Add Some Fish(eye) To Your Photography Diet

With the ever increasing rate of technological innovation in the photography arena, it is not too difficult to get caught up in the latest camera model, lens, or other gizmo, all designed to take our photography to the “next level.” The recent hype and debates surrounding noise levels and resolution differences between the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III alone could likely fill a few petabytes of disk space. In the midst of our obsession with the “latest and greatest,” we need to remember that photography is, at least on some level, supposed to be… well… fun! One of the best ways I know to inject a bit of fun into my photography exploits, is to attach a fisheye lens to my DSLR. These marvels provide a unique curved distortion (in some cases a full 360 degrees) that add a bit of character and spice to otherwise rather common photos and provide a unique perspective.

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How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

I intentionally waited on posting this article on photographing a solar eclipse until it actually took place on 05/20/2012, because I wanted to document my experience and provide information on what challenges I had during the process of photographing this rare, but stunningly beautiful phenomenon. This was my first time trying to photograph a solar eclipse; in fact, it was my first time seeing one take place. Yes, there have been solar eclipses before, but I have been missing them all for some reason. This time, after I heard it on the news a week ago, I decided to watch it with my family and document the event with some photographs. While we in Denver were not as lucky as some folks in US southwest, Japan and a few other places to see the total solar eclipse, the partial eclipse still looked beautiful. Unfortunately, clouds moved in and blocked most of it for us here, but I still was able to capture a few shots when the clouds cleared up a little. I will be sharing those photos with you in this short tutorial. Hopefully when a solar eclipse takes place next time, you will have some useful information on how to photograph it with your camera.

Solar Eclipse

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Tone Curve Panel

In this short tutorial I will show you how to use one of the easiest and most powerful tools found in Lightroom – the Tone Curve. In my previous tutorial about black & white conversions, I briefly showed you how to use the HSL Panel’s Luminance section to control the lightness of separate colors of the image. Using the Tone Curve Panel is very similar as it also allows you to control the lightness and darkness of various parts of a given photograph, however, rather than altering separate colors, the Tone Curve tool controls certain ranges of actual tones in the image.

What Is It?

Tone Curve Explained

The Tone Curve represents all the tones of your image. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve is the Tone axis: the line starts with Shadows at the left-most end and ends with Highlights in the right-most end. In the middle you have Midtones, which are then further split into darker Midtones, called Darks in Lightroom, and brighter Midtones, called Lights. In other words, going left to right, the curve starts with Shadows, Darks, Lights and ends with Highlights. You can also see the corresponding range shown to you by Lightroom once you hover over a specific slider under the Tone Curve, in the Region section of the Panel. The Y axis represents lightness of a given tones. The tones get darker as you move lower and brighter as you move up the axis.

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Mastering Lightroom: Branding and Customization

Lightroom is an amazing program with a myriad of great features to improve the look of your photographs. In addition to all the image editing and cataloging tools, Lightroom also has some cool built-in features to make it a little more personal. In this short tutorial, I will show you how to brand and customize your favorite RAW converter. A little :)

1) Identity Plate

You can brand your copy of Lightroom for your photography business by inserting your logo to the top left corner of the software through the “Identity Plate” setup. You can get to the “Identity Plate Setup” by clicking on Edit -> Identity Plate Editor. Make sure to check the “Enable Identity Plate” checkbox, otherwise you will see the default Lightroom logo at the top left of the window. In the editor, you can either use a stylized text Identity Plate, or a graphical Identity Plate.

How Does It Look - Text Stylized text Identity Plate allows you to input any text you want to show at the left side of your Modules Panel. Use the drop-down menus to set the font, style, size and color of any text (or a part of it). Using text makes it very easy and quick to change the Identity Plate at any time.

How Does it Look - Graphical Using Graphical Identity Plate allows for more flexibility – you can turn any image into an Identity Plate. Using PNG instead of JPEG format offers transparency, which, again, helps you make your logo blend in better with the graphical interface of Lightroom. One thing you need to be aware of is the height of the image you want to use – keep it at about 50-60 px, otherwise Lightroom will not fit it in the narrow Modules Panel.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Basic Panel

Lightroom has many features that can easily confuse those who are new to it. While the program offers plenty of different editing opportunities, in order to achieve the best results and user experience, it is important to understand the very basics of Lightroom. In the series of upcoming short articles, I will try to explain each of the most important Panels in Lightroom, so that in the end, you will find it to be a simple, quick and easy to use software for your post-processing needs. Lets start with the Basic Panel.

Where to Find It

Lightroom Panel List

The Basic Panel can be found in the Develop Module right bellow the Histogram display at the top-right side of the screen. Expanding the panel will reveal a number of basic controls offered by Lightroom. These controls show you the most obvious benefits of shooting in RAW, such as White Balance and Exposure Compensation adjustments. Lightroom was developed with a left to right, top to bottom editing workflow in mind. While in some cases you will find yourself going back and forth between the settings, we will try to stick with that order at this time.

Tip – if you left-click the top of any Panel while holding down the Alt key (for Windows users) or the Option key (for Mac OS users), Lightroom will go into Solo Panel mode and only keep one Panel open at a given time (for example, if you had Tone Curve Panel open and then click on Detail Panel, the Tone Curve Panel will then close). This allows for a more tidy experience, especially if you often find yourself scrolling through the right-side Panel List. Clicking it again the same way will return Lightroom to previous state. If you want to open another panel without closing the previous one in Solo mode, Shift-click it. Ctrl(Command)-click a panel to open/close all.

The Settings

1) Treatment

The very first setting you can change in the Basic Panel is the Treatment of the image. You have two settings – “Color”, which is set by default and keeps your image in color, and “Black & White”, which, as I have mentioned in my B&W Portrait tutorial, is a great way to start working on a B&W look of your image if that is your intent.

2) White Balance

Sometimes the Auto WB setting on your camera may pick the wrong value, or you might choose a wrong one yourself. These settings are there to make sure that the color captured in your image is correct no matter how the camera was set when you took the picture, so if the image is too blue or too orange, you can easily correct it.

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How to Convert Portraits to B&W with Lightroom 4

In this tutorial I will show you how to convert a portrait (shot in RAW format) to a black & white image using Lightroom 4. By the end of the tutorial, and with some practice, I hope to teach you how to have full control over the look of your B&W images. While I chose this particular look for this particular portrait, Lightroom offers many kinds of different ways to convert your images to black & white, and so it’s impossible to put all the looks into one tutorial. Certain conversions fit certain images better than others, and it also depends on taste and goal of the author. In the future, I hope to make more tutorials for both black & white and color photography with different conversion methods and looks.

B&W Result: HSL desaturation

Before we start, I would also like to note that, despite the fact that our final image will be in black and white, it is important to understand how everything works in color during the conversion process. While sometimes a simple contrast slider and curves tool can lead to a good-enough conversion, usually it is better to spend some more time tweaking different color ranges and working with white balance to affect color, and thus the tone of the image in order to achieve the best result.

With that in mind, here is the image I will be working on:

B&W Conversion Using Lightroom 4

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How to Effectively Sell Your Photo Gear on eBay

Given the popularity of my previous article, “Diseases That Plague Photographers“, and the many humorous responses I have received, it seems that most of you have also come to terms with your afflictions, and admitted to having little, if any, desire to be cured! That would suggest that over your lifetime, you will likely buy and sell a fair amount of photography equipment. As such, I thought it might be helpful to know how to maximize your ability to get top dollar for your used gear.

There are many other avenues for selling your equipment, but I happen to believe that eBay is one of the best structured market places to conduct business, offers quite a bit of protection to both buyers and sellers, and exposes you to an extremely broad market. This article will cover the selling side of eBay, while the next will focus on the buying process.

Lens Photo

1) Focus On Legitimacy

Legitimacy is a simple concept – it is not only appearing, but actually “being” what you represent yourself to be. Keeping this simple, but powerful, concept in mind as you navigate through the auction process will help set you apart from other eBay sellers, ensure that you get a good price for your gear, and enable you to earn solid eBay feedback scores. Why do I emphasis legitimacy? Because in a world of slick advertising, fine print, numerous drug side effects that sound far worse than the illnesses they purport to treat, and occasional con artists, people are genuinely concerned about doing business with trustworthy people, feeling confident that they get exactly what they bargained for, and being treated fairly. On eBay, as in many other areas of life, “a little Golden Rule goes a long way.”

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Case Study: Bird Photography

I have finally been able to more or less clean up my mailbox and sort through most of the emails that keep pouring in from our readers. The case studies that our readers are sending have been piling up in my mailbox and my to-do list, so I will try to do a better job in posting these on the blog from now on. Let’s start with a case study from our reader Gaurav Rajaram, a bird lover and photographer from Bangalore, India. Here is what he sent me:

I use a Nikon 300mm f/4 paired with a Nikon D200 for my bird photography. While shooting, I notice that I do not get a clean background, which I would expect from a prime lens. I have got such a background in one image of mine, however, the subject is a little too soft for my liking (the picture is attached). Is there any way to get a clean background so as to help the viewers’ focus remain on the subject (the bird in this case)? Could you share a tutorial with us? I’m attaching sample images for this case study in JPEG format with full EXIF info.

And here are the two images Gaurav attached:

Bird with clean BG but too soft

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How to Watermark a Photo in Lightroom 3

In this article, I will show you how to watermark a photo in Lightroom 3 using the standard, available tools. Adding copyright watermarks to photographs in Photoshop can be a very time consuming task. Although you can create a batch job for watermarking multiple images in Photoshop, it is a rather slow and cumbersome process that involves recording actions for different layouts. Embedding watermarks in Lightroom 2 was also painful, because you had to use a separate plugin that had to be installed and configured. Gladly, Lightroom 3 now has an integrated functionality to embed watermarks that you can use in batch action while exporting your images. Let’s go over the new method of embedding watermarks and how you can use Lightroom 3 to watermark all of your vertical or horizontal images during the file export process.

How to watermark a photo

1) Why Watermark Your Images?

The first question you might ask yourself is – should you or should you not watermark your images? There are many opinions on this matter. Some photographers argue that watermarks prevent theft (which I and many others disagree with), allow self-promotion and help build brand recognition, while others argue that adding watermarks spoils the viewing experience and does more harm than good. Let me quickly point out what I think about watermarks and when they should and should not be used.

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How to Store Memory Cards

After losing a memory card with the best pictures from a trip I took across the western USA, I decided to write a quick article on how to store memory cards and how not to lose photographs during long trips. It was a lesson learned the hard and painful way, so a couple of days after the loss, I came up with a plan to protect my data going forward and try not to lose it any more in the field. Below you will find my plan and my recommendations.

Losing images from a long-planned and expensive trip can be very painful. After it happens, you realize that it is not the financial aspect of it, but the effort you put into creating those images instead that hurts the most. We as photographers have to work with the best light during the day, which happens at sunrise and sunset times, no matter where you are located. In Glacier National Park, the sunset times in summer can be as late as 10 PM and as early as 5 AM in the morning. Northern Canada and Alaska are even worse, with sunset times close to midnight in July and sunrise in less than 5 hours. Add +1 hour after sunset and -1 hour for sunrise to get back and to the location, and we are talking about less than 3 hours of sleep at night. In addition, those late hours are also the peak and active time for wildlife, making it dangerous to hike to get to a good spot. And I am not even talking about the weather, which can go against you in those twilight hours. In addition, you carry the heavy weight with you and spent a lot of time tweaking your equipment and composing your shots using different spots and angles. So with so much effort put into making those images, the last thing you want is to lose them. What’s worse is, if you have been shooting for a while, you know if you got a great photo right at the time you take it. You take a look at the camera LCD and you know it is a keeper, a potential for your showcase portfolio. Once you lose photographs, you start to remember those keepers and deep regret hurts even more. So, why even take the chance? Take all the steps you can to protect your photographs when traveling and working on the field.

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