them later.

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Understanding Histograms in Photography

Histograms can be found in almost any modern image editing software. It is my guess that most current digital cameras, including some compacts, can display histograms as well – some even live as you shoot using your LCD screen. Such a persistent inclusion would suggest that histograms are quite important. Even so, many beginner photographers don’t seem to understand what they show. There is nothing wrong or shameful with that, as histograms may appear to be rather complex at first. Truthfully, they aren’t. In this article for beginners, I will try to teach you how to understand histogram. Hopefully, by the end of this tutorial, you will learn to “read” them and see if they are useful to your photographic needs.

How to Understand Histogram

1) General Understanding

A histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image. In other words, it shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). As shown in the image above, dark tones are displayed on the left side of the histogram. As you move rightward, tones get lighter. The middle portion of the histogram represents midtones, which are neither dark nor light. Vertical axis of a histogram displays the amount of tones of that particular lightness. Histogram is exposure-dependent, but is also affected by tone curve and other settings.

2) Shadow and Highlight Clipping

Shadow and Highlight ClippingIf a certain portion of the histogram is “touching” either edge, it will indicate loss of detail, also called clipping. Highlight clipping (areas that are completely white and absent detail) occurs if the graph is touching the right side of histogram. Shadow clipping (areas that are completely black and absent detail) occurs if the graph is touching the left side of histogram. Either case can be often fixed by altering exposure settings. However, you must remember that it all depends on the scene. For example, if there’s sun in your image, it is only natural it will be so bright – completely white, in fact – that highlight clipping will occur.

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Winter Photography Tips

Winter can be a very beautiful time of the year, especially if you live in a region that gets plenty of snow. We all know how children love the snow – there are endless possibilities for having fun and cold weather is usually not enough to stop them from enjoying it. On one hand, winter poses a beautiful time of the year for photography, particularly landscapes and portraits, and can be equally refreshing for wildlife photographers. On the other hand, it creates certain problems that are hard to figure out for beginner photographers, let alone their cameras. In this article, I will give you tips on how to photograph in winter and end up with well exposed, beautiful color images. I will also provide you with suggestions on when to go out to photograph and how to use snow to your advantage.

Snowy Landscapes (6)

1) Plan Your Day

First and foremost, remember – days are much shorter during the winter. Sunrise is late, and sunset is early, so you only have a few hours of potentially beautiful light to capture those photographs, be it landscapes or portraits. I know from experience how engaging landscape photography can be during winter and those hours just fly by. Plan your day carefully – remember that you will need to revise your location no matter what you choose to photograph, so you’d better get there before the time of the day that you find most suitable. No less important is your safety. I’ve suffered from cold weather myself having stayed still in one place for too long. Bring some hot tea along with you, and some food, even if it’s just a sandwich. Dress warmly – it is better to be hot than cold. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged – cold eats up those batteries very quickly. The same goes for your camera, bring at least one spare battery and keep it somewhere warm and close to your body.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Tether Your Camera

Lightroom is a very flexible image management and processing software, but apart from powerful tools and settings to enhance your photographs, it also offers features that help you during the actual process of photographing. Have you ever felt that, even with the constant resolution and physical size growth, camera LCD screens just aren’t big enough for comfortable image viewing in the field? Luckily, Lightroom offers a way to import photographs and review them as you shoot. This function, called Tethered Capture, is especially useful for studio photographers who don’t tend to move about too much. It can be equally useful for landscape photographers, too. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will explain how to tether your camera. This allows you to import images directly into the Lightroom 4 environment for quick and comfortable revision as you photograph.

How to Use Tethered Capture

1) When Should I Use It?

The best time to use Tethered Capture is when working in a less active environment. For example, studio and landscape photographers, who tend to bring their laptop computers along on a shoot, will find it to be very simple and fuss-less. However, wedding photographers, who tend to move all the time and change their shooting position, would find Tethered Capture to be annoying at the very least. Who’d want to photograph a wedding with a USB cable strapped to the camera constantly, and through it, a laptop? You’d need an assistant just to have that laptop lugged around behind you! In many other situations, Tethered Capture can make reviewing images that much more pleasant.

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What is Field Curvature?

Field Curvature, also known as “curvature of field” or “Petzval field curvature”, is a common optical problem that causes a flat object to appear sharp only in a certain part(s) of the frame, instead of being uniformly sharp across the frame. This happens due to the curved nature of optical elements, which project the image in a curved manner, rather than flat. And since all digital camera sensors are flat, they cannot capture the entire image in perfect focus, as shown in the below illustration:

Field Curvature

In a simple field curvature scenario like above, the light rays are perfectly focused in the center of the frame, at Image Plane A (where the sensor is). Since the image is curved, sharpness starts to drop as you move away from the center, resulting in less resolution in the mid-frame and much less resolution in the corners. The circular “dome-like” image in three dimensional form is shown to the right of the illustration. If the corner of the image is brought into focus, which would move the image plane closer (Image Plane B), the corners would appear sharp, while mid-frame would stay less sharp and the center would appear the softest. The effect of field curvature can be very pronounced, especially with older lenses.

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