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Using the Adjustment Brush in Adobe Camera Raw

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What is the Adjustment Brush?

The Adjustment Brush is an editing tool in Adobe Camera Raw (known simply as ACR). This tool is possibly the equivalent of the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop. So what is dodging and burning? To dodge is to lighten and to burn is to darken a specific area.

What does it do?

When you make your initial global adjustments of a RAW file in ACR, more than likely, you will need to make local adjustments too. This is where the Adjustment Brush is useful for making adjustments to specific areas of your photo.

Recently, I have found I am using this tool more and more. If I am out and about just shooting for my own library, I tend to take photos slightly underexposed. This way, I can recover a lot of detail in the post editing stage. This is useful if you don’t have time for metering the shot perfectly, especially in the case where skies are involved.

How does it work?

The Adjustment Brush isolates a specific area by masking it, similar to using layer masks in Photoshop. When you click on the Adjustment Brush icon, the right panel changes to the Adjustment Brush tab. The bottom sliders modify the size of the brush and you can also determine how much feather and density (flow) you wish to apply.

When you use the Adjustment Brush on a particular part of your image, a pin icon appears to determine where your adjustment has just been made.

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Adjustment-Brush-and-Pin-icon

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I do find using the Adjustment Brush a bit cumbersome. But this tool definitely has its merits. Like most of the editing tools in ACR, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc., there is simply no one-click button that magically does it all.

You may find with a bit of practice using the Adjustment Brush that it could speed up your editing workflow. Take for example this image that I shot of some blue containers on a pier. I made the basic adjustments in ACR. I then used the Adjustment Brush in several areas: to lighten the sky; to keep the highlights on the small white boat on the left from being blown out completely. I also used the Adjustment Brush on the wood section to give it more warmth.

 

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Sarah Hipwell

A fresh look at Depth of Field

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depth of field foreground

We talk a lot around here at Digital Photography School about Depth of Field. I’m writing this based on the assumption that we all understand that in layman terms, “depth of field” is the portion of an image that is in sharp focus. To illustrate: in landscape photography, generally you’re working to achieve a very large depth of field. You want EVERYTHING in the scene to be in sharp focus. With portraits, photographers are often shooting for (lame pun intended) a more shallow depth of field, focusing in on their subjects and working towards fall off or blur in the background. Why do you think this is the case? Clearly to draw focus to the story being told. Well what if you want to tell a different story OR what if you want to tell the same story in a different way? Today let’s talk about depth of field and some ways you can use foreground in a different way to draw a different kind of attention to the story you’re trying to tell. Here are 3 ways to create “story telling images” using foreground to achieve creative depth of field.

1. Framing with foreground:

I wanted to find the most straight forward illustration I could to get the point across clearly. This shot (left) is from a recent senior portrait session. I wanted to draw attention to the senior, particularly I wanted him to seem strong and capable: READY to take on the world.

The frame of the foliage around him draws attention right to him… it focuses the story of the image. I recognize that foreground used in this way can also be distracting, this image is borderline distracting, I recognize that. You need to be aware of that and be sure to make foreground work for you, not against you.

How to get a shot like this: well I was shooting with a 50mm lens. I got right up close to the foliage that separated Melvin and I. First I tried with auto focus, but because of my proximity to the leaves, I had to switch over and focus manually.

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2. Don’t be afraid to throw your subject out of focus:

When you’re doing portraiture, you’re generally trying to establish some kind of mood through imagery: happy, solemn, lovesick, sexy. . . Generally the mood is created through posing etc. For the next shots I let the foreground tell a few different kinds of love stories for me.

Back in March, I was shooting on Balboa Island in California. We were out on this dock shooting the typical, fun, happy, “we can’t wait to get married” stuff and I was getting bored. I had them take their shoes off and put their feet in the water. Better, but still pretty typical. So I waded out into the water, hitched my skirt up around my waist, nearly dropped my camera into the ocean, and created these. First I focused on the couple and threw the water out of focus. It’s a nice shot. It looks like they’re sitting on the dock watching the sun set. Nice. Then I focused on the water throwing my subject out of focus. A little sexier huh? Like, we’re sneaking up on some steamy make-out sesh. . . ha ha! But really, both images are good, while neither image is going up for any awards any time soon, they’re both good images. The second just speaks to you a little differently, tells their sexy love story a little more clearly.

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Here’s another image where I decided NOT to focus on my subject, again to tell his story better. Back to Melvin’s senior session. Here he is walking into his future. I wanted to show where he was going, but also to illustrate that he’s on his way there because of where he’s been. . . I think this image is a powerful one that illustrates hope for the future and grounding in the past.

 

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Natalie Norton

10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits

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How do you take Portraits that have the ‘Wow’ factor?

Today and tomorrow I want to talk about taking Portraits that are a little out of the box. You see it’s all very well and good to have a portrait that follows all the rules – but it hit me as I was surfing on Flickr today that often the most striking portraits are those that break all the rules.

I want to look at some ways to break out of the mold and take striking portraits by breaking (or at least bending) the rules and adding a little randomness into yourportrait photography. I’ll share ten of these tips today and a further ten tomorrow (update: you can see the 2nd part here).

1. Alter Your Perspective

Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.

10 Ways to Take Stunning PortraitsPhoto by striatic

Get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as you can and shoot up. Either way you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest.

10 Ways to Take Stunning PortraitsPhoto by TeeRish

2. Play with Eye Contact

It is amazing how much the direction of your subject’s eyes can impact an image. Most portraits have the subject looking down the lens – something that can create a real sense of connection between a subject and those viewing the image. But there are a couple of other things to try:

A. Looking off camera – have your subject focus their attention on something unseen and outside the field of view of your camera. This can create a feeling of candidness and also create a little intrigue and interest as the viewer of the shot wonders what they are looking at. This intrigue is particularly drawn about when the subject is showing some kind of emotion (ie ‘what’s making them laugh?’ or ‘what is making them look surprised?’). Just be aware that when you have a subject looking out of frame that you can also draw the eye of the viewer of the shot to the edge of the image also – taking them away from the point of interest in your shot – the subject.

10 Ways to Take Stunning PortraitsPhoto by monicutza80

B. Looking within the frame – alternatively you could have your subject looking at something (or someone) within the frame. A child looking at a ball, a woman looking at her new baby, a man looking hungrily at a big plate of pasta…. When you give your subject something to look at that is inside the frame you create a second point of interest and a relationship between it and your primary subject. It also helps create ‘story’ within the image.

10 Ways to Take Stunning PortraitsPhoto by paulbence

3. Break the Rules of Composition

There are a lot of ‘rules’ out there when it comes to composition and I’ve always had a love hate relationship with them. My theory is that while they are useful to know and employ that they are also useful to know so you can purposely break them – as this can lead to eye catching results.

 

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Darren Rowse

Congrats to the winners of the Summit Workshops 2015 Photo Contests

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Winners of Summit Workshops’ Annual Photo Contests receive free tuition to any of Summit Workshops’ award-winning non-destination photography workshops.

 

Professional Photo Contest Winner: 

Isaiah Downing (Instagram: @isaiahdowningphoto)

Pine Creek freshman Gracie Rowland swims in the girls 500 yard freestyle. The Liberty Lancers hosted the Pine Creek Eagles in girls' swimming and diving on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at Liberty High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

Pine Creek freshman Gracie Rowland swims in the girls 500 yard freestyle. The Liberty Lancers hosted the Pine Creek Eagles in girls’ swimming and diving on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at Liberty High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

 

 

 

Amateur Photo Contest Winner:

Rob Giersch (Instagram – @robgiersch)

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A young kid leaps with excitement from the docks at sunset into the glistening water.

4 Ingredients for Great Landscape Photographs

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When you are out in the field and you’re not sure if your the image you are making is any good, go through this quick mental checklist to see if your image contains these four essential ingredients.

1. Good Light

Light is by far the most important element of a landscape photograph. A photograph of a stunning location taken in harsh mid-day light will fall flat. A photograph of a boring location taken at that perfect moment when the light is magical will turn into a unique and memorable photograph.

I don’t actually believe that there is any kind of light that is inherently bad. You just have to know what to do with the light conditions that you are given.

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA, by Anne McKinnell.

The golden hour light of sunrise and sunset are usually a favourite time for photographers. My favourite time is the blue hour: twilight. It’s hard to go wrong with these two types of light.

When you have a day with bright harsh sunlight, take advantage of the opportunity to look for interesting shadows.

The white sky of an overcast day is an excellent time to photograph close-ups.

And what about those stormy days? Those can be the best of all with the dramatic clouds that accompany a storm.

2. Main Subject

The next thing is to make sure you have a main subject. That may sound pretty obvious but keep it in mind. You may find yourself, as I sometimes do, making an image of some general landscape without a clear subject. It’s just some land with some trees and maybe some water. You need to decide what the subject is and that will help you make an image that is more compelling.

Little Finland, Nevada, USA, by Anne McKinnell.

When I get to a location I like to think of what it is about that place that grabbed my attention and I make that the main subject. That’s not to say you cannot then turn your attention to another main subject later, but if you have too many subjects in your scene, none of them with be the main subject and your image will be too general to be interesting.

 

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Anne McKinnell

11 Landscape Photography Tips

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11 landscape photography tips

My first love in photography when I first got my trusty old Minolta SLR as a teenager was landscape photography. There’s something about getting out in nature with the challenge of capturing some of the amazing beauty that you see. Perhaps it fits with my personality type – but I loved the quietness and stillness of waiting for the perfect moment for the shot, scoping out an area for the best vantage point and then seeing the way that the light changed a scene over a few hours.

While I don’t get as much time as I’d like for Landscape Photography these days – I thought I’d jot down a few of the lessons that I learned in my early years of doing it. I’d love to hear your own tips in comments below.

Landscape Photography Tips

1. Maximize your Depth of Field

landscape photography tips

While there may be times that you want to get a little more creative and experiment with narrow depth of fields in your Landscape Photography – the normal approach is to ensure that as much of your scene is in focus as possible. The simplest way to do this is to choose a small Aperture setting (a large number) as the smaller your aperture the greater the depth of field in your shots.

Do keep in mind that smaller apertures mean less light is hitting your image sensor at any point in time so they will mean you need to compensate either by increasing your ISO or lengthening your shutter speed (or both).

PS: of course there are times when you can get some great results with a very shallow DOF in a landscape setting (see the picture of the double yellow line below).

2. Use a Tripod

landscape photography tips

As a result of the longer shutter speed that you may need to select to compensate for a small aperture you will need to find a way of ensuring your camera is completely still during the exposure. In fact even if you’re able to shoot at a fast shutter speed the practice of using a tripod can be beneficial to you. Also consider a cable or wireless shutter release mechanism for extra camera stillness.

3. Look for a Focal Point

great landscape photography tips

All shots need some sort of focal point to them and landscapes are no different – in fact landscape photographs without them end up looking rather empty and will leave your viewers eye wondering through the image with nowhere to rest (and they’ll generally move on quickly).

Focal points can take many forms in landscapes and could range from a building or structure, a striking tree, a boulder or rock formation, a silhouette etc.

Think not only about what the focal point is but where you place it. The rule of thirdsmight be useful here.

 

…For more…visit the Digital Photography School’s article by Darren Rowse

Former Workshop Student Jen Edney Lands Photos in SI Gallery on the Volvo Ocean Race

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Jen Edney has been to several Summit Photography Workshops and even helped at the workshops as the second-ever workshop mentor. Jen just recently landed two photos (out of 10 total) in Sports Illustrated’s gallery on the Volvo Ocean Race. The race takes place once every four years, lasts for nine-months and visits 11 ports in 11 countries on five continents. To view the entire gallery, visit it >>HERE<< on SI.com.

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Five Ways to Improve Your Eye for Composition

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An eye for composition is one of the things that elevates the work of the best photographers above the rest. One of the best ways to learn about composition is focus on applying one idea at a time. You can treat it as an exercise that will help you improve your composition skills, the same way that piano players practice scales. Here are five ideas to get you started.

#1 Use a single lens

Lenses have an enormous influence on the look of a photo, and the best way to learn exactly what effect they have is to spend some time using just one lens. Ideally it would be a prime lens, but if you have a zoom you can use a piece of tape to fix the lens to one focal length (some lenses have a locking switch you can use instead).

If you use a single focal length you will become intimately acquainted with its characteristics.

While it is useful to own multiple lenses, the ability to switch from one to another may mean that you don’t get to know any of them very well. This exercise helps overcome that tendency.

Improving Composition

Improving Composition

 #2 Work in black and white

Improving Composition

My favourite recommendation for learning more about composition is to work inblack and white.

Colour is such a powerful element that it dominates most photos. It becomes more difficult to see and appreciate the underlying building blocks of composition liketexture, line, pattern and tonal contrast. Take colour away and all these things become easier to see; once you are aware of them, you can start using them to improve the composition of your photos.

For example, in the black and white photo above, did you notice the shapes in the photo? I’m referring to the white rectangle of the cinema screen (yes, that’s what it is), the shapes of the Chinese letters and the diamond pattern in the stones on the ground. All these things are easier to see in black and white.

#3 Repeating patterns and shapes

Improving Composition

Another thing to look out for is repeating patterns and shapes. When I took the photo above I noticed that the repeating shapes of the cards made an interesting composition.

There are two strong elements to this photo. The first is the pattern formed by the lines of cards. The second is the lines created by the shelf edges and the cards themselves. I took the photo at an angle so the lines created by the shelves moved diagonally across the frame.

Train yourself to recognize patterns and shapes, so you can use them in your compositions.

 

For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Andrew S. Gibson

9 Tips to get sharp focus at night

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Autofocus is so good on modern cameras that most photographers use it all the time. It seemingly never lets you down. But, let’s say it’s nighttime and you are going to do some shooting. You find a good spot. You set up your tripod. You go to focus your camera using the autofocus. You can feel the camera’s focus ring twisting back and forth, trying to focus. But it never gets there. The camera keeps hunting for a focus spot but never finds one.

Uh-oh.  What are you going to do now?

Tower Bridge, March 2011

Actually, this problem doesn’t arise only at night. Your camera will typically have trouble focusing in any really dark scene. So here are some tips for dealing with that situation and focusing your camera when it is dark:

1. Aim for the bright spot

Sometimes you can still use your autofocus. Even though it is dark, most night scenes will have a bright spot or two. They might be streetlights, or a lit-up building, or even the moon. That bright spot can be used to set your autofocus.

To do so, find a bright spot that is reasonably close to your desired plane of focus (i.e., the same distance away as your focal point). Autofocusing on that point should take care of your problem. Just focus on that bright spot in a normal fashion and your camera is now focused on something the same distance away as your subject. You should then be able to take your picture with proper focus.

Green Park, November 2012

2. Focus on the edge

Most cameras focus using something called contrast detection. That means the camera will have the best chance at finding something to focus on if you aim at the area of high contrast between something bright and the dark background.  So don’t aim your focus point at the middle of the bright spot in your frame. Rather, focus on the edge of the bright point. The camera will use the contrast between the very light and the very dark tones to focus.

CaCoast

3. Use a flashlight

If you are attempting to autofocus on a relatively close subject, you can use a flashlight to assist with the focus. This is one of the many reasons to keep a flashlight in your camera bag.

To do that, shine your flashlight on your subject. That will lighten it up enough for the camera to focus on it. Set your focus, then you can turn off the flashlight and take your shot.

4. Recompose after focusing

Assume you now have your focus set using the methods set forth above. But to get that focus, you had to move your camera away from your desired composition to focus on the edge of a bright spot. Move your camera back to your desired composition to get the shot. Don’t refocus as you do so though – just move the camera and take the shot with the focus you’ve already set. (You will need to either hold the shutter button part way down, use focus lock, or focus and then turn off the AF so it doesn’t attempt to refocus once you have recomposed – or see #5 below.)

BigBendNight

 

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Jim Hamel

6 Ways to be creative with Shutter Speed

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In many ways, shutter speed is an inaccurate term. I read an article a few years ago and the photographer referred to shutter speed as shutter time. The logic was spot on. A shutter always opens or closes at the same “speed”. The key value is how long the shutter stays open, hence shutter time. On Canon cameras the shutter speed function (shutter priority) on the mode dial is abbreviated to Tv, which stands for “Time Value”, and is a more accurate description of what this article is about. I am going to refer to shutter time as opposed to shutter speed, it sounds crazy, but it will make more sense. The reason this definition is important is because, we are going to be looking at how you can use the time that the shutter is open (and gathering light onto the sensor) creatively.

Waiting for an image to unfold requires patience

In a sense, shutter time is a bit like time travel. You camera’s shutter can open and shut in 1/8000th of a second. Think about that. Take one second, divide it by 8000 and one of those units is the time your shutter was open. That is very quick. On the other end of the spectrum, you can shoot super long exposures of 20 or 30 minutes. That means the shutter stays open for that length of time. Again, amazing. Think of all that light falling onto the sensor during that time, and the images that can be created doing so.

The shutter time becomes more than simply a moment in time, it could be a split second (literally) or a few seconds. The resulting image will capture and freeze the moment or, with a longer shutter time, there will be blurred movement. This is the fun part of photography. In many ways, your camera can “see” events that happen which you cannot. The camera can capture a frozen moment and suspend your subject in that moment forever, this is like magic. The compelling images are amazing to see and are reasonably easy to make, so let’s take a look at a few of them and see how they are done.

6 Ways to Use Shutter Speed Creatively

1. Freezing the moment

These are the images we all know about; ones that have captured a frozen moment in time. Normally these are sports images, the winning goal, or the knockout punch connecting. They are intriguing to most people and are compelling because we can’t freeze the moment in our eyes. We see a moving, continuous rendition of the events happening in front of us. You have seen “slo-mo” shots of the winning goal; the frozen moment image is that equivalent.

These images take a bit of practice to get right. Lets assume for a moment, you are photographing a soccer match. It is great to get action shots, but you will want to get any shots of the teams scoring goals. You will then need to have the correct lens. Insports photography, it will be a pretty long zoom or telephoto lens. Most sports photographers will use 400mm and longer. You will also need to keep your camera steady. A tripod in these cases is somewhat impractical as you need to be able to move the camera quickly and easily to follow the game. A monopod is normally what works best.

freeze action 2

Depending on the lighting conditions you need to make sure you have a shutter time that captures the players in mid-action. You also need to take the lighting into consideration. If you are shooting in an outdoor arena, the natural light may be sufficient, but if you are in an indoor arena, you might need to be more aware of your exposure. In that case, you may need to push your ISO up high enough to allow you to freeze your subject. In most sports 1/1500th of a second is the starting point for freezing action. In very fast sports like ice hockey, soccer, rugby and so on, you may need to be shooting at even faster speeds than that. This is how you set up the shots.

Technique

How to do it: Set your aperture to an aperture setting of f/2.8 or f/4.5. This will allow for a quicker shutter time, which will in turn freeze the action. If you are shooting a sporting event in the sunlight, you may need to have your shutter time set to 1/1500 or faster. If this is still not freezing the action, make the shutter time even quicker. Try and anticipate the action and release the shutter at the moment you think it will happen. Be aware that your focus will need to be spot on. With a wide aperture, you run the risk of misfocusing and missing a shot. I once heard a sports photographer say this ” If you see the goal in your viewfinder, you missed the shot”. When you do get that shot though, it will be worth it.

2. The decisive moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase, “The Decisive Moment”. Do a google image search on Cartier-Bresson and the decisive moment, you will see many of his great images. He was well known as a street and people photographer, and he believed that you need to choose the precise moment when something happens to hit the shutter release. As you can imagine, this is not easy. Sometimes this might mean you need quick reflexes. Freeze actionMost of the time, it requires patience. He would often set up the shot, get the framing right and then wait. You don’t want to wait for hours, but be patient, sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and watch the scene. Take note of how people are moving into, and out of your frame. When time is right, or the perfect subject (person, vehicle, animal, whatever you choose) moves into the best position, release your shutter at that moment. This will take practice and more than a few shots to get it right, but when you do, you will be ecstatic. The shot will look candid, but you will know what it took to get that image. Many people assume Cartier-Bresson’s images were simply shot quickly from the hip, but much of the time they were planned and he waited patiently for the decisive moment.

Technique

How to do it: You need to think of a scene you would like to capture, visualize it. You may want to capture the comings and goings at a coffee shop in your city. You may want to have someone with a red coat sitting outside, sipping coffee. You should then set up and frame your shot, then sit there until the scene unfolds. Someone with a yellow jacket may sit down, which might work too. So be flexible, but be patient, sooner or later the shot will unfold.

…For more…visit Digital Photography School’s article by Barry J. Brady

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