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5 Photoshop Blend Modes Every Photographer Should Know

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Photographic compositing has been with us since the dawn of photography. The merging of two or more separate images into one is seen as a way of extending our creativity. In the digital age, of course, this has become a whole lot easier with the use of Photoshop’s layers and blend modes. As well as compositing different images, layers and blend modes can be a great way to improve the look of your images. Today we are going to look at five of the best blend modes for a photographer, but before we start we should briefly look at what a blend mode is.

What is a Blend Mode?

In layman’s terms, a blend mode works out specific differences between two layers, the upper layer and the lower layer. Depending on the blend mode, these differences can be in exposure, contrast, color or other factors. The blend mode then uses this information to merge the two layers together.

The blend modes can be found on the top left of layer palette once there are two or more layers available. To use a blend mode, select the upper of the two layers that you wish to blend. Another useful tool to be aware of when using blend modes is the Opacity slider, this is found to the top right of the layers palette.

The whole array of blend modes in Photoshop.

The whole array of blend modes in Photoshop.

1. Multiply

This is an excellent mode for outdoor photography such a landscapes particularly if they look light and washed out. A useful technique is to create a curves adjustment layer to reduce the highlights a touch, then apply the multiply blend mode. This has the effect of darkening the image by the equivalent of one stop. If your image is now too dark, you can back the blend mode off a little using the Opacity slider.

Use Multiply to darken up a flat washed out image.

Use Multiply to darken up a flat washed out image.

2. Soft Light

This is useful mode for boosting contrast within an image. If you have a flat, low contrast image you can get an instant contrast boost by duplicating the original layer and applying the Soft Light blend mode. Again, the effect can be backed off using the opacity filter but if you need a further contrast boost, duplicate the upper layer again, the Soft Light mode will also automatically copied to the new layer.

Image with normal blend mode.

Image with normal blend mode.

Contrast boosted with Soft Light blend mode.

Contrast boosted with Soft Light blend mode.

3. Overlay 

Overlay is in many ways similar to Soft Light in that it is a contrast based mode. One of its most powerful uses is in adding graduated filters to flat skies. To do this, create a blank layer above your original. Using the graduated fill tool with a neutral graduation selected, drag the fill tool down from the top to about two thirds of the way down the image. Apply the Overlay blend mode to this graduated layer and you will see the graduated filter effect darkening your sky. Again, you can back this effect off using Opacity slider. You can also apply the Soft Light mode to this for a more subtle effect.

Image in Normal blend mode.

Image in Normal blend mode.

The same image with a graduated filter added in Soft Light mode.

The same image with a graduated filter added in Soft Light mode.

4. Lighten 

Lighten is an excellent mode for merging identical shots with different exposures. For example, if you took a series of identical shots of a cityscape through sunset and wanted to merge a night image with an earlier, lighter image that had more detail, Lighten would be the mode to use. It works by removing all the dark areas from the upper image and bending purely the lighter areas into the layer below.

Here the Lighten mode has allowed me to add light trails from a darker image to a lighter image.

Here the Lighten mode has allowed me to add light trails from a darker image to a lighter image.

5. Luminosity

This mode is extremely useful for boosting contrast without affecting saturation. Normally, when you boost the contrast of an image using either levels or curves, the color is also boosted, often leading to an over saturated feel. To avoid this, create a duplicate adjustment layer, either curves or levels, carry out your contrast adjustment, then switch the blend mode to luminosity.

A curves contrast boost in Normal mode over-saturates.

A curves contrast boost in Normal mode over-saturates.

Using Luminosity blend mode reduces that over saturation.

Using Luminosity blend mode reduces that over saturation.

The combination of layers, adjustment layers, blend modes and opacity combine to make the layers palette in Photoshop one of its most powerful functions. They give us the ability to work on specific elements of an image such as contrast or luminance without affecting other elements. Although they might seem a little daunting at first, blend modes, and in particular the five listed above, are a powerful tool in the photographer’s post production workflow.

[via Jason Row at LightStalking.com]

Three Uses For High ISO You Might Not Know

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The ISO setting  is used to control your camera’s sensitivity to light. When you use a high ISO setting essentially you are telling your camera to become more receptive to the available light. This is most often used when you are photographing in low light situations in order to maintain a proper exposure. However, there are at least three other reasons you might consider using a high ISO setting when you’re either in a good light situation or on a tripod.

1. Freezing fast motion

Use a high ISO setting to freeze fast motion – 1/8000th ISO 1,000

Use a high ISO setting to freeze fast motion – 1/8000th ISO 1,000

The only way to freeze fast motion, like the wings of a hummingbird moth, is to shoot with an extremely fast shutter speed. The above photograph was shot with a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second in order to freeze the insect’s wings. However, even in the bright mid-afternoon sun, a shutter speed that fast required bumping the ISO setting on the camera to 1,000 to maintain an even exposure.

Below, is an example of why shooting at 1/8000th of a second was necessary. Even at 1/800th of a second the insect’s wings were barely visible. In order to ensure that the motion was frozen it meant that more light was needed in a shorter amount of time and the only way to get this (without a faster lens) is to bump up the ISO on the camera.

ISO 500 1/800th – even at that speed the wings are blurry.

ISO 500 1/800th – even at that speed the wings are blurry.

2. Night sky photography

Many different techniques come into play when you want to photographing the stars, but one of the more important things to remember is to increase that ISO setting. The reason you want to photograph the stars with a higher ISO, even though you’re using a tripod, is that as the earth rotates, the stars move across the sky and you don’t want to capture that movement in your photograph (unless you are doing star trails)

Use high ISO to capture stars in the night sky.

Use high ISO to capture stars in the night sky.

Many different techniques come into play when you want to photographing the stars, but one of the more important things to remember is to increase that ISO setting. The reason you want to photograph the stars with a higher ISO, even though you’re using a tripod, is that as the earth rotates, the stars move across the sky and you don’t want to capture that movement in your photograph (unless you are doing star trails)

By using an ISO in the 800 to 1,000 rang,e with a fast wide-angle lens, you will be able to capture enough stars to fill the sky.

3. Hand-holding a long lens

If you’re shooting handheld with a long lens, you have to remember the shutter speed rule: 1/focal length (35mm equivalent).  This rule basically means that if you’re using a 300mm lens on a 1.5x crop factor DSLR then the minimum or slowest shutter speed that you can use is 1/450 (1/300 on full frame).

Use high ISO when shooting handheld with a long lens

Use high ISO when shooting handheld with a long lens

The bald eagle above was shot at a 450mm equivalent focal length using a shutter speed of 1/500th of second and an ISO of 1,000. Any slower on the shutter speed and you begin to run the risk of introducing camera shake.


[via digital-photography-school.com]


Clarkson on the first remote cameras

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Remote cameras are seemingly everywhere today.  Everywhere for the most part where a person could not get, but sometimes for other reasons — such as a high risk location.

But the real innovative breakthrough came not so much with motorized cameras such as the Nikon SP and the early Nikon Fs, but with a highly portable battery pack invented, manufactured and sold by California photographers Larry Schiller and Jay Eyerman.  For those power packs holding penlight batteries made the whole camera compact enough to fit in many tight places.

Thus it was in 1957 that I mounted a camera looking through the glass backboard at a college basketball game.  At the Topeka Capital-Journal, we had two machinists whose job it was to keep the presses and Linotypes working, but were always eager to work on something different.  That was when I asked them to make a bracket to attach to the outer frame of the glass backboard.  They came up with a great bracket with three tightening bolts that bore small pins on the other side of the metal so there could be no slippage — the pins worked right into the backboard frame.

With a ball and socket head that was tightened with a wrench, I installed the rig on a backboard at Kansas State University — and then showed it to the two coaches for permission.  They could care less and I loaded the Nikon with a roll of film and waited for the tipoff.  At halftime, I climbed the stepladder to get the film and raced for the darkroom.  When I looked at the film,  the first frames shot before the game were fine — but as the roll progressed into the game, each subsequent picture was more and ,ore out of focus.  There was nothing that could be used.

That’s when I learned the vibrations were so extreme that the lens focus slipped with each bouncing ball.  For the second game, I learned to tape down the focusing mount so it couldn’t slip.  Then came lesson number two.

The reflection of the basket’s frame went right though the center of the picture.  Black masking tape applied to the one frame and bracket was lesson number two.

So two games later, I had my first picture through the backboard — and one of them was very spectacular.  I thought I was very cleaver.

Until later that same season, I saw another picture just like mine.  From Los Angeles where Life magazine photographer John G. Zimmerman had crafted a similar mounting— with very similar pictures.

In the years since, Zimmerman , myself and other photographers continued to mount cameras on the backboards, the standards and wherever else you could get a bracket out of the way. And as part of our 20-year contract with the NCAA, we have mounted the cameras for every Final Four since, pooling the pictures to everyone who wants them as the NCAA was willing for two cameras — but no more on the backboards.  It could look like a forrest of cameras — which you occasionally see at some arenas where there are no rules restricting the numbers.  Our four remote cameras are all hard-wired to the workroom where an Associated Press editor edits and passes the picture on to whoever is in the pool.

Prior to those days, I had never met Zimmerman — who was not only one of America’s pioneering and great sports photographer, but was the nicest person you would ever meet.  Along the way, we met and worked on assignments together for Life and Sports Illustrated many times.  When the 1980 OLympics came along in Montreal,  John Durniak (Time’s picture editor) assigned me to be the Time magazine photographer after I had done the Munich games for him four years earlier.  I did those as the only Time photographer and with all the news that broke there, I was stretched to say the least.  Olympic credentials were very hard to get then, but I was able to get a second credential for Montreal and Durniak said I could select anyone I wanted to share the assignment for Time.

I picked Zimmerman.

Gillette Gives a Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Making of Their “100 Years of Hair” Stop-Motion Commercial

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Gillette, founded in 1901, has been around for just over 100 years now. To celebrate, they recently put together a genius stop-motion video showing the evolution of men’s hair during that time. This video takes us behind the scenes of the four-day production and shows the painstaking level of attention-to-detail involved in creating an animation of this magnitude. And here’s the final result:

[via fstoppers]

Christmas LED Lights on Budapest Tram Make For A Great Long Exposure Shot

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budapest train

Photo: Viktor Varga

What do you get when you add 30,000 twinkling Christmas lights to a tram car? An oppurtunity for spectacular pictures. If you ever find yourself in Budapest, Hungary for the winter holidays, don’t miss the wonderfully festive decorates trams.

Started in 2009 by the Budapest Transport Company, the festive tradition is a delight for locals, citizens and chlidren. Best of all, anyone with a regular ticket or public transport travel pas can ride the Christmas trams, making them a fun and budget-friendly way to get around Budapest while enjoying some holiday spirit.

More Photos >>

[via mymodernmet]

Adobe Teases New “Focus Mask” Feature For Photoshop

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Adobe has released a video sneak-peek of a new feature due to be introduced into Creative Cloud which the company is calling ‘Focus masks’. In the video, Zorana Gee, senior Photoshop product manager explains that with focus masks, Adobe is ‘adding a new way to make an automatic selection based [on] pixels that are in focus versus out of focus’. Judging by the very quick walkthrough provided in the video, this feature should be a powerful addition to Photoshop CC’s suite of editing tools, especially for fans of shallow depth of field work. 

Adobe is also teasing an announcement event for more Photoshop CC-related news on June 18th with the enigmatic tagline ‘everything new is new again’.

[via dpreview]

5 Things to Consider When Shooting Landscapes

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Landscape photography is typically thought of as images of serene mountain ranges and seascapes, but what are photographers supposed to do when these locations are unavailable or they are seeking something unique?

In his latest expert tutorial, Mark Hamblin suggests five simple ways that photographers can shoot landscapes and come away with something creative and different.

Creative landscape photography ideas: 01 Shoot local landscapes

There are a slew of good reasons for shooting a local area rather than spending the money to travel. Although photo trips away from home are a great way to  discover creativity and gain valuable experience, there is certainly a fair amount of risk involved. Without local knowledge of the area and accurate weather information, many photographers return from photo trips empty-handed.

© Copyright Mark Hamblin

By concentrating on your local area, you stand a much better chance of being in the right place at the right time and capitalizing on good photographic conditions. Ultimately, a great deal of photography is about having an intimate knowledge of the landscapes you want to photograph. This is much easier done locally where you’ll have a better insight into things like when flowers and trees are in bloom and the best time of day to shoot.

Creative landscape photography ideas: 02 Do your pictures tell a story?

A good landscape photograph is one that has a beginning, a middle and an end, like a story. If you think of a landscape as having three components – a foreground, middle ground and background, it can help you compose your images more effectively. Not all images fall into this simplified structure of composition but many do and it’s a very good technique to ‘build’ your pictures from front to back.

By constructing your images in this way you will begin to instinctively compose your pictures so that the foreground links together with the background elements of the shot. One way to do this is to start with a strong foreground feature and then compose the shot so the eye leads from this to something of interest in the middle distance and background. Alternatively, the background may be the most important aspect of the picture, in which case look for foreground interest to compliment but not overpower it.


© Copyright Mark Hamblin

This approach to composition tends to work best when using a wide-angle lens in order to include sufficient foreground as well as the background. Be careful not to shoot too wide as this will reduce the impact of the background features by changing the perspective and making them appear much smaller.

Creative landscape photography ideas: 03 Use side-lighting to add depth

One of the best ways to add a sense of depth to your landscape images is to use side-lighting to create shadows and reveal shape and form. When starting out in photography we are often told to shoot with the sun coming from over our shoulder, but when it comes to landscape images this is not good advice,

Front lighting makes the landscape appear very flat and two-dimensional because the shadows are falling directly behind the subject and are therefore hidden from the camera. By simply reorienting the camera so that the sunlight is coming in from the side makes all the difference to the appearance of a landscape.

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland. June 2007.

© Copyright Mark Hamblin

When shadows are falling across the frame they help to reveal the shape and form of features within the landscape, as well as helping to create the illusion of depth in the image.

The lower the sun’s position is in the sky, the longer the shadows will be and consequently more landscape features will be revealed. As a rule of thumb, the best time to shoot landscapes is when your own shadow is longer than your height. Avoid midday sun and try to shoot early and late in the day.

Creative landscape photography ideas: 04 Take a chance on the weather

If you want some drama in your landscape images then you’ll need to take a gamble and head out when it’s cloudy. Weather is often the critical factor when it comes to landscape photography and whilst blue skies are pleasant they won’t set the world on fire.

To capture these kinds of exciting images you have to be prepared for failure as well as the distinct possibility of getting wet. The sun may only break through for a few moments so you have to be in position with your camera ready to shoot. Shooting landscapes in inclement weather will involve a long wait and you may only be rewarded on a handful of occasions, but these images are never to be repeated moments and they will be unique and demand a second look.


© Copyright Mark Hamblin

Learning to read the clouds will help plan your shoot. Look for a clearing sky on the western horizon as the sun sometimes sneaks under the clouds for just a minute or two before sunset. Windy and showery days are also very good for transient light as the clouds are moving constantly, allowing sunlight to burst through the gaps.

Creative landscape photography ideas: 05 Exclude the sky

A good sky can make all the difference to a landscape photography but if it lacks interest then don’t hesitate to cut it out of the picture. If something isn’t adding to the picture then don’t include it in the frame.

A small amount of a cloudless blue sky is acceptable but if it’s uniform pale grey than the best option is usually to exclude it altogether. Heavy overcast light may not have the same appeal as sunshine but it’s actually ideal for shooting many types of landscape images.

Woodland interiors, waterfalls and coastal scenes all work really well in overcast light and in most cases give much better results when shot in soft light rather than in bright sunshine. This is because the contrast levels are much lower when working in overcast conditions allowing detail to be retained in both dark and light areas of the picture.

Duthil Burn and autumn foliage. Inverness-shire. Scotland. October 2006.

© Copyright Mark Hamblin

Take full advantage of shooting on overcast light by setting a long exposure to record moving water as a creative blur. You’ll get more saturated colors by fitting a polarizing filter, which will remove the surface flare from water and foliage. A polarizer will also reduce the light reaching the sensor meaning you can shoot longer exposures.

To view Mark Hamblin’s works visit his website www.markhamblin.com

[via digitalcameraworld.com]


Welcome to the NEW Summit

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Enjoy our new website with an all new look and many added features! Explore around the site for more information on our in-person workshops, online shop, faculty list, galleries, and the NEW Summit Online featuring virtual education through classes & tutorials in many disciplines.

Be sure to come back to our Summit Blog which be consistently updated with content about the workshops and the topics we master like Sports, Nature, Adventure, Lighting, and more!

Contact us with any questions or if you notice anything on the new site that’s a little buggy!

Behind a Photograph

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William Albert Allard, National Geographic photographer and long-time Summit faculty, gives us insight into what goes into a photograph and how important workshops like the Summit are to the advancement of education.

Check out the video below that features previous workshop attendees’ photos as Allard details the visual importance.

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