Mastering Lightroom: How to Enhance Landscape Photos

So, you’ve taken a photograph of a beautiful sunset or a peaceful, fog-covered valley. But something is missing in the picture – it just doesn’t look as good straight out of camera as the scene you were seeing at the time. By using simple Lightroom tools, such as Clarity, Graduated Filter and Curves, enhancing a landscape can be a very simple and fast process. While there are many advanced ways of processing landscapes, not all images require that much post-processing. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to quickly enhance landscape photographs using just Lightroom 4.

Mastering Lightroom: How to Quickly Enhance Landscape Photographs

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Which Nikon Prime Lens to Buy First?

Buying a DSLR often means having several accessories to go with it, among which are lenses. But choosing your first lens isn’t easy – there are so many choices available at so many different price points, which can make it quite confusing for a beginner to find a lens for a particular need. In this article, I will discuss several budget Nikon fast prime lenses most suitable as a first step into the fixed focal length world. Which Nikon prime should you buy first? Which one would make the most sense? You need a lens to stay on your camera for years to come, you need it to be good for family portraits and some occasional snaps. Or maybe even for your future photography business – who knows?

Which Nikon Prime Lens to Buy First?

Well, read on as I highlight the strengths of each affordable fast prime Nikon has to offer. I hope this article will help you with this tough choice most of us had to make at one point or another.

1) Why Buy a New Lens?

So you bought yourself a brand spanking new DSLR and now you want better pictures. Where do you start? When our images do not turn out good, we usually blame the camera, without even having the patience and time to learn how to use it. Do you find yourself using the camera in Auto mode all the time? If yes, then why don’t you first educate yourself and learn what those other “PASM” modes are for? We have plenty of beginner tutorials on this website and our photography tips for beginners page is a good place to start.

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Prime vs Zoom Lenses

In recent years, zoom lenses have been taking over the hearts of many working professional photographers as the more obvious, versatile choice. With the latest image sensors producing amazing quality, even at extremely high ISOs, it makes sense why more people have been leaning towards the convenience of zoom lenses. Zoom lenses have also gotten impressively sharp – most, even some cheap kit lenses, are sharp enough for day-to-day needs and also boast effective image stabilization systems. Some of the modern pro-grade lenses offer image quality that matches or even surpasses primes lenses in the same focal range. Despite all this, prime lenses haven’t really lost their desirability. Lens manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon have been rapidly updating and expanding their lens arsenal with new and better choices. Third-party manufacturers like Sigma are stepping into the game with confidence. Thanks to this, choosing between a zoom and a prime lens is now harder than ever. In this beginner guide, I talk about prime vs zoom lenses in detail, explaining their differences, along with some image samples.

Beginner Guide - Prime vs Zoom Lenses

1) What is a Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length (also commonly referred to as a “fixed lens”). What this means is that such a lens has a set angle of view which can not be changed – unless you move, you can not make the image appear larger or smaller within the frame. The only way of enlarging your subject and making it fill more of the frame is by physically getting closer to it. In turn, the only way to fit more into the frame is to step back.

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How to Eliminate Background Distractions in Photographs

In continuing the excellent guest posts that we have previously posted, we are introducing a local landscape and wildlife photographer, Russ Burden. Russ is an excellent photographer and loves to teach as you can tell from his article. We would like to thank Russ for taking the time to share with us ideas to consider as we strive to improve our photography. Enjoy.


Guest Post by Russ Burden

As I sit back and relax, I can still hear mama’s words, “Watch out what you do today because someday your background may come back to haunt you.” Was mama psychic? Did she peer into a crystal ball knowing of my passion for photography? Was she a closet photographer versed with knowledge about how important a background check is?

You see, learning how to eliminate background distractions in a photograph is imperative. As meticulous as one can be in composing a perfect subject, if the background isn’t treated with equal care, the end result will not be successful.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Geotag Photographs in Lightroom 4

Lightroom has always had a lot of interesting features on offer. With the introduction of the latest version, Lightroom 4, Adobe has added two more modules to the already existing five – Map and Book. In this short and simple Mastering Lightroom series tutorial I will show you how to geotag your photographs in Lightroom using the map module.

Mastering Lightroom: How To Geotag Photographs in Lightroom 4

1) What is Geotagging?

Simply put, geotagging images allows you to input location information within your image EXIF data so that you can know precisely where that particular image was taken. Ever felt like you were at an amazingly beautiful place for landscape photography but missed peak colors by a couple of weeks? Geotagging will let you remember your physical location, so that you can come back to the same spots next year. Many modern smartphones and cameras with GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity make geotagging a very simple and automated process. If you own a camera without such a feature, geotagging can be made possible with an external GPS unit, such as GP-1 unit for Nikon DSLR cameras (see our Nikon GP-1 Review).

2) So Why Bother with Lightroom?

No need if you have a camera with built-in geotagging feature. However, if you don’t find yourself needing the feature more often than occasionally, Lightroom 4 is about to save you a couple of hundred dollars. It is also a very quick and simple process, so why not? In a year or two you may be glad you geotagged your photographs to know where to look for those locations.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Spot Removal Tool

Lightroom 4 is a great tool for post-processing your work, especially if you tend to shoot RAW most of the time. It’s quick, easy to manage and offers an extremely wide range of color adjustment, as well as other kinds of processing. But what if you need to retouch your photographs? Does that mean Photoshop is the only way to go? While I certainly use Photoshop CS5 for more complicated retouching, I’m glad that Lightroom 4 offers options that are sufficient at least 90% of the time. In this short and simple tutorial I will teach you how to use the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom. This simple yet powerful tool will then let you remove small objects out of your photographs or fix flaws, such as skin blemishes or sensor dust spots. You will be able to perform these actions very easily and quickly and, more importantly, all within Lightroom 4 environment.

How To Use the Spot Removal Tool

1) Where to Find It?

Spot Removal Tool#1

Lightroom is a very photography-centered piece of software. Unlike Photoshop, which, from the very start, had a very broad range of applications, Lightroom doesn’t need many tools. Luckily, this makes finding them that much more simple – all the tools, including Spot Removal, are located under the Histogram tab. You can, alternatively, press “Q” to pick it up for use.

2) What’s Wrong with the Photograph?

I will be working on a photograph a friend of mine snapped while enjoying a walk in a park, and you can see it shown above. Nothing is really wrong with it per se – I think it’s a great, fun street shot. However, since Spot Removal is so simple to use, I would like to get rid of a small white spot right between the dog’s front legs. Take a look:

Spot Removal Tool#2

3) Let’s Get Rid of It!

Most of the time, Spot Removal works with just a single click. In order to remove the white spot (which may have been a chewing gum once, but let’s not think about that), first select the tool by pressing “Q” on the keyboard. You will notice your mouse pointer has been replaced by a circle, which defines how big is the area to be affected. My settings are currently at 75 (Size) and 100 (Opacity). Lets go ahead and just click on the white spot we dislike so much. Here’s what happened:

Spot Removal Tool#3

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Ryan Brenizer Talks About His Panorama Method

A while ago, I posted an article explaining the Brenizer method panorama. Ryan Brenizer is a NYC based wedding photographer and the “father” of Bokeh Panorama, or Brenizer panorama, technique, which allows one to achieve an otherwise impossibly shallow depth of field at a given angle of view. While I did my best to explain how it all works, it’s often better to see how one does it once than read about it ten times. And who to better do it that Ryan himself?

So here are a couple more tips for those of you interested in learning this technique, followed by Ryan’s much more understandable and professional explanation.

Brenizer method panorama

1) Remember Composition and Light

While Brenizer method panorama can help even the most simple and dull photograph look amazing, any eagle-eyed photographer will be able to tell you’re just trying to fool people by using simple aesthetics, such as bokeh, which has nothing to do with your skills as a photographer, only the lens you’re using. Light, Subject and Composition are the main aspects of an image, even when it’s 9463-ish pixels wide and has the most beautiful background blur you’ve ever seen. Work on it – find the best light, the best pose or lack of one, and work on your composition skills – Brenizer method is there to improve your photography and give you more creative choice, but that’s all it can do. The rest is, once again, up to the living, breathing creature holding the camera with a lens set wide open.
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How Phase Detection Autofocus Works

When it comes to DSLR technology, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion on how exactly phase detection autofocus works. While for most people this might not be a topic of great interest, if you are wondering how and why a camera could have an autofocus problem, this article will shed some light into what happens inside the camera in terms of autofocus when a picture is taken. There is an overwhelming amount of negative feedback on autofocus issues on such fine tools as the Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D800, Pentax K-5 and other digital SLR cameras and it seems like most photographers do not seem to understand that the underlying problem is not necessarily with a specific model or type of a camera, but rather with the specific way these cameras acquire focus. If you search on the Internet, you will find thousands of autofocus reports on all kinds of DSLRs dating back 10+ years. Hence, the front focus and back focus issues we see in modern cameras are not anything new – they have been there ever since the first DSLR with a phase detect sensor was created.

How DSLR Cameras Work

To understand this issue in more detail, it is important to get to know how a DSLR camera works first. The typical DSLR illustrations only show a single reflex mirror positioned at a 45 degree angle. What they don’t show, is that there is a secondary mirror behind the reflex mirror that reflects a portion of light into a phase detect sensor. Take a look at the below simplified illustration that I made from a sample Nikon D800 image:

How Phase Detection Autofocus Works

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The Greatest Post-Processing Tool

I often get asked if there is a certain way of achieving a particular look in a photo. How to make colors and people “pop”? How to properly color correct? How to make the skin blemish free? While there are lots of different ways to post-process photos using tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, the most powerful tool in any visual artist’s arsenal is typically forgotten – your eyes!

Wall

We perceive the world around us by looking and observing things, people, lines, etc. Ever wondered why diagonal lines, curves and specific object placement are pleasing to most people, even to those who are not involved in art? That’s because every brain comes pre-equipped with some tools that help us visualize what looks good and what doesn’t. These visual tools are already there, but they might not be fully “activated” by you. How would you do that? With lots of training, learning, patience and interest in your craft, it is just a matter of time. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet.

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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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