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Finding and Working with Available Light

I don’t use a flash for my photography, it’s a personal preference. Available light, in its many forms, is both challenging and rewarding so I rarely find a need to turn to creative lighting.


Natural light, golden hour

What is ‘available light’?

Let’s be clear on definitions first. As a street photographer my preferred source of light is sunlight, more specifically, natural light. Available and ambient light refer to any and all light sources the photographer did not introduce for their photograph; light bulbs, candles, fire, neon, to name a few.

The available light around us is a great opportunity for our photography and photographers should be passionate about making best use of this light when capturing a photo.

George Eastman said, “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

On a basic level we all recognise the beautiful sprawling vista before us looks wonderful bathed in the rays of the setting sun, and less so beneath an overcast grey sky. I refer to this as the quality of the light.

What are the different qualities of light?

Starting with the obvious, the sun, the qualities of its light are wildly variable.


Natural light, sunset

Direct sun

The sun is warmer and softer at each end of the day. Shadows are long and also soft. These two periods, at sunrise and sunset, are referred to as the Golden Hour and many landscape photographers won’t recognise any other part of the day. Quick tip: when the skies are a glorious combination of oranges and reds, set your white balance to Sunny. Set to auto white balance, the camera often attempts to compensate for, what it believes are, overly warm tones.

During the day when the sun is high, the light is bright and harsh and shadows will be short. The principal challenge here is how to properly expose where there is a massive range of exposure between areas of light and shadow.


Harsh direct sun

Indirect sun

This covers areas of shade, reflected sunlight, side lighting through a window and that pallid grey diffuse light from cloud cover.


Indirect sun from a side window

Artificial light

Ignoring light from the night sky, what remains to light our photography is artificial light. No less challenging to work with, artificial ambient lighting can vary in brightness from a candle to stadium lighting, and can be located on ground level to anywhere overhead. There could be multiple sources and, if all this wasn’t bad enough, some of those light sources could be moving!

What is the quality and direction of light?


Direct sun, nearly overhead casting short harsh shadows

Direct overhead sunlight

Taking a portrait in direct overhead sunlight is tough going. The light is bright and harsh, the shadows equally so. I’m a street photographer, so there’s no option to move subject(s). In this scenario I have to weigh up the contrasts between bright and dark areas, especially with faces. The subject’s clothes will affect the exposure, dark materials losing texture to the shadows more quickly. Backgrounds should be considered too. For example, a small portion of bright sky in the frame can horribly distract when the rest of the photo is a fairly balanced exposure.

If you can move your subject, the effects of the direct sun can be mitigated when you consider placing the person next to a light coloured wall, or other reflective surface. Very much along the lines of a subtle fill using the reflected light. These light and shadow areas will all be softer and your subject won’t be squinting. Moving to a wholly shaded area will result in a flat lighting with little or no shadow. Yes, exposure will be easy but your image will take on a decidedly flat look.

Open shade

Open Shade, Combination Of Sun And Shade

Open shade, combination of sun and shade

These areas are great opportunities to introduce depth into your images with portions of direct sunlight as well as shadows cast from the shaded area, all within the frame. Trees are the obvious candidates for partially shaded areas, but also consider open doorways and alleys. The example above takes advantage of the shade cast by several umbrellas.

Side light or window light

Making use of light from the side, open windows or low sun late in the day, also generates images with a real sense of depth. The side lighting will reveal the smallest textures. The dynamic range of light to dark in these scenes is much reduced. Pay attention to the contrast play now on a more horizontal plane than you would see with overhead light sources.

Diffuse light

With little or no discernible direction, diffuse light from a shaded area or overcast sky introduces problems with colour temperature and a general lack of depth in images. I don’t let this bother my street photography, however this is a challenge for a scheduled shoot.

I have generally been referencing available light from the sun. Working in environments with artificial light you are faced with the same factors, though problems can be amplified. Unnatural light frequently complicates exposures with off colour temperatures and much lower levels of light.

On one occasion, I was commissioned to photograph an event where all the lighting was eye level and against the walls! There are only so many silhouette shots you can get away with and I spent a large part of the evening against a wall to be able to shoot with the light.

How much light do you have to work with?


Indoor artificial low light

Whatever the quality and level of the light, reflective surfaces are useful to make the best of the ambient levels. For planned shoots, particularly with models, metallic reflectors are an excellent method of manipulating light onto a subject. Even nature photographers carry fold up reflector discs to reduce the silhouetting effects of shooting into the sun. No reflector, and no alternate light sources? I suggest white walls, shiny floors, glass surfaces.

Low available light situations are challenging for photographers and this is one area where the right gear will enable you to take a better photograph. Capturing a well exposed image requires as much light as the sensor can get. Static subjects will allow a longer exposure. Events, concerts, parties, weddings all rely on photographers obtaining shots quickly. This means fast glass and, where needed, increased sensor sensitivity or ISO. I recommend a lens capable of f/2 for very low lit scenes. If you are shooting hand held, you will probably still need to increase your ISO to prevent a blurred exposure.

It frustrates me terribly to see so many people constantly using their smart phone, however, the light from the screens always helps illuminate faces. It is precisely this kind of observation that will help you find light where you need it. 

Notes on exposure

Exposure is influenced by aperture, shutter speed and ISO and your camera’s metering programme will wiggle those three factors to attempt to capture an evenly exposed scene. In reality, you are the principal metering programme; your ability to see where the light falls, the points of reflection and those areas of dark shadow.

My camera is set to spot metering and I pick an area of the scene to meter against and therefore influence the exposure. In bright sunlight, I might meter on the subject’s light coloured jacket to reduce the effects of the bright sun. At an event, I am likely to meter near to the ground to elevate overall exposure. Less commonly, and for balanced light situations, I will meter against the subject’s face. You will become more practiced with reading light levels and metering to control your exposures.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Auto White Balance will save your scene. Also, shooting RAW affords you the maximum dynamic range your camera is capable of and, though White Balance is an attribute, you still need to consciously set it. Carry white balance cards and custom white balance!

One final suggestion. Shoot RAW and set your camera to Black & White. Reviewing your images in monochrome will allow you to view only the luminosity in the scene and see where the light play is. You can set your image back to its original colour at a later stage.

Where would your photography be without light?! There are so many situations to which only practise reveals the solution, so please discuss available light questions and issues in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

The post Finding and Working with Available Light by Michael Walker-Toye appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Faces of Burma 2013 Trip Report by Don Lyon

“Burma has a way of changing people,” is the promise I made to the 12 photographers assembled in the lobby of the luxurious Chatrium Hotel in Yangon, Burma’s capital. That evening we visit the Schwedagon Pagoda at sunset—and they begin to understand. The great gilded dome surrounded by smaller whitewashed stupas, stands out [...]
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Blog

The dPS Weekly Photography Challenge – Going Buggy

Last week’s challenge featured landscape photography. In keeping with the theme of getting outside, this week we’re going to focus (pun intended) on the smaller creatures in Mother Nature’s world – the bugs.

Here’s a few images to inspire you for the weekly photography challenge – bugs!

Photograph The Katydid by Steve Passlow on 500px

The Katydid by Steve Passlow on 500px

Photograph Next to you... by Yvonne Späne on 500px

Next to you… by Yvonne Späne on 500px

Photograph yummy :P by bug eye :) on 500px

yummy :P by bug eye :) on 500px

Photograph Locust by Matteo Senesi on 500px

Locust by Matteo Senesi on 500px

Photograph Spider by Thomas Forysiak on 500px

Spider by Thomas Forysiak on 500px

By Rovanto

By Vinoth Chandar

Share your Going Buggy images!

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section as pictured below) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer upload them to your favourite photo sharing site and leave the link to them.

Need help? How about some articles on macro photography like these:

  • 6 Tips for Near-Macro Photography with a Telephoto Lens
  • Reverse Lens Macro: Close Up Photography Lesson #3
  • Macro Photography for Beginners – Part 1
  • Macro Photography for Beginners – Part 2

The post The dPS Weekly Photography Challenge – Going Buggy by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School

How to Avoid Blurry Photos by Choosing the Right Autofocus Mode

Sometimes the light is perfect, the moment is right, but when you get home you find out that your photo is blurry. Arrgh!

Why are your pictures blurry? One obvious reason might be that your camera isn’t focused properly. Today’s cameras and autofocus lenses can help you quickly take sharp images in a wide variety of situations, provided you choose the right autofocus mode.

Here are some questions to help you diagnose any situation and choose the correct auto focus setting

autofocus modes

Photo by Lynford Morton

Are you using the Auto-area autofocus or Single-point autofocus selection?

Who gets to decide your focus point? That’s the question you are deciding with this option. In an Auto-area autofocus, your camera decides what it should use as your focal point. It usually decides based on what looks most prominent in the viewfinder or closest to the camera. This might work when your subject is obvious and there are no potential distractions.

For more control, choose a Single-point autofocus setting. That mode allows you to choose your specific auto focus point (check your camera’s manual if you aren’t sure how to do this). After all, only you, not your camera, knows where you want to place your subject.

Is your subject moving?

Most DSLR cameras give you four basic options for autofocus settings: single, continuous, auto or manual. To help you choose the right option, ask yourself, “Is my subject moving?”

No, my subject is not moving

autofocus modes

Photo by Lynford Morton

If your subject is not moving, choose “AF-S” for Nikon or “One Shot” for Canon. This mode locks in your focus based on the distance to your subject. As long as your subject stays at that distance, your photo will be in focus. Your subject has to be stationary for this mode to work. In fact, your camera will not take the photo if your subject is moving (or it cannot lock focus).

This mode also allows you to recompose. Let’s say the autofocus point is in the center of the frame, but you want your subject on one side or the other. Keep depressing your shutter button slightly, and focus remains sharp on your subject. Then you can move the camera slightly left or right, recomposing with your subject out of the center of the frame.

Yes, my subject is moving

By Amsterdamized

If your subject is moving, use continuous autofocus (AF-C for Nikon or AI Servo for Canon). In this mode, you place your autofocus point over your subject, and focus continues to adjust while you hold down the shutter button, keeping your subject in focus as it moves.

For example, if someone is riding a bicycle, place the AF point on your subject and slightly depress the shutter. As long as you are pressing the shutter, the autofocus will continually adjust to your subject, keeping them in focus as they move. When you are ready to take the photo, depress the shutter completely, and the camera will focus on your subject for a sharp image.

No, my subject isn’t moving, but it might

A third option merges the functionality of the single autofocus and continuous autofocus. This hybrid mode, (AF-A for Nikon or AI Focus for Canon), starts out as a single auto focus. Your camera won’t focus until you lock in on a stationary subject. Once you have your subject in focus, you can take the photo as you would in a traditional single auto focus mode.

If your subject starts moving, however, the autofocus releases and continues to track your moving subject. It gives you the best of both worlds. One note of caution, I have noticed at times, if you recompose a stationary object quickly in AF-A mode, the camera can be fooled into thinking the subject is moving and release the autofocus.

My autofocus just isn’t getting it right

You always have the option of turning off the autofocus function and choosing the Manual setting. If your camera is having trouble detecting your focus point, it might be more efficient to focus the camera yourself.

How about the opposite situation? You turned off your autofocus by accident? Every now and then, when your camera can’t seem to focus, and you don’t hear the motor searching back and forth, check to see if you selected Manual autofocus by accident. This can happen more frequently than you might think.

Other issues to consider

What if you set up your autofocus properly, and the lens still won’t focus? Try these considerations:

  • You might be too close. Try backing away. If you are too near the subject, it might prevent the camera from focusing properly.
  • Your subject might not have enough contrast. Your image needs to have some contrast for many autofocus systems to work. If you try to photograph a solid sheet of white or any single color, most autofocus systems will struggle. Why? The camera compares adjacent pixels and when one is different, it uses that point to determine its focus. If it can’t find any contrast, it can’t focus.
  • You might have an extremely shallow depth of field. In this case, your autofocus is working, but the depth of field is so shallow, it is hard to tell that your subject is in focus.
  • You have camera shake. When you depress the shutter, you move the camera. If the shutter speed is too slow, the camera picks up that movement, and it looks like a blurry photo. Make sure your shutter speed is faster than the equivalent of your focal length. For instance, if you are zoomed to 100mm, your shutter speed should be 1/100th of a second or faster to avoid camera shake.

Why is your picture blurry? If the answer is in your autofocus, your fix could be as simple as choosing the right setting.

Do you have any other autofocus tips or comments you’d like to share? Please do so below.

More tips on sharper images and focus modes:

  • 5 Tips for Getting Sharper Images
  • Understand Exposure in Under 10 Minutes
  • Making Sharper Wildlife Photographs – [Part 1 of 2]
  • Making Sharper Wildlife Photographs – [Part 2 of 2]

The post How to Avoid Blurry Photos by Choosing the Right Autofocus Mode by Lynford Morton appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School

Ultimate Antarctica 2013 Logbook

Ultimate Antarctica 2013
Aboard the USHUAIA
November 4–28, 2013
NOTE: You can download a PDF version of this logbook by clicking on the image to the right.  A PDF containing maps of the cruise route and landing sites is found at the end of this blog article.
“A first walk in any new country is one of the things [...]
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Blog

MindShift Gear’s rotation180 Panorama Rotating Backpack – a Review

The rotation180 Panorama from MindShift Gearis designed around the needs of outdoor photographers.

The rotation180 Panorama from MindShift Gear is designed around the needs of outdoor photographers.

Last time I checked, I think I had something like 14 camera bags. I think it was when I got #8 or #9 that my wife asked me how many would be enough. I made the egregious mistake of replying with something along the lines of, “I don’t know. How many pairs of shoes will be enough?” Thankfully, I have quick reflexes and was able to dodge the flying stiletto and we’ve never spoken of our addictions again.

Seriously, though. Regardless of whether you are a professional photographer or an avid enthusiast, at some point along the way it becomes abundantly clear that a single camera bag is simply insufficient. Sometimes the bag that gets the gear to the gig is too big and cumbersome for the actual assignment. Sometimes you need to travel light with a bag that can handle a few essential pieces of equipment. Two of my bags don’t hold cameras or lenses at all, having been reconfigured for lights and cables. The point is, there’s no shame in being a camera bag addict. Between my shoulder bags, rolling bags, backpacks, and belt systems, I’m fairly well-covered for every eventuality. There is one type of bag, however, that I’ve wanted for a very long time. Unfortunately, it didn’t exist until just recently.

Photo backpacks are great for travel and location shooting, but they are rarely designed to allow room for anything but camera gear. Even when they are, though, you still have to deal with the inconvenience of stopping, taking off the backpack, getting the camera out of the bag, taking the shot, putting the camera back, closing the bag, putting it back on, etc. The backpack I’ve been craving can handle both the gear for a day’s photography outing, as well as plenty of room for a jacket, lunch, gloves, or other essentials…without having to stop and take the pack off my back.

Enter MindShift Gear and their rotation180° backpacks. Founded just a couple of years ago by the creators of Think Tank Photo and conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá, MindShift currently has two backpacks– the rotation180° Professional and the rotation180°Panorama– that solve the problem of accessing the gear without taking off the backpack or even missing a stride.


Panorama beltpack, containing Nikon D90 (85mm prime attached), 16-35mm lens, spare cards and batteries, lens cloth, and Hoodman Loupe (not shown).

rotation180° Panorama Backpack – the Specs


  • Backpack: 2.o lbs (0.9 kg)
  • Beltpack:  0.9 lbs (0.4 kg)
  • Total:  2.9 lbs (1.45 kg)


  • Backpack Exterior: 9.8″ W x 20.5″ H x 8.3″ L (25 x 52 x 21 cm)
  • Beltpack Interior: 9.4″ W x 7.5″ H x 4.7″ L (24 x 19 x 12 cm)
  • Beltpack Exterior: 9.8″ W x 8.2″ H x 5.1″ L (25 x 21 x 13 cm)


  • Backpack:  329 cubic inches or 5.4 litres
  • Beltpack:  1013 cubic inches or 16.6 litres
  • Total:  1342 cubic inches or 22 litres
The zipper pulls are definitely high-quality and built to last, but got a little awkward while wearing gloves. Just took a little getting used to.

The zipper pulls are definitely high-quality and built to last, but got a little awkward while wearing gloves. Just took a little getting used to.

First Impressions

It’s obvious as soon as this bag comes out of the box that it boasts the same high-quality construction and attention to detail as its cousins at Think Tank. The all-fabric exterior is treated with a durable water-resistant coating, while the fabric underside is treated with polyurethane for superior water resistance when you put it down on a wet trail. While I’m not a huge fan of the zipper pulls on this bag – they were a little tough to grip with gloves on – the YKK zippers themselves are fairly indestructible, which is a huge plus. Available in either Charcoal or Tahoe Blue, it’s nice having a bag that goes beyond the basic black that takes up most of the space in my gear closet. With plenty of pockets and storage space, this bag seems to address every aspect I’ve been looking for in a photo day pack – especially the fully rotating beltpack and dedicated hydration pocket that can hold up to a three-litre reservoir.


The dedicated hydration pocket can hold up to a three-litre reservoir (not included)

The Beltpack

It’s the rotating beltpack that makes this bag really special. Without it, it’s just another camera backpack that doesn’t fully address my needs. Secured in the lower section of the backpack with a sliding magnetic clasp, retrieving your camera, binoculars, maps, or other essentials is as easy as unhooking the clasp and pulling the beltpack around to the front. As an added bonus, the beltpack can be completely removed and used by itself for shorter outings or location shooting.


The sliding magnetic clasp is easy to release, but holds the beltpack securely in place.


Hitting the Trails

Beyond the quality of its materials and components, it’s once the Panorama is loaded and on your shoulders that you realize just how comfortable it is. Obviously, this is a pretty important factor. If a bag is designed around the concept of not having to take it off as often, it had better be comfortable. Starting out at a lightweight 2.9 pounds empty, the Panorama includes load-lifter straps on both the beltpack and shoulder harness, as well as a breathable padded airflow harness and curved back panel for increased stability. All this translates into a bag that can hold a lot of stuff, while keeping the load balanced, comfortable, and secure.mindshift-panorama-camera-bag-dps-review-007

Additional Accessories

While the Panorama is an awesome bag straight out of the box, MindShift has obviously given a great deal of thought to the needs of outdoor photographers. There are several accessories available which have been designed to enhance the overall experience of this bag. Each is sold separately, including:

  • Photo insert that fits the upper compartment of the bag. providing additional padded gear storage.
  • Two-piece rain cover for the main bag and beltpack
  • Tripod suspension kit
  • Filter Hive
  • Lens Switch Case
  • Contact Sheet ground tarp
  • For more information on the rotation180° Panorama and accessories, check out the MindShift website.



The best thing I can say about any product I review is that it does what it says it does, and does it well. The rotation 180° Panorama Backpack from MindShift Gear is just such a product. Designed around the special needs of outdoor photographers and enthusiasts, this bag is going to set a new standard–one that takes into account not only how you transport your gear, but also how you use it along the way.

Have a favorite bag? Or a wish list of features in your ideal bag? Share your comments with us below.

The post MindShift Gear’s rotation180 Panorama Rotating Backpack – a Review by Jeff Guyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School

Venice at Carnival 2014 Trip Report by Darrell Gulin

I had thought the 2013 Photo Safari to the Venice Carnival was the highlight of all travel photography shoots I have ever done—but 2014 exceeded even that shoot. It was fantastic! It was one of my Top 10 of All Time Photo Shoots over the past 30 plus years. In fact, over 11,000 frames were [...]
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Blog

Are Lightroom Develop Presets Worth the Money?

Delicious Presets review

I was recently approached by a representative of Delicious Presets to review their product. The review is below, but when I looked at the details on their website it occurred to me that there are other questions to answer:

  1. Are Lightroom Develop Presets (the sort you buy from someone) worth the money?
  2. And if they are, how do you know which ones to buy given that most websites won’t refund your money if you are unhappy with the product?

Let’s start with Delicious Presets, then dig into those later. The promise on the website is that their presets will increase the quality of your processing and save you time in Lightroom.

They seem to be aimed primarily at event and wedding photographers. On the surface, their presets seem expensive at $ 40 a set (you can save money by buying in bundles) but from a business perspective that is a relatively small investment for something that saves you time. An example:  I recently spent around $ 150 on a good quality polarizing filter for a new lens, and you can buy all the Delicious Presets in a bundle for less than that.

Here’s what you get in each set:

  • Between 11 and 13 Develop Presets
  • Delicious Controls, which gives you three sets of presets for taking control of sharpness, grain and tone
  • Plus 37 vignettes and frames

All the presets have been updated to work with Lightroom 5. You can go to the Delicious Presets website and view the details for yourselves.

If you want to learn more about Lightroom Develop presets in general, you should read my article A Concise Guide to Lightroom Develop Presets.

Delicious presets website

Delicious Controls:  Sharpness, Grain and Tone

The Sharpness and Grain presets really do nothing that you can’t do on your own, although it might be nice to use presets created by someone else if you don’t have the time or inclination to work out the sharpness and grain settings that suit your photos. Complete beginners to Lightroom may also find them useful as a way of learning by analyzing how the presets work.

The Tone Control presets are a little more useful and give you some colour grading options that you might not have come up with yourself. But again, they are fairly simple in nature and are really just a set of Split Toning presets that can be applied to either colour or black and white images. They do look nice in black and white and you can tweak the saturation if the tone is too strong for you.

Delicious Controls: Vignettes and Frames

While I can see the use of the sharpness, grain and tone controls as part of a workflow aiming to save you time, I don’t understand the point of the vignettes and frames. The vignettes are rendered useless by The Radial Filter tool in Lightroom 5, a tool that is easier to use and more versatile. The frames are just cheesy.

Delicious Presets Collections

Now let’s look at the preset collections themselves. Lightroom Develop Presets tend to fall into one of two broad categories. The first are one shot Presets – they tend to be presets that you use once. These ones are pretty binary, they either work or they don’t, and the effectiveness depends on your photo. If the preset matches your photo you’ll get a good result, and if it doesn’t, it won’t.

The second category are what I think of as genuinely useful presets. These are a bit better thought out and may be presets that the photographer who created them uses in his own workflow. They may work in modular fashion, so that you can build up the effects by layering them on top of each other. Each preset tends to adjust just one or two settings, so that you can pick which adjustments you want to make. The best ones combine flexibility with consistency, allowing you to create a variety of looks while retaining a consistent feel throughout your portfolio.

The Delicious Presets presets fall into the second category, if used with the Delicious Controls presets.

Delicious Colour Presets

This is a promising set of presets. The key to getting the best out of them is pick one you like and use it as a starting point, tweaking the sliders in the Basic panel until the tonal values are pleasing to the eye. Here’s an example with the Autumn preset:

Delicious Presets review

Another with the Blue Love preset:

Delicious Presets review

Yet another with the Vivid Tones preset. For this example I used the presets in a modular fashion, adding a vignette, grain, sharpening and the Brownie tone using the Delicious Controls presets:

Delicious Presets review

The verdict? I like these and think they have a lot of potential for portrait processing.

Delicious Black and White Pepper Presets

This is another promising set of presets that give you 12 instant black and white conversions. They need a bit of work to get the best out of them, but the potential is certainly there. This example uses the Black Pepper preset:

Delicious Presets review

Below is the Black Pepper preset with the Warm Tone from the Delicious Tone Control presets added:

Delicious Presets review

This is an interesting collection and they are certainly helpful for creating black and white conversions rapidly.

Delicious Analog Story Presets

These presets are aimed at photographers who like the look of photos produced with film cameras. There’s no doubt this is a trend in the world of event photography, and these presets aim to bring that look to you with a click of the button. There are some interesting presets here that complement the Delicious Colour presets nicely. This is the Blue Vintage preset:

Delicious Presets review

Distinct Analog Presets

Another set of analog presets, and I have to admit that these didn’t work well. Most of the presets just looked horrible with this particular photo, although you may of course get a better result with different subject matter. The Love Letter preset didn’t look too bad:

Delicious Presets review

The verdict

If you buy the bundle with all four singles collections you end up with 37 colour Develop Presets and 12 black and white ones. You also get the Delicious Controls which may provide a useful shortcut to some people. But essentially you can achieve the same effects by pushing sliders. The Tone Control part of the Delicious Controls gives some nice tones but the others are not really worth bothering with.

That leaves the Develop Presets themselves. Are they useful? The Delicious Colors, Delicious Black & White Pepper and Delicious Analog Story, yes. Especially if you are willing to use them as starting points and adjust them to suit your photos. The Delicious Distinct Analog is an exception – I didn’t like this one, but it may work well with other peoples’ photos.

Are they worth the money?

I don’t think so. They are too expensive for what you get and you will get better value elsewhere. I think the fair price is around $ 10 a set, although I’m sure many people will disagree. It’s hard to name a fair price for Develop Presets but there are plenty of people selling similar sets for around the $ 10 mark and I don’t see anything special about the Delicious Presets collections that sets them apart.

Don’t forget you can go to the Delicious Presets website and check them out for yourself.

A negative review?

Is this review too negative? I’m the sort of person who speaks his mind and I’m not going to tell you that a product is good value for money if I don’t think is. But, I understand that some of you may see things differently. If you have used any Delicious Preset products, then please let us know in the comments to balance out my point of view. Do you like them? Do you think they are good value for money?

You can also check out the Delicious Presets blog, where they give examples of photos processed with Delicious Presets. Take a look and make up your own mind.

Free Develop presets

There’s no question about value for money with free Develop Presets, but are they worth the time? My favourite free presets are the Signature Collections from OnOne Software. But what are your favourites? Let us know in the comments.

Other Develop Presets

There are lots of Develop Presets out there, and I haven’t tried them all. That’s where you come in. Have you purchased any other Develop Presets? Did you find them useful? Were they good value for money? What are your recommendations? Please let us know in the comments, and hopefully we can build a good list of useful Develop Presets.

Some that I have bought and found useful are the ones sold by Craft & Vision and the Black and White Workflow Collection from Pretty Presets.

Tips for buying Develop Presets

You don’t always have to pay full price for Develop Presets. You’ll often see presets offered for heavily discounted prices at websites like Snapndeals, Photo Deal Cafe and Photo Dough.

Another tip is to sign up for the newsletters of websites that sell Develop Presets. If they have a sale, they will let you know.

For more on Lightroom check out these:

  • Processing an Image in Lightroom 5 – a Video Tutorial
  • 6 of Lightroom’s Hidden Treasures
  • Organizing Images in Lightroom 5
  • Lightroom How To – One Tip and One Trick

Mastering Lightroom: Book Two
Mastering Lightroom Book Two Develop ModuleMy new ebook Mastering Lightroom: Book Two – The Develop Module teaches you how to process your Raw files in Lightroom for spectacular results. Written for Lightroom 4 & 5 it takes you through every panel in the Develop module and shows you how to creatively edit your photos.

The post Are Lightroom Develop Presets Worth the Money? by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School

“The Language of Light with Joe McNally” – a Review

language-of-light-digital-photography-schoolOn the one hand, I could make this article one of the shortest I’ve ever written– a rousing recommendation of only three words: “It’s Joe McNally!”

Thank you. Good night. Drive safely.

Okay…I get it. Some of you may not be convinced. I respect that. That’s why we’re going to take a closer look.

For those who may not know, Joe McNally is one of the very best in the business. In a career spanning 30 years and 50 countries, his work has appeared in National Geographic, LIFE Magazine, Sports Illustrated, TIME, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, and a host of other magazines you’ve probably read. Even if you’ve never heard his name (where have you been hiding?), I’m pretty sure you’ve seen his work. If you are ever able to attend one of his workshops, I highly recommend it.

Joe is a master (a word I don’t use lightly) of at least two things–lighting and teaching. As a photographer, light defines or plays a part of everything you do. Regardless of whether you are talking about speedlights, studio lights, street lights, or sunlight, it’s a given that every light source has three attributes–color, quality, and direction. Since every photograph requires light, it stands to reason that having a firm understanding of how to control, manipulate, and manage light would be an important step towards raising the bar on your photography. As he puts it himself in the intro,

“Light is how we speak as photographers.” - Joe McNally

A typical Joe McNally seminar or workshop tends to be filled with sentences that begin with things like, “The photo editor at National Geographic once told me…” or “My editor at LIFE Magazine used to say…”  These are your cues to start feverishly writing down every word that follows.  The Language of Light lets you put the pen down and take it all in–a three-hour guided tour through the how and why of Joe’s “big world of small flash.”

There are a few things that really stand out, separating this DVD lighting class apart from the rest. For starters, it’s conversational. To the extent that this language of ours has words and concepts that need explaining, who better to do it than the man who’s written some of the best books on the subject? The other huge advantage to The Language of Light is the ability to watch as Joe starts each shoot with a basic premise, then explains and demonstrates each step in the process–walking you through from concept to finished image.

Remember that old line? “Those who can, do. Those who cant’ teach?” Well, here’s a guy who does both and doesn’t hold anything back. If he knows it, he wants you to know it. It’s not just about the “how.”  It’s also about the “why.” And that, my friends, is worth the price of admission.

Here is a basic breakdown of the set.

Disc 1 – the Language of Light

They say the best place to start is at the beginning, and The Language of Light takes that to heart. Disc 1 gets you going, explaining light and why it does what it does in simple terms. Prepare to be blown away by what he can do with a single speedlight. Topics include:

  • Turning one small flash into one big light
  • Controlling harsh natural light
  • Dramatic one light portraiture
  • Tour of small flash light modifiers
  • Light placement

Check out the Disc 1 preview in the video below:

Disc 2 - the Language of Light

Disc 2 moves out of the studio and goes on several location shoots, with lighting setups ranging from the basic to the complex. Topics include:

  • Location assessment
  • Basic strategies for one and two lights, as well as three or more
  • Getting the most out of a location
  • Environmental portraits
  • Conquering the sun with high speed sync
  • Mixing color temperatures
  • Athletic portraits
  • Lighting in small places
  • Group portraits
  • Engaging your subject

Take a look at the Disc 2 preview:

The three hours of photographic education contained in this set is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Knowledge, talent, energy, and passion come together in what I can only describe as a moment of enlightenment (no pun intended), where all the pieces seamlessly come together– and it all makes sense. It’s perfect for beginners just learning how to get the flash off the camera, as well as seasoned veterans looking for a refresher.

The Language of Light is available on Amazon.  Still hungry for more? Check out our very own e-book, “Portraits- Lighting the Shot” in the Digital Photography School Bookstore.

The post “The Language of Light with Joe McNally” – a Review by Jeff Guyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School

Weekly Photography Challenge Sunset Photography

Earlier today I shared some stunning, and colorful sunset images, including one of my own from my recent photo tour to Nicaragua. Even if you can’t get to exotic locations like that, I have a few tips for you to help you take better sunset photos. Then off you go as sunset photography is this week’s photography challenge.

Group from my photo tour to Nicaragua getting ready to shoot some fire spinning on the beach. I turned around and shot them against the last bit of light in the sky.

Group from my photo tour to Nicaragua getting ready to shoot some fire spinning on the beach. I turned around and shot them against the last bit of light in the sky.

Sunset photography tips:

I give these in my travel class, they are easy to do and make such a dramatic difference in coming back with a boring sunset versus one that has your friends drooling.

  1. Put something in front of the sunset – just a gorgeous sky at sunset is not enough to make a great photo. It needs something of interest, a focal point. So basically the sunset becomes a stunning background for something. Ideally pick something with a recognizable shape such as: a tree, a person, birds, animals, a city skyline, etc. Just make sure the outline is clean and doesn’t overlap something else, watch for people standing together that look like one person with three legs, horizon going right through a person’s head, and so on – in a silhouette they will all blend together and be a messy blob. Lastly, focus on the item, NOT the sky!
  2. Wait (or hope) for some clouds – sunsets with clouds can be even more incredible as the colors move and shift across the sky, almost as if they are alive. Keep shooting until it’s dark, use every bit of light there is and see how the colors change over the whole time period.
  3. Expose for the sky, meaning underexpose according to your camera’s meter – often when you shoot a sunset your camera’s meter will read the light and try to make it brighter. But if you want more vibrant and saturated colors, and to create a silhouette of the lovely subject you’ve placed in front of the sky – you will need to override the camera and tell it to under expose, or make it darker. This is subjective so you might want to bracket your exposures when shooting and choose the best ones later.
  4. Adjust your White Balance – using Auto White Balance most of the time will give you a decent result. For sunsets if you really want to bring out the color though, try switching to one of the presets that adds warmth such as Shade or Cloudy. If you have K as an option play with the entire scale – shoot one image at 2500K and another at 10,000K and see which works best for that scene.

By Theophilos Papadopoulos

By RayMorris1

By Jeff S. PhotoArt

By Bo Nielsen

By Milivoj Sherrington

By esther**

By Angela Sevin

For some articles that might help with this challenge, see these:

  • 12 Tips for Photographing Stunning Sunsets
  • Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images
  • Do you pack up and leave after sunset and miss the fun of night photography?
  • Getting Great Portraits At Sunset
  • How to Use a 10-stop ND Filter to Take Long Exposure Sunset Images

Share your sunset images!

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section as pictured below) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer upload them to your favourite photo sharing site and leave the link to them.


The post Weekly Photography Challenge Sunset Photography by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Digital Photography School


Ever since the evolution of the demand and supply chain, producers and makers of different products have invested in large sums of money in order to reach out to the people in the form of advertisement. It has been realized and widely accepted by one and all that the product or service that a company is offering is only as good as how well it is advertised. The dynamics of marketing changes by leaps and bounds depending upon the success of the advertising campaign before the launch of any product. This has been known to make or break a product be it in the release of a new movie, the launch of a music album or even as simple as the launch of a new brand of cola, toothpaste or even a washing soap.

Standing at the dawn of the 21st century, science and technology have progressed to greater heights in every sphere imaginable. The amazingly creative world of advertisement is no less. Today, techniques used for advertisement are no longer dependent on the print media and campaigns over the FM radio. The use of the electronic media has advanced the reach of advertisement companies to every part of the world that has human existence on it.

Another deadly combination that is taking advertisement campaigns to greater heights of success everyday is the mix and match of the electronic media and the print media. Such a combination can be best described by the use of photography. Digital high end and expensive equipment is used to capture high resolution photographs of products, services or employees and then the print media is used to either display or circulate these images for the entire world to see. This technique is known as corporate photography in today’s parlance. Paul Arthur, a unique architectural photographer in Birmingham, would concur with the above points.

Corporate photography, unlike what the name suggests is not limited to only the high end corporate firms and companies that hire photographers and other equipment to take pictures of expensive assets. In the fast moving and aware world of today, corporate photography is used by many firms to either advertise their product, give a statement about the services provided by them or even to showcase their employees to the world. A very good example in this regard is that of a hospital or that of a pharmaceutical company. These companies use high end photography to display world class surgeons with a smile on their faces treating sick people. The intention of the hospital in showcasing such photography is to advertise the presence of the human touch and the care and compassion that their doctors have towards the patients. On the other hand large medical companies may even showcase X ray or MRI photographs to advertise the quality of their scanning machines.

Corporate photography (as quoted by corporate photographer Seven Star Photography) is also considered as a good career option in the world of today where there is plethora of opportunities to choose from. With more and more companies getting more aware and involved in high end advertisements the future of corporate photography is brighter with each coming horizon.