Check your Composition with Lightroom

Lightroom Crop Grid Overlay

As I was working on the “Composition in Photography: Assignment Discussion” article and upcoming Lightroom Crop Tool article last night, I came across a feature in Lightroom that I had not previously used. I love it when that happens. Realizing that the software tool I enjoy using and find to be very versatile is actually even more functional than I thought, is pure joy. In this article, I will teach you how to quickly check your composition in Lightroom against known rules and guidelines, such as the Golden Ratio or the Rule of Thirds (and, yes, these are indeed two separate things), by overlaying the image with them.

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How to Use the Sensor Gel Stick

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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How to Photograph High School Seniors by Mario Masitti

Mario Masitti Seniors 1

We are continuing our education series from some of the best photographers in Colorado and this time we are proud to feature Mario Masitti, who is without a doubt, one of the most successful high school senior photographers in the nation, not just Colorado. In this article, Mario will shed some light on high school senior photography and share his technique, style, gear and provide some sound advice for aspiring photographers. We hope you enjoy reading this article and learning from him.

Mario Masitti Seniors 13

Canon 1Ds-II | 85L at f/1.2 | ISO50 | 1/400s | Existing Light

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Understanding Histograms in Photography

Shadow and Highlight Clipping

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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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use External Editors

How to Use External Editors

In every Mastering Lightroom series article, I mention certain strengths of this, in my opinion, superb piece of software. Only every now and then do I find something small to complain about, as I have in my “How to Manage Presets” article. I strongly believe Lightroom offers more or less everything needed to process a well captured image and offers plenty of powerful yet simple photographic tools. However, as our readers have wisely noticed in the comments section of my “How to Use the Spot Removal Tool” article, on rare occasions these tools may not be powerful enough. Here comes another strength of my favorite photo processing application – flexibility. You can use other programs to do what Lightroom can’t, and then go back with the processed image to its familiar and simple environment. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to use external editors with examples provided using the most popular and capable you can buy – Adobe’s own Photoshop.

How to Use External Editors

1) What Software can be Used with Lightroom 4?

A good question, this. As of late, I’ve found my photography changed in such a way I rarely, if ever, need to use something other than Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, but if such an occasion does present itself, I know I have enough choice. First and foremost, Lightroom supports the all-powerful Photoshop, which itself is likely enough to satisfy your every need when editing images. If Photoshop alone is not enough, remember the huge library of amazing specialized plug-ins you can find for it, including Google’s very capable Nik Software and the (rightly) popular Topaz Labs products (which we have plans to review). In other words, you may use Photoshop and, through it, all the plug-ins you can find and purchase or download as freeware.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Geotag Photographs in Lightroom 4

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

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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How to Buy Used DSLR Cameras

Canon 60D

A while ago, I wrote an article giving tips on buying used lenses. In this follow-up on how to buy used DSLR cameras, I will try to give some advice on how to buy the other part of a photographer’s kit – the camera itself. You will see that many of the lens buying guidelines are also applicable here, so lets not waste any more time and get started!

Canon 60D

Why Buy Used Cameras?

Just like with lenses, we don’t always need or can afford the latest and greatest. Certain cameras, such as the now discontinued Nikon D700 or the soon-to-be discontinued Canon 5D Mark II (B&H has it for $1699 brand spanking new, which is a steal), will hold a lot of appeal for at least a couple more years in the used market. Because of that, they make a great choice as entry FF models (I’m quite sure I will be using my D700 for a while even with the Nikon D600 and the D800 around) or even as backup cameras. There is an even larger market when it comes to entry-level DSLRs, such as the Nikon D3100, which can be bought very cheaply and be a great learning tool, even exceeding some old semi-professional models in image quality.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Manage Presets

One-Click Processing

One of the biggest advantages Lightroom offers over some other RAW converters, such as Camera RAW found in Adobe Photoshop environment, is speed and flexibility while working with tens, hundreds and even thousands of photographs at a time. However, it wouldn’t be quite as fast if we didn’t have a way of applying a set of our own settings to any amount of images we choose with a single click. For this, Photoshop offers us Actions and Batch processing. Lightroom, in turn, gives us Presets.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to manage an ever-increasing amount of presets. You will learn how to save new presets and remove those you don’t need anymore, how to export, import and organize them into different folders for simpler browsing. You will also learn how to update existing presets with new settings and how to remove certain settings so that they are not affected by presets.

1) What Are Presets and Why Would One Use Them?

Changing settings in Lightroom is very easy and intuitive. Adobe designed it with a very thought-out, photographer oriented workflow, suitable for most professionals and amateurs alike, and it offers an uncluttered, none-distracting interface. However, with such a huge amount of settings available (and, as a consequence, an immense amount of different looks you can achieve to your photographs), it would be very hard to memorize your favorite setups so that you could use them again and again. That is what we have presets for. Basically, presets are files that contain specific setting information you applied to a photograph. You can save a preset that will set the Temperature of the photograph you have selected to, say, 7300K degrees, or adjust Exposure to +1,15. While these would be very basic presets containing only one adjustment, you can save a preset that will change Temperature, Highlights, Blacks, Vibrance, Tone Curve, Color Luminance and add Vignetting and Grain to your image. This way, you can achieve a particular look with just one mouse click, and save lots of time you could then spend with your family or photographing.

One-Click Processing

Without presets, it’s impossible to experience all Lightroom has to offer, so it’s vital you learn how to use and manage them.
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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Tone Curve Panel

Tone Curve Tool - After

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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