How to Photograph the Milky Way

Many travel and landscape photographers, including myself, try to avoid shooting scenery with a clear blue sky. As much as we like seeing puffy or stormy clouds to spice up our photographs, we have no control over what the nature provides each day. Sometimes we get lucky and capture beautiful sunrises and sunsets with blood red skies, and other times we are stuck with a clear, boring sky. When I find myself in such a situation and I know that the next morning will be clear, I sometimes explore opportunities to photograph the stars and the Milky Way at night. I am sure you have been in situations where you got out at night in a remote location and saw an incredibly beautiful night sky with millions of stars shining right at you, with patches of stars in a “cloudy” formation that are a part of the Milky Way. If you do not know how to photograph the night sky and the Milky Way, this guide might help you in understanding the basics.

Milky Way

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How to Organize Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom has become a very essential part of the workflow process for many photographers, including myself. I cannot imagine managing my photo catalog without Lightroom and I use it every day for my photography needs. In fact, 95-98% of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom and I only occasionally use Photoshop for advanced photo editing / retouching, which not only simplifies my workflow, but also decreases the amount of time I spend on post-processing. Over the past few years of using Lightroom extensively, I have come up with efficient ways to store, organize and access photos on my computer, so I wanted to share a few tips with our readers on how I do it for both personal and professional work. Although there are many ways to organize images, this particular method has been working great for me (and many others that have been reading our site for the past few years). If you are looking for a generic guide on doing this without any third party photo software like Lightroom, then please read my older article on “how to properly organize pictures“.

1) Where do you store your pictures and how?

The first question is, where and how do you currently store your pictures? I used to store all of my photographs in various subfolders of my hard drive (commonly in “My Pictures” or “My Documents”), but after I got into photography, I decided that it was best to keep all of my photographs in the root folder of my PC’s hard drive that I use solely for storing photos and small family videos. Hard drives are really cheap nowadays, so creating a properly organized and redundant storage for your photography needs does not have to cost an arm and a leg.

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How to Use a DSLR to Shoot High Quality Videos

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If you are like many professional photographers, you may be finding that more and more clients are asking if you can also do video for them when you’re on-site doing a photo shoot. Video can be a “strange new world” and you may be passing up some good opportunities. Most modern DSLRs are quite competent in shooting video, and you can use them to create industrial and commercial productions that are ideally suited for use at corporate functions, in sales presentations, as training aids, and as promotional spots on YouTube…so there is a great opportunity to expand your service offering by including video.

Without a doubt, shooting video with a DSLR can be more complicated than shooting stills, but you can achieve beautiful, creative results by following a few, simple guidelines. And, while you may add more video-related gear over time, you can make some initial, fairly modest investments and get into video production without having to break the bank. If you are a consumer reading this article and you are considering buying a DSLR thinking you can replace your camcorder to shoot family events, don’t bother – a camcorder is much better suited for “family memories” type videos. While I concentrate on shooting video with a Nikon DSLR (since I shoot Nikon), the below article applies to shooting video with any brand DSLR.

Nikon D800 Video Setup

My D800 rigged up with Rode VideoMic Pro and iDC System Zero follow focus. The 327RC2 Manfrotto pistol grip is attached to a Cinevate FLT camera slider.

1) Is your DSLR the right tool for the proposed video assignment?

This is the very first question that you need to ask yourself before accepting any video assignment. Generally speaking any assignment where you would be shooting people moving around in a scene (like a wedding for example), especially if autofocus needs to be maintained on specific individuals as they move towards or away from the camera, it is not well suited for DSLR use, and would be best shot with a professional video camera. This is because the auto focus on most DSLRs is slow, somewhat jerky, often hunts a lot, and is noisy. The audible noise from the focusing motor in your camera body and/or lens will transmit readily onto your footage…and it can be a pain to try and filter out. Also, the lenses used on DSLRs do not have power zoom functions so they are cumbersome to use if a lot of in/out zooms are required in the footage. Any assignment that requires the recording of long (30+ minutes), uninterrupted video clips is not suited to DSLR use as your camera is often limited to less than 30 minutes of single clip recording time.

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Lightroom Loupe View Options

In the previous Mastering Lightroom series article, “Lightroom Grid View Options”, we learned how to set-up Cells in Grid View so that they display the information of your choice. Grid View options are only available in Library Module, but that is not the only view mode available in Lightroom. In this article for beginners we are going to learn how to set-up Loupe View, which is available in Library Module and is also the default and only view mode in Develop Module.

Lightroom Loupe View Options

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Lightroom Grid View Options

In Lightroom, image information, such as Metadata, can be overlaid on a photograph in some Modules. It helps you find out information you might need at a glance, such as aperture and shutter speed at which that particular photograph was taken. Such information can be overlaid in Grid and Loupe View modes in Library Module, and Loupe View mode in Develop Module. In this article, I will discuss the Grid View options, which are available in Library Module only. Loupe View mode, which is available in Library and Develop Modules, will be discussed in detail in a follow-up article.

Lightroom Grid View Options

Lightroom Grid View Information Overlay

In Grid View mode, the additional information display modes are called Grid Extras. The Grid Extras are further split into Cell Extras, as there are two types of Cells – Compact Cells and Expanded Cells. You can set different information for both types of Cells and toggle between them by hitting “J” key while in Grid View mode. Doing so will toggle between bare Cells that show no Grid Extras at all except for Color Label; Compact Cells that show Flags, Star Ratings, Quick Collection Markers, Thumbnail Badges that show whether that particular file was edited, and an additional piece of information of your choosing; and, finally, Expanded Cells that show more additional information that you can specify, such as file dimensions, date the photograph was taken on and so on.

A side note: a Cell is the area that surrounds and contains image thumbnail along with additional information in Grid View mode, but is not the thumbnail itself.

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How to Use the Sensor Gel Stick

In this video, I decided to cover a couple of important aspects of using the sensor gel stick. First, I wanted to show what the product looks like when shipped and what it comes with, then answer some of the most frequently asked questions by our readers (see below for the text version), before actually showing how to use the product on a camera sensor.

DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for any potential damage of the camera due to misuse of the product! Please watch the video carefully and follow the instructions step by step.

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Lightroom Interface Customization Tips

I remember describing Photoshop’s versatility and sophistication as both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it is a very powerful piece of software with so many different and versatile tools, its capability is only limited by the user’s skill. On the other hand, such complexity can also be overwhelming and detract one’s attention, slow down simple tasks. This trait, to an extent, is also shared by Photoshop’s little sibling, photography-centered Lightroom. Although it is that much more specialized, there’s still a plethora of tools, panels and tabs which can, at times, make the post-processing experience somewhat… messy.

Lightroom Interface Customization Tips

Thankfully, it would seem the team of developers behind Adobe Photoshop Lightroom are trying to do their best to make Lightroom as simple and fast as possible. Thus a certain amount of customization is available. You won’t be able to completely redesign the software, but getting rid of some things you find unnecessary is very much possible. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to purify your workflow and hide some of the functionality that you might find yourself rarely using, so as to not get detracted from the things you use most.

A side note: read our “Lightroom Loupe View Options” and “Lightroom Grid View Options” articles to learn how to toggle and customize information overlays, which help you learn the most important information about a specific image at a glance.

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How to Email Photographs in Lightroom

As I’ve said time and time again, Lightroom is all about speed. And that’s the beauty of it. You can do so many things without actually needing to save the images as JPEG files on your computer, you hardly ever need to Export them at all. In this article, I will show you how to use Lightroom’s Email Photo function so that you can send any image in your Library by email without ever leaving Lightroom environment. It is quick, simple and very easy to set up, so if you’ve never used the feature but tend to send image files by email frequently, you should definitely try it out.

How to Email Photographs in Lightroom

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How to Photograph Wedding Details

Like any event photographer, most of my wedding shots are of people, i.e. the bride, the groom and their guests. This, after all, is what a wedding is all about and what people mainly want to see when they open a wedding photo album. Weddings, though, are always packed full of other visual details besides the people. So much time is spent in preparation to make a wedding look beautiful that it would be a shame not to preserve some of this in the album. I find that sometimes the best way to achieve this is to make these details the subjects of some of my photographs, even if this means leaving people out of some shots completely.

Efficient time management is a major factor in a successful wedding shoot, and it can be difficult to capture all the shots you require across the day. That’s why I always endeavour to turn up early. I do this partly because it affords me the opportunity to walk around the venue – both inside and outside – and assess the lighting conditions on the day. However, it also gives me the chance to get some photos of the building itself and perhaps some of the decorations, flower arrangements and so on before any of the guests have arrived.

Of course, often we are asked to take photos of the bride, groom or both getting ready for the wedding. If this is in a hotel or other location far from the venue, it may be difficult to find time to turn up early and capture these detail shots. If so, don’t worry, there will be plenty of other opportunities. Try to spot details and photograph them across the day, and perhaps steal a bit of time at an opportune moment. An ideal opportunity is usually during the meal; most people don’t want to be photographed when they’re eating, so I take the chance to have a walk around the building and its exterior to grab some extra shots.

Here are a few examples of the finer details at some of the more recent weddings I’ve shot. You’ll notice that none of these photos feature people as their subject.

The Venue and Location

What was the weather like on the day? What did the venue look like? Where did the wedding take place? These questions can be answered by taking some photos from outside the venue. Wide angle landscape shots that take in the whole scene can certainly play a role here, particularly if the wedding is in an especially picturesque setting. However, don’t just restrict yourself to landscapes. This is all about capturing the fine details of the day, so try to photograph some of these with a normal or telephoto lens too.

Try to consider: is there anything unusual about the location; any distinguishing features that are worth capturing? Also remember that it’s often possible to have some fun with these photos, especially if the wedding is in a quirky location.

Photographing Wedding Details (5)

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How to Fix Panorama Merging Errors

This is a follow-up article to the tutorial I published a few days ago on how to create a panorama image in Lightroom. In the article, I used a very simple and straightforward panorama image which could be merged without any errors virtually on first try. The image did not have a main object of interest and only a few points that needed critical precision during stitching process. I chose this image for the sake of convenience – I didn’t want it to cause any apparent problems while I tried to explain how to seamlessly include Photoshop or any other panorama merging software in your Lightroom workflow. However, we all understand that, more often than not and especially with Brenizer method panoramas that I love so much, the stitching process is far from being perfectly accurate every time. More complex panoramas require several tries before the stitching is done properly, or manual correction. But how do you manually correct a panorama that you are trying to merge through Lightroom? It is actually easier than you may think and is unlikely to upset your workflow in any way.

How to Fix Panorama Merging Errors

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