Background Remover India Background remover, Clipping path service, Background removal from image, color correction and ghost mannequin services provider in world-wide. Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DIY Lighting and Background Accessories for the Budget-Conscious Photographer Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:35 +0000 Do you want to take your photography to the next level, but don’t have the budget for professional equipment? Just a few dollars and a trip […]

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Do you want to take your photography to the next level, but don’t have the budget for professional equipment? Just a few dollars and a trip to the stationery shop can do the trick. Keep reading for some DIY lighting and background accessories using paper.

Professional photography studios have multiple lights and accessories to create their images. If you want to learn about them, here’s a great introduction guide.

However, when there’s no budget at hand, it’s time to get creative.

I’ll show you some ideas on how to create DIY lighting and background accessories using paper only. This has the intention of being a starting point to spark your creativity according to your needs and whatever you can find in your area.


DIY lighting and background accessories

DIY diffuser

There are two types of light, hard and soft. Hard light is very bright and usually, a condensed light that casts well defined, intense shadows and contrasting hot points.

It can be natural on very sunny days, or artificial from flash and strobes.

This can be great for certain types of photos, but other times it can be very unflattering for the scene.

Hard Light DIY Photography

Hard light with no diffuser. 0.5 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

Soft light means that the subject is illuminated more evenly, the shadows become softer, and the entire mood is different.

Professionally, hard light is turned soft by using umbrellas or softboxes.

You can achieve a softbox effect using vellum paper as I did on the image below. In case you can’t find it, any type of tracing paper will do, or even oven paper from your kitchen.

diy-lighting-and-background-accessories-SOft Light DIY diffuser

Hard light turned soft with the use of DIY lighting accessories – vellum paper. You can also use tracing paper or oven paper. 0.5 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

DIY Reflector

A light reflector bounces the existing light so that you don’t have to add a second source. This is very helpful to fill in shadows or darker areas of the image to bring out more detail.

You can find these in different sizes and colors, but the DIY stationery solution I chose was a foam board. It’s very light, easy to cut, and has a glossy exterior that maximizes the reflection.

Stationery Shop DIY Reflector

1/5 sec. f2.8 ISO 200

In the above example, see how much light I gained just by placing a piece of foam board opposite the flash. It’s so much that I even lost the contrasting effect I wanted. However, I wanted to show you how big the difference is.

If you want less light, you can place it further away or change the angle. It takes some practice to learn how to use reflectors to light your subject, but it’s really worth it. If you need to block the light instead, you need to use flags, which you can achieve with black paper.

Creative uses

DIY Gels

Other DIY lighting and background accessories you can create are gels. Gels are pieces of colored, semi-transparent material that you can use to modify your light. Professional gels are graded to exact colors and density. This is because you can then compensate for the exposure and white balance in your camera and different light sources. However, for creative lighting, you can use simple cellophane paper or plastic index dividers.

Stationery Shop DIY Color Gel

1 sec. f. 2.8 ISO 200

Creating bokeh with wrapping paper or foil

Bokeh is an effect created by the lens when you send the background out of focus. You can easily create it by using crumbled metallic wrapping paper or aluminum foil as a background. If you want to create colored bokeh, buy wrapping paper with iridescent designs.

Stationery Shop DIY Bokeh

You can create a great bokeh background simply by using crumbled metallic wrapping paper or aluminum foil as a background. 1/10 sec, f/8, ISO 200

Once you place this background, light it from the side with any kind of lamp, flash or even window light. The most important thing though is to keep it out of focus. If you’re not sure how to achieve the shallow depth of field needed, check out this article.

Using paper to create a textured backdrop

Of course, you can make a backdrop with any kind of paper – that’s not news. However, I encourage you to add texture to it and see the difference. This, of course, makes a busier background, so it may not suit all subjects, but it can be a creative solution for many others.


This background was created using crumpled tissue paper. 1/5 sec. f2.8 ISO 200

I found that tissue paper is great because it’s cheap, light, easy to manipulate, and comes in multiple colors. You can just crumble it, cut it into pieces, and form patterns.

In this example, I cut it into squares and then twisted the center to create the ruffles, then pasted it all together with alternating shades of green.


So there you have it – some incredibly simple, and affordable DIY lighting and background accessories that you can buy on a small budget from almost any stationery store. Try these out, and if you have any other tips to add, please share them with us in the comments!

And for more photography DIY ideas, check out the following articles:

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How to Use Old Lenses with New Digital Cameras (with Bonus Video) Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:34 +0000 They say time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve been having so much fun that I realize it has been over six years since I first […]

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They say time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve been having so much fun that I realize it has been over six years since I first talked to you about how to use old lenses with new digital cameras

A lot has changed when it comes to going about using vintage camera lenses with our modern digital camera bodies. Well, things haven’t exactly changed but have rather “progressed” from where they were just a few years ago.

Let me show you now, how you can easily use classic glass with virtually any interchangeable lens digital camera…with a few exceptions.

Old lenses and new digital cameras

Understanding old lenses

Vintage lenses are a fantastic gateway into the world of photography. Many are usually cheap (relatively) and comparatively well constructed. Additionally, the majority of old lenses are surprisingly sharp with fast apertures, even by today’s standards.

Speaking of current standards, seeing as the majority of these types of lenses were manufactured for use with 35mm film, they are essentially ready-made to match with the growing number of high resolution full-frame digital cameras available to us today.

Vintage Nikkor 50mm lens mounted to Sony A7R

Some of these lenses also add a unique character to your images, which might or might not be desirable depending on your own expectations. Lenses such as the legendary Helios have become prized lenses for portrait photographers and videographers due to its distinctive “swirly” bokeh.

Photo of Nikon F3 taken with Helios 44-2 lens

This photo was made with the Helios 44-2 at its maximum F/2 aperture. Note the distinctive swirl of the background.

Check out this cool tutorial on how to simulate this effect in Photoshop

In short, vintage lenses bring a lot to the table in terms of sharpness, build quality and cost-effectiveness. This is all well and good, but how do you get these old lenses to fit your camera?

To find out, keep reading.

This is the cool part.

Adapting vintage lenses

When it comes to using old lenses with new digital cameras, there are two things to consider: lens mount compatibility and a little thing called “flange-focal distance.”

We’ll talk more about flange-focal distance in the next section, but for now, let’s focus (haha) simply on how to get a lens from manufacturer A to fit on a camera from manufacturer B.

It’s all really quite easy – mostly.

You can use old lenses with new digital cameras by means of an adapter

You’ll need an adapter to use your old lenses with new digital cameras. However, this isn’t limited to vintage glass, as today, there are quite a few ways to use even modern lenses across a wide range of camera platforms. For our purposes, though, we’ll stick to showing you how to use older lenses.

The first problem an adapter solves is the conversion of your lens mount to the mount your camera uses.

Think of the adapter as a “connector” with one side matching the lens and one side matching the camera. This allows us to physically attach the lens to the camera even though they sport different mounts.

Different lens mounts of old lenses

Here we see some examples of various vintage lens mounts.

There are all sorts of adapters available on the market today. They range from the alarmingly cheap to the shockingly expensive and everything in between.

Some are complex with electronic components intended to aid in metering/focusing with autofocus lenses, and some are as simple as small rings of metal.

Adapters for using old lenses with new digital cameras

A few adapters used for fitting various vintage lenses to new digital camera bodies.

Now, you may be thinking that all you need is an adapter that will convert a lens to a certain mount, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Let’s talk about what might be the most important factor when it comes to using old lenses with new digital cameras – flange-focal distance.

Flange focal distance

No matter the lens, you will have to overcome something called “flange-focal distance” if you choose to adapt older lenses for your digital camera.

This is where you have to be careful because there are some lens adapters out there that do not take this very important aspect into account.

Without the correct flange-focal distance, your adapted lens will not be able to focus correctly. In some cases, it will not focus at all.

Flange-focal distance of the Canon 5D MK3

Although crucial, flange-focal distance is extremely simple to understand. Flange-focal distance is the distance (in millimeters) from the rear mount of the lens to the focal plane of the camera, which can be either film or a digital sensor.

Your focal plane is designated by that little symbol that looks like a ‘0’ with a line.

Image demonstrating the focal plane of a Sony A7R

Different cameras all have different flange-focal distances and vary widely between manufacturers. Compensating for this differing flange-focal distance is a key factor when it comes to determining whether or not your adapted lens will be able to obtain the correct focus.

So, in reality, your lens adapter needs to not only act as a mount converter but also be able to accurately correct for the specified focal-flange distance.

Flange-focal distance and the mirrorless advantage

Up to this point, we’ve only explained what flange-focal distance (FFD) is and why it’s important. Now, we’re going to discuss the practical aspects of FFD when it comes to actually adapt your old lenses to new digital cameras.

More specifically, we’ll touch on why mirrorless cameras are so versatile when it comes to adapting various camera lenses.

An old Nikon G-mount lens mounted using an adapter to a Sony A7R

Hypothetically, you can adapt virtually any lens to fit any digital camera. However, this is not always practical. In some cases, it would require massive modifications to your camera.

The reason for this all goes back to the importance of FFD. With a camera manufactured with a relatively large FFD, like a Canon DSLR (44mm FFD), it becomes quite easy to adapt the lenses for that camera to one with a smaller FFD.

Seeing as the majority of older lenses were made for cameras with mirror mechanisms, most of them will have a FFD larger than today’s modern mirrorless digital cameras.

An example of this is using Canon EF mount lenses with Sony mirrorless cameras like the A7R.

Since there is no mirror reflex mechanism, the A7R has a relatively tiny FFD of 18mm. So in our case, all that is required to achieve the correct FFD of the Canon lens (44mm FFD), and thus facilitate proper focusing, is for the adapter to provide 26mm of spacing in order to reach the correct 44mm FFD of the Canon EF lens.

Lens mount adapter for Sigma lenses

Sound a bit confusing? It’s okay! I’ve put together a super short video that breaks down how FFD works in simple terms.


As I mention in the video, you have to be mindful that you aren’t buying a lens adapter that does not compensate for the needed difference in FFD.

There are quite a few adapters on the market that are essentially only “mount adapters,” that just convert one lens mount to another while not enabling the lens to actually achieve focus. Not only that, you run the risk of damaging your precious camera should the lens intrude too far inside the body – more on this and other complications in the next section.

Common complications

Using old lenses with your modern mirrorless or DSLR cameras has a lot of benefits. Many of these older lenses are sharp, fast and brilliantly constructed. Unfortunately, with age comes a few problems. I’ve listed a few things to watch out for below. Some are obvious and some you might not expect.

  • Dust and fungus – Older lenses can have dust and lint inside the lens as well as fungus growing on the lens elements. There can even be a separation of the optical coatings should the lens elements feature this. So when considering purchasing a vintage lens to use with your digital camera, make sure it comes from a reputable place. Also, examine the lens closely for any flaws.
  • The infinity focus problem – We’ve already talked about how important FFD is for focusing, and if you are primarily a landscape or astrophotography shooter, you’ll want to pay special attention to infinity focus. Should your adapter be only slightly too large, meaning it goes past the FFD for the particular lens you’re using, the lens will not focus to infinity. In most cases, the adapter will physically be minutely shorter so that the adapted lens will focus past infinity for this very reason.
  • FFD incompatibility – Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind when using old lenses with new digital cameras is that many lenses aren’t backward-compatible. This means, instead of requiring an adapter to compensate for larger FFD, the lens needs to be mounted closer to the focal plane. So, lens intended for mirrorless cameras (with short FFD) can’t be adapted to DSLR bodies (relatively large FFD). Refer to the video for a bit more info on this.
  • Potential camera damage – Always remember that it’s up to you to decide if you want to try adapting any lens to your camera. There is always a chance of damage, and this risk goes when electronic adapters are involved. Furthermore, some lenses can protrude inside of the camera body, which could possibly damage digital sensors and other internal mechanisms.

Some closing thoughts…

I sometimes wonder if the original makers of some of my vintage lenses ever thought about the manner they might get used thirty, forty, or even fifty years down the road.

Making use of old lenses with new digital cameras is not a new concept. However, with the recent rise in popularity of mirrorless digital cameras, their use is becoming more and more common.

With the correct adapter and a bit of basic photographic know-how, you can put many of these beautiful old lenses to work for you with minimal investment in both time and money.

So whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to make great photos or you’re simply a fan of the character of old glass, I believe you’ll find it worth your while to try out some vintage lenses for yourself.

Have you used some old lenses with your digital camera? We’re all camera geeks here, so we’d love to see your results! Feel free to post your images made with old camera lenses below.

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9 Great Tips to Photograph Waterfalls (video) Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:34 +0000 The post 9 Great Tips to Photograph Waterfalls (video) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk. In this new video from […]

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The post 9 Great Tips to Photograph Waterfalls (video) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this new video from Mads Peter Iversen, he gives you 9 great tips to photograph waterfalls. With some great tips and beautiful scenery, this video will have you taking better photos of waterfall landscapes in no time.


You’ll learn about camera settings, shutter speeds, composition (including moving around to get the most from your image), and other practical tips such as filters and tripods.

Shot in the beautiful Lofoten in Norway, which is not known for its waterfalls, Iversen has to work a little harder to capture these images.

Do you have any other tips for photographing waterfalls that you would like to share with us? Are there things you agree or disagree with in this video? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

If you want to improve your landscape photography, try our Landscape & Nature Photography Course.


You may also like:

The post 9 Great Tips to Photograph Waterfalls (video) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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Made in the Shade – Why Taking Portraits in the Shade Can be Ideal Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:34 +0000 You’re taking portraits, and it’s time for your subjects’ “moment in the sun.” If you really want them to shine, let’s look at why taking portraits in […]

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You’re taking portraits, and it’s time for your subjects’ “moment in the sun.” If you really want them to shine, let’s look at why taking portraits in the shade is the way to go.

I can remember when the recommendation to photographers was to “always photograph your subject with the sun at your back, so the light is on their face.”

I think I read that many years ago on an insert in a box of film. Perhaps the idea was not to wind up with a silhouette with the bright sky tricking the camera into an underexposed subject.

There are no doubt circumstances where you might do it this way, but I’m ready to teach you why the shade is your friend and that of your subject as well.


Make a bad location with your subject squinting into the sun work by shading them. 1/160 sec. f/5 ISO 100. White reflector fill.

Why not to shoot portraits in the sun

Let’s list some reasons you probably don’t want to shoot portraits in the sun:

  • The light will be bright, contrasty, and the shadows will be hard and distinct.
  • Your subject will probably squint.
  • On a hot day, your subject will get hot, and cranky and both you and the subject won’t have much fun.  The photos will suffer.
  • The extremes of the exposure range between highlights and shadows will make getting a good exposure difficult.

Mixed, speckled, uneven shade…don’t do this!

Why taking portraits in the shade is better

  • The light will be diffuse, less contrasty, and the shadows will be minimal
  • Your subject will relax and open their eyes.
  • On a hot day you and your subject will be more comfortable, have more fun, and the photos will show it.
  • Getting a good exposure will be far easier and you will have less editing later to create a nice image.

Light direction

Obviously, when discussing taking portraits in the shade, we’re talking about working outdoors with the sun as your primary light source. Depending on the position of your subject relative to the position of the sun in the sky, the light can come from these basic directions:


Most photographers know that the worst time for photos is mid-day when the light is directly overhead. This is especially true for portraits and even more so if you make the shot in direct sunlight.

Working in the shade has the advantage of allowing you to make portraits during midday since the overhead light is diffused.


If the sun is lower in the sky, you can position your subject, so the light comes from either side. There might be circumstances where you’d want one side of the subject to brightly lit while the other side is in shadow, but generally not. Again, taking portraits in the shade is the answer.


Taken in an alley, the light in this shot was from camera right and above. A fill flash helped fill the shadows and put a nice catchlight in the subject’s eyes.


With the sun lower in the sky, you could position your subject, so, as the film insert I mentioned suggested, the sun was at your back and on the face of your subject. Occasionally this works if the sun is not intense, you have the right background, and you don’t mind a more contrasty look.

Most often you’d still be better, that’s right…in the shade.


If the sun is lower in the sky, sometimes you can make backlighting your subject work. With their back to the sun, their face will be shaded. Now it’s you and your camera that will be looking into the sun.

You will need to be careful with your exposure so as not to make your subject a silhouette or totally blow out the background. Sun flare can also be a problem.

This could be a time for spot metering. You may also wish to use a reflector or fill-flash (we’ll cover that in a minute). Properly done, however, you may get a nice rim-light look.

Open vs closed shade

You will hear the terms “open shade” and “closed shade.”  Let’s define those.


The subjects are in a shaded area looking toward a brighter lit area. This is “Open Shade.” 1/250 sec. f/6.7 ISO 400

Open shade

Even with your subject in the shade, the light will still usually come more from one direction than the other. Your subject will be in “open shade” when in the shade, but the ambient light is strongest on their face.

If you can’t determine which direction this is, walk around your subject. Ask them to turn as you walk so as to keep facing you. The position when the light is at your back (and on their face) is the most “open shade” position.

One advantage of shooting in this position is the light will be brighter on their face, and the catchlights in their eyes will usually be most dominant.


The predominant light is from behind and the subject is looking into a more shaded area. Fill-flash is used to fill the shadows. This is “Closed Shade.” 1/200 sec. f/8 ISO 200

Closed shade

This is pretty much the opposite of open shade. Your subject is in the shade, but looking into a darker area.

An extreme example of this might be a subject standing just inside a doorway where they are in the shade, but looking inside toward a darker room or area.

Usually, this will not be as good because the background will be brighter than the subject, and the eye catchlights will be minimal if they are there at all.


This is “closed shade” where the predominant ambient light is behind the subject and she is looking into a darker area. Fill-flash brightened her face and filled the shadows. 1/180 sec. f/7.1 ISO 100

Making it all work

It might be a fine idea to suggest you always take portraits in the shade. Usually, though, you also want to consider:

  • your location,
  • what you want in the shot other than just your subject 
  • your background
  • where you and the subject can position yourselves
  • camera angle
  • and many other factors other than just where a shady spot might be. 

If you want to pose your subject in front of that iconic landmark, and you’re there during the middle of the day, you may not have much choice where you position them. 

So let’s discuss ways to use shade where you find it, make shade when you need it, and enhance the light you find while still making the portrait you want. 

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Under the trees

It’s often pleasant in the shade of a tree, and sometimes even the tree itself works well in the shot. Depending on where the light may be coming from, you might be working with open or closed shade, and light coming from various directions.

We’ll cover enhancing the light you might find there in a minute, but here’s a couple of things to keep in mind when working in the shade of a tree or other foliage.

1. Light color

The leaves on most foliage are green (though perhaps other colors at different times of the year). Sometimes the translucent leaves will cast their color on your subject.

Kermit the Frog will tell you, “it ain’t easy being green.”

Green light and skin tones usually won’t be a good mix. Keep this in mind.

Shoot in Raw mode, and if necessary, be ready to tweak your white balance and tint slightly in post-production to back off the green color if it appears.


With green foliage above and green grass reflecting from below, your subject may go green – not a good look. Shoot in Raw format, and you can tweak the white balance when editing. 1/60 sec. f/5 ISO 400 with fill flash.

2. Dappled light

When making portraits, deep shade is good. Dappled light, the kind where the leaves put a pattern of light and shadow on your subject is bad – very bad.

You can rarely fix this in editing. So when taking portraits in the shade, always look to be sure the shade is complete, and the light is not dappled and patchy on your subject.

This can be especially tricky with group photos where some subjects may be in the shade and others in the sun. See what you can do to have everyone in total shade or, if that’s not possible, find a spot where you can have the light coming from behind them so at least their faces are shaded.


Take advantage of shady spots that work with your composition. The object making the shade can sometimes work with your shot. 1/125 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200 with pop-up fill flash.

Other shady spots

Depending on where you’re photographing, there might not be trees but other ways to put your subject in the shade.

Buildings, structures, rocks and cliffs – whatever you might find that works with your shot and vision can be useful.

Something to keep in mind is that other structures or objects might be reflecting light into your shady spot. Your subject might be in the shade, but whatever else that is close by, even the nearby sunlit ground, could reflect light into the scene.

Sometimes you can make this work for you. Other times, particularly if the reflecting object has a strong color, it will reflect colored light onto your subject.


With the surroundings painted in warm colors, as well as the opposite red brick, the reflected light is going to be warm as well. Shot in Raw mode, I could adjust as desired later in post-processing. 1/30 sec. f/4 ISO 100

Throwing shade

Most people don’t like it when you “throw shade” on them. However, in photography, this can be a good thing, especially when you want to photograph them in the shade, but the place where you want them to stand isn’t shady.

What to do?

Make your own shade!

Anything you can put between the light source and your subject is going to put shade, aka a “shadow” on your subject.

This could be a piece of cardboard, a 5-in-1 reflector (which we’ll discuss in a minute), an umbrella – you name it. If the object lends itself to the theme of your image, you can even include it in the shot. Just be sure whatever you use is large enough to shade the area you need completely.

If you’re making a full-length image of a person and your 5-in-1 can only shade their upper body while their legs are still in the sun, that won’t look good. You’ll either have to restrict your shot to the shaded area or find something bigger to shade them with.


Bad light where you want to make your shot? Throw some shade on your subject! Here, I’ve used the black side of a 5-in-1 to shade the subject. A fill-flash nicely evens out the light, also putting a catchlight in her eyes. 1/60 sec. f/6.3 ISO 100

A Scrim shot

The reason you will usually want to put your subject in the shade is that the direct sun is bright, harsh, and produces hard shadows. In the studio, photographers use diffusion to soften the quality of light. Photo umbrellas and softboxes use a translucent material, which scatters and diffuses the light. It also makes the light source “larger” relative to the subject.

This can work outdoors with the sun as well. Rather than use the pinpoint of intense light that is the sun, instead, put the translucent panel of a 5-in-1 between the sun and subject to make the light source larger relative to the subject. It will also make the light more diffuse.

Need something bigger? A translucent shower curtain or piece of white nylon cloth can work well if you have a frame or helpers to hold it.

Of course, there are commercial versions of this if you will be doing a lot of outdoor portrait photography and have the budget.


On a sunny day, you might be surprised on how much fill the silver side of a 5-in-1 will throw.

How about some fill?

So you put your subject in the shade, they’re happy, their eyes are open, you like the composition, but now you see the subject is darker than you’d like. What can you do?

It’s time for a little fill light.

There are several ways you can (and often should) add additional light to your subject.

Let’s cover a few.


I mentioned a 5-in-1 reflector above. This is a portable, and usually collapsible, disk typically covered with translucent fabric. Use it alone as a scrim, as we just discussed.

It then has a zip-on cover that is black on one side, white on the other, and turned inside out, silver on the inside and gold on the reverse of that.

Variations exist. So, 1) Scrim, 2) Black, 3) White, 4) Silver, 5) Gold = a 5-in-1.

You can use the colored side to reflect light onto your subject. Black is the side to use when you want to shade the subject. The white will give a softer, less intense light while neutral in color. Silver is the most intense and can be a slightly cooler light, while the gold will warm your subject.

For photographers doing outdoor portraits, I’d almost consider a 5-in-1 reflector mandatory. It is that useful. There are many brands, styles, and sizes. I have a 42″ (106cm) Interfit brand as well as a little 23″ (59 cm) version that, when collapsed, is just 9-inches (23 cm) and fits nicely in my photo bag.


One device, 5 ways to use it – a 5-in-1 reflector. I think all outdoor portrait photographers should own one, or even a few of these in different sizes.

Doing it “on-the-cheap” you can also use a piece of white poster board or foamcore.  It has the disadvantage of being less portable, but the advantage of being available in very large sheets if you need that big of a reflective panel.


If the only time you use a flash is indoors, at night, or in dimly lit situations, you’re missing a real use of this lighting tool.

Shooting subjects in the shade and then filling the shadows with a touch of flash works exceptionally well, especially with most cameras doing a great job of balancing the fill light using ETTL (Evaluative Through-the-Lens) exposure control.

If you are a new photographer just getting into outdoor portraiture and have a camera with a pop-up flash, I’d strongly encourage you to shoot in the shade and use the pop-up flash for every shot.

Even on sunny days with plenty of light, that little extra flash will fill shadows and put a nice catch-light in your subject’s eyes.

Your portrait photography will improve tremendously. As you advance, a Speedlight is the next step, and beyond that, a fill-flash you can use off-camera.

Backlit/Golden hour/Rim light

Photographers love the “golden hour,” that time in the morning or evening when the sun gets low, and the light is warm. You can make beautiful portraits in such light.

Often you can pose your subject with the light behind them, and the golden glow will rim-light their hair with a beautiful look. (Visualize a model on the beach with the setting sun behind them).

To get some light on your model’s face and better balance the exposure between them and the background, it’s time for some fill light. A reflector or fill-flash will do the trick.

One advantage of the reflector is that you’ll be bouncing the same warm light back onto their face and so your white balance will be consistent.

If you use a flash, consider putting a warming gel on it to better match the color of the background light.


Here the subject is standing in full sun. With the light from behind, her face is shaded. I used the bright silver side of the reflector for fill. You may need to “feather” the reflection slightly by adjusting the reflector position as it can easily become too bright and make your subject squint. 1/160 sec. f/5 ISO 100

Nature’s Softbox

The average person would think a “nice day for portraits” would be that beautiful, sunny, cloudless “bluebird day.”

They’d be wrong.

On such days you’ll really need the tricks we’ve explored here and should be taking portraits in the shade.

If, however, the day you’ve scheduled to do that outdoor portrait shoot should be overcast, consider yourself blessed, especially if you need to shoot at midday. Now, instead of that harsh, pinpoint light source of the sun with associated hard shadows, the entire sky becomes your light source – “nature’s softbox.”


Made in the shade…This one was done in full shade and filled with flash. Note the catchlight in her eyes. 1/40 sec. f/4 ISO 100

Now the challenge might become working with light that is too flat. The effect of your reflector will be much less on a day like this, but your portable flash could perhaps now become your key light. It can give you just enough contrast to make your portrait more dimensional and interesting.

I’ve also just started exploring the use of portable LED lights for portraiture and purchased a Lume Cube.

This small and intense little light doesn’t immediately strike me as something I’d use for the standard portrait, but when taking portraits in the shade or on overcast days, perhaps it could work into the mix.

After I’ve had more experience with it, perhaps I’ll cover how you can use such a device in a later article.

Go do it and show us your work

It’s always great to see photographers putting new knowledge to work, so we’d love to see the images you make when taking portraits in the shade.

Post your images in the comments below and tell us a little about what you did.  Best wishes!

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Mastering Lightroom Keywords in a Flash Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:33 +0000 As your collection of photographs grows, it’s important to have a way to manage all those images. Lightroom keywords can help you tame your ever-increasing photo […]

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As your collection of photographs grows, it’s important to have a way to manage all those images. Lightroom keywords can help you tame your ever-increasing photo library, but mastering them can take a bit of practice. Whether you’re a Lightroom veteran or completely new to the software, these tips and tricks will save you plenty of time and a few headaches too.

Image: Nikon D750, 95mm, f/3.3, 1/250 second, ISO 250

Nikon D750, 95mm, f/3.3, 1/250 second, ISO 250

Understanding keywords

Lightroom keywords are like tags on a social media post. They help categorize your pictures according to specific elements contained therein, as well as broader themes you can’t necessarily see.

For instance, let’s say I post the following picture of a mockingbird on a social media site. The caption contains text I might share with the image, along with a few hashtags.

lightroom keywords

I shot this mockingbird on a chilly November morning. So fun to get out and enjoy the great outdoors! #Nature #Bird #Mockingbird #Outdoors #Oklahoma #Nikon #Sunshine #Happy

Each of those hashtags could be considered a keyword: they help describe and categorize the image. You can’t see that I shot the picture with a Nikon camera. And yet I used the #Nikon hashtag in case people are searching for images taken with that type of gear. I also added the hashtag #Happy because this is a picture that makes me feel joy.

Keywords in Lightroom work in the same way. When you apply them to your images, you are helping make sure you have a way to organize and locate your pictures later on. It might take a bit of work (but not much!) to apply keywords, but that work can pay huge dividends down the line.

Image: Nikon D750, 125mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 180

Nikon D750, 125mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 180

Adding keywords on import

The process of adding Lightroom keywords is pretty straightforward. Lightroom has a number of tools to help you with this step in the process in order to make your job as easy as possible.

You can add keywords to pictures at any time, but the best way is to apply them when you initially import your images.

I usually shoot in batches, so all the photos from any given import operation generally have similar subjects and themes. That makes adding keywords en masse quite practical as opposed to entering them later, but you can certainly do that too.

Lightroom keywords

You can add keywords during the import phase.

In the above photo, you can see the import dialog with thumbnails of several pictures I shot on a foggy morning. Applying keywords when importing them into Lightroom will help me later when I want to find these same images.

On the right side of the Import screen is a panel called Keywords. You can use this to type in a set of words that describe the pictures, just like you would add hashtags to the pictures on social media. For the images above, I would use keywords such as Morning, Fog, and Sunrise.

lightroom keywords

Lightroom keywords are kind of like social media hashtags. Use them to describe your image as well as non-visual aspects – like how it makes you feel.

You can also create a Metadata Preset that applies a specific set of keywords. Choose the “New…” option under the Metadata section of the Apply During Import panel.

Then navigate to the Keywords section and enter the keywords you want to apply.

Save it as a new Metadata preset, and you can apply these keywords as a batch to a group of images on import.

Lightroom keywords

You can create a metadata preset that includes a set of Lightroom keywords to apply during import.

If you don’t want to apply keywords when importing, you can do it in the Library module after finishing the import. In some ways, this process is even easier than applying on import, but I find that if I don’t do it right away (i.e., when importing), I tend to forget. I can sometimes end up with a huge backlog of photos to keyword, so I prefer to get it done right away and not worry about it later on.

Adding keywords in the library module

In the Library module, select the photos to which you want to apply keywords. Then you can add keywords using a few different methods.

lightroom keywords

You can also add keywords after importing using the Library module.

The most obvious way to enter Lightroom keywords is to just type them in the text entry box in the Keywording panel.

Separate each keyword with a comma and add as many keywords as you want.

Lightroom will offer keyword suggestions based on what it thinks you might want to use, but I don’t find these to be particularly helpful.

lightroom keywords

Use the Keywording panel to enter keywords for your images, and separate each keyword with a comma.

If you have several keywords you find yourself using consistently, you can store them in a Keyword Set. This is a collection of Lightroom keywords that are particularly useful for certain shooting situations, such as Outdoor Photography, Portrait Photography, or Wedding Photography.

Click the drop-down menu to select a set, and then click individual keywords to add them to an image or a batch of selected images.

Lightroom keywords

Lightroom has a few existing Keyword Sets, but you can create your own as well.

Scrolling down below the Keywording panel brings up another panel called Keyword List. As its name implies, this is a list of every single keyword you have ever used in Lightroom. It also shows a number indicating how many photos to which that keyword has been applied.

Select one or more photo thumbnails and then click the checkbox next to one of the existing keywords to apply them to the images.

If you have hundreds of keywords, you can narrow the list by searching for specific keywords using the search box at the top of the Keyword List panel.

Lightroom keywords

The keyword list can be used to quickly add existing keywords to images

One other way to add keywords is to use the spray-can icon near the bottom of the Library module.

Click the icon and then select Keywords from the drop-down menu.

Enter any keywords you want to apply and then click the pictures on which you want to apply them.

Lightroom keywords

Use the spray paint icon to add keywords to images with a single click, or multiple images by clicking and dragging

I don’t find the Painter tool to be especially useful, but plenty of photographers use it in their workflows. Your own usage will vary, but the bottom line here is that there are many ways to add Lightroom keywords to your pictures. The important thing is to find a solution that works for you.

Searching and sorting

After you have keywords applied, you can use them in a variety of ways to organize and search through your pictures.

If you just want to find images with one specific Lightroom keyword quickly, you can click the arrow icon next to a word in the Keyword List panel.

Lightroom keywords

If you want to revert to showing all your pictures, select the Library menu, and then un-check the “Enable Filters” option. You can also press Ctrl-L (or Cmd-L on a Mac) to do the same thing.

Another way to use Lightroom keywords for finding specific images is to use the Filter bar.

In the Library module, choose the View menu and then “Show Filter Bar,” or press the “” key. This brings up a search interface that lets you filter your photos according to hundreds of individual criteria.

Lightroom keywords

The filter bar lets you search for a wide variety of image data, including keywords.

Type the keyword you are looking for in the search bar, and Lightroom will instantly pare down your images to show just the ones you need.

You can also adjust the criteria from “Contain All” to more than a half dozen other options such as Contain, Starts With, or Are Empty.

Lightroom keywords

My favorite use of Lightroom keywords is in conjunction with smart collections. These are collections of images populated on the fly according to the criteria you set.

Every time I do a photo session, I assign the keyword “PhotoSession” on import. These are automatically sent to a Smart Collection containing, as you would expect, every photo from a session.

I also have smart collections for my personal photographs. Since I keep everything in the same Lightroom catalog, I use keywords to sort it all out.

Lightroom keywords

Smart Collections are a great way to use Lightroom keywords to organize your photos.

This means that I never have to think about which photos are from my formal sessions and which ones are not. Lightroom keywords and Smart Collections handle this task for me, which means I have more time to focus on editing instead of sorting.

Lightroom keywords

Nikon D750, 180mm, f/2.8, 1/500 second, ISO 1800


If you haven’t used Lightroom keywords, I think you will be surprised at how helpful they can be. It takes just a small amount of work on your part to apply keywords, but the end result is a library of images that is much easier to tame.

Do you have any tips or tricks for mastering lightroom keywords? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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How Practicing Abstract Photography Can Influence Your Photography Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:33 +0000 Also known as experimental, non-objective or conceptual photography, abstract photography depicts imagery removed from the immediately identifiable subject matter. Gaining momentum at the hands of photographers […]

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Also known as experimental, non-objective or conceptual photography, abstract photography depicts imagery removed from the immediately identifiable subject matter. Gaining momentum at the hands of photographers like Alvin Langdon Coburn and Paul Strand, practicing abstract photography explores the bare bones of image-making.

Abstraction has performed a critical role in pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium. In this article, we’ll look at ways in which abstract photography can inspire your creative approach to all photographic genres.

Practicing abstract photography slow shutter speed

f/18.0, 1/25, ISO 400, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens

Focusing on detail

One of the most predominant ways to create abstracted imagery is through isolation.

Isolation in abstraction involves zooming in on detail, creating a study of subject matter that may otherwise go unnoticed. Through isolation, context is replaced with an emphasis on intimate detail. By elevating detail, the unnoticed subject matter is given a new visual significance.

Abstraction places a great deal of importance on details. As a result, many abstract photographers develop a strong sense of detail in any situation.

Naturally, an eye trained for subtle details proves useful in other facets of photography too. It allows a photographer to pinpoint interesting elements of a scene with greater efficiency.

By practicing abstract photography, the photographer becomes attuned to the visual weight of unique subject matter. This translates to deeper, more engaging photography as a whole.

Image: f/7.1, 1/400, ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens

f/7.1, 1/400, ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens


Abstraction expands on our understanding of the photographic medium through re-invention.

Of course, experimentation is not limited to abstraction. However, abstract photography emphasizes alternative approaches to subject matter. This stimulates creative thought which then flows through to other areas of photography.

Alternative processes, in-camera techniques, image manipulation…abstraction emphasizes the expression of fresh creative possibilities through constant experimentation.

Photographers like Andrew S. GrayWolfgang Tilmans and Barbara Kasten all push the boundaries of photographic art. Their work, and the work of countless other abstract photographers, is proof that practicing abstract photography expands the creative horizon of photography as a whole.

Practicing abstract photography experiment

f/1.8, 1 second, ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens

Creating something unique

Abstract photography is highly subjective – every photographer approaches abstraction from a unique perspective.

This means that individual emotions, experiences, and ideas are embedded in abstract visual responses. The more you practice abstract photography, the easier it will be to identify abstract subject matter that fascinates you. It will open up more and more opportunities to hone your skills.

There is no right or wrong way to create your own abstract photography.

In fact, you may not even need a camera.

Because of this, practicing abstract photography provides a free space to forge a unique aesthetic that inevitably carries through to other facets of photography.

Practicing abstract photography blue unique

f/4.0, 1/40, ISO 500, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens

Pressing the reset button

Adhering to the more formal qualities of photography can sometimes culminate in creative fatigue. Abstraction tends to relax the grip of the photographic convention, adhering instead to the instinctual responses of the photographer.

This means that practicing abstract photography can provide a much-needed reset button for photographers suffering from creative weariness.

Abstraction beckons the photographer to capture subject matter that resonates on a personal level. Satisfying lines, intriguing textures, ephemeral colors…Practicing abstract photography reconnects a photographer with the basics of photography and creativity.

Practicing abstract photography color

f/2.2, 1/800, ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens fitted with a 36mm Kenko extension tube

Honing in on composition

Although lacking in objective subject matter, abstraction still relies on the principals and elements of design to cultivate imagery. Elements like form, line, color, and texture are as relevant to abstract photography as they are any other genre. Likewise, precepts such as the rule of thirds or leading lines can also shape the way an abstract image is digested.

Practicing abstract photography coaxes out reflexive responses to image-making, revealing gaps in compositional knowledge and introducing new approaches to subject matter.

Compositional instincts honed within the bounds of abstraction spill over to other types of photography too, revealing practical insights into your own image-making process.

Practicing abstract photography composition pattern

f/4.0, 1/15, ISO 1250, Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon EF 25-105 f/4L IS USM II lens


Abstract photography is sometimes approached with confusion or trepidation. However, in practice, abstract photography is often a liberating and invigorating undertaking.

Though lacking in specific subject matter, abstract photography operates on creativity, critical thinking, and personal growth. Without the freedom that abstract photography affords, photography would be a much more rigid and prescriptive undertaking.

Abstract photography encourages a focus on detail, experimentation, and skill. It can also be a welcome respite from creative fatigue. Availing itself to the unique inclinations of the individual photographer, practicing abstract photography builds on the foundations of the photographic process.

Share with us your abstract photography in the comments!

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What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter? Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:33 +0000 As a photographer, you have no doubt heard people talk about file formats, specifically RAW and JPG. Some people shoot only in RAW, others like JPG, and […]

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As a photographer, you have no doubt heard people talk about file formats, specifically RAW and JPG. Some people shoot only in RAW, others like JPG, and many photographers use both. Each format has benefits and drawbacks, but if you want the most amount of control over your pictures, you probably shoot in RAW. However, there is a third option you might not even know about: Digital Negative, or DNG. With this other format in the mix, the issue isn’t so much RAW vs JPG, but RAW vs DNG.

Image: DNGs can speed up your Lightroom workflow, but there are some tradeoffs to be aware of.

DNGs can speed up your Lightroom workflow, but there are some tradeoffs to be aware of.

Understanding RAW

RAW files, unlike JPG files, store all of the light and color data used to capture an image. That means you can recapture blown-out highlights, make better white balance corrections, and have a great deal of editing freedom you don’t get with JPG.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, and others all let photographers shoot in RAW, but each of their RAW files is different. For example, the file extension for a Nikon RAW file is NEF, Canon is CRW, and Sony uses ARW.

As a result of this, cameras from these manufacturers process and store RAW data a little differently. Third-party editing software has to interpolate and reverse-engineer the method used to create the RAW files.

This is great for camera makers because they can tweak their hardware and software to work really well with their own RAW formats. However, it’s not always the best for photographers and editors.

Image: RAW and DNG files give you plenty of editing room that JPG does not offer. Nikon D500, 85mm,...

RAW and DNG files give you plenty of editing room that JPG does not offer. Nikon D500, 85mm, f/1.8, 1/4000 second, ISO 100

Digital Negative

Adobe developed the Digital Negative (DNG) format in 2004 as an open-source alternative to the proprietary RAW formats that most camera manufacturers used.

What Adobe did was essentially level the playing field by giving everyone access to the same format for working with RAW files.

DNG is open-source, which means anyone can use it without paying licensing fees. A few manufacturers like Pentax and Leica support DNG natively. However, for everyone else, there are easy ways to convert RAW files to DNG and get all the benefits of the latter without the hassles of the former.

DNG is particularly useful if you use Adobe products, like Lightroom and Photoshop, but other editing software support it too.


The photo information in each file is identical, but there might be some reasons to choose one over the other.

When looking at the RAW vs DNG issue, there are some important benefits as well as drawbacks that you might want to consider before you switch.

However, please don’t look at this as a matter of which format is better.

Neither RAW nor DNG is objectively superior; both have advantages and disadvantages. The point is to give you enough information to make an informed choice about which format works for you.

DNG benefits

1. Faster workflow

The main reason many people use DNG files is related to editing efficiency when using Lightroom. Since DNG and Lightroom are both made by Adobe, it stands to reason that they would work well together.

If you have ever found doing some simple operations with RAW files in Lightroom frustrating, like switching photos or zooming in to check focus, you will be shocked at how fast things like this are when using DNG files.

Switching from RAW to DNG has made a huge difference for me in speeding up my Lightroom workflow.

Image: Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, ISO 360, 1/180 second.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, ISO 360, 1/180 second.

2. Smaller file sizes

File size is another area where DNG has an edge in the RAW vs DNG debate. Although, it might not be quite as important now with storage so cheap compared to ten or twenty years ago.

DNG files are typically about 20% smaller than a RAW file, which means you can store more of them on your computer. If you are limited in storage space, DNG just might be a good option for you.

Image: I converted a folder of RAW files to DNG. Both contain the exact same data for each photo, bu...

I converted a folder of RAW files to DNG. Both contain the exact same data for each photo, but the DNGs are much smaller. The entire folder of RAW files is 1.75GB, whereas the folder of DNG files is 1.5GB.

3. Wide support

Because DNG doesn’t require a proprietary decoding algorithm, like RAW files from major manufacturers do, there is wider support from a variety of editing software. Various archival organizations, such as the Library of Congress, even use this format. That means it should work just fine for most photographers too. Personally, knowing this helped settle the RAW vs DNG debate for me, but you might prefer another solution.

4. Wide support

One additional benefit of DNG has to do with editing metadata and how it is stored. Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning that any changes you make to an image, you can alter at any point in the future. The original file remains untouched, and a record of your edits is stored separately.

When working with RAW files, these edits are written to a very small file called a sidecar. However, if you use DNG, all your edits are stored in the DNG file itself. Most people consider this an advantage since it requires fewer files to store and manage, but it can be a drawback which I explore later in this article.


Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 1/3000 second

DNG Drawbacks

1. File conversion

Since most cameras don’t natively shoot in DNG format, you need to convert your RAW files if you want to use it.

Lightroom can do this automatically for you when importing, but it does come with a drawback that may be significant. Depending on the speed of your computer and the number of RAW files you import, the conversion to DNG can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

This could be problematic for some people in high-speed workflows such as sports and other action photography. Personally, I don’t mind. I just do the import/convert operation before dinner or at another time when I don’t need to start editing immediately.

I like to think of this initial conversion time as the culmination of all the seconds I used to spend waiting for RAW files to render, but all rolled into one lump sum. It’s a tradeoff I’m happy to make, but some people might find this a dealbreaker and stick with traditional RAW formats.

Image: Converting lots of RAW files to DNG can take a great deal of time. And this is time that some...

Converting lots of RAW files to DNG can take a great deal of time. And this is time that some photographers don’t have.

2. RAW metadata loss

Another drawback to the DNG format is that some of the RAW metadata gets lost during conversion. All the usual metadata you would expect is intact such as exposure, camera information, focal length, and more. But some information like GPS data, copyright information, and exact focus point don’t always transfer over.

Additionally, the built-in JPG preview gets discarded in favor of a smaller preview, which is another trick Adobe uses to bring down the size of DNG files.

Whether this information matters is up to you. Personally, I find none of the lost metadata a dealbreaker.

3. Multiple editors

One other issue you might want to consider is whether your workflow involves having multiple editors work on the same RAW file.

If that’s the case, then the lack of a sidecar file could be problematic. Essentially, the sidecar acts as a storage locker for all your edits. The RAW file is untouched, but the sidecar stores a record of your edits. This means that if you have two people working on the same RAW file, you can share your edits just by copying the sidecar files.


Edits to RAW images get stored as sidecar files. You can send these sidecar files to other editors to share your RAW edits (as long as they have the original RAW files).

If you use DNG, you have to share the entire DNG files, which can be problematic compared to the ease of copying a tiny sidecar file.

For most people, this probably won’t matter, but for those who work in editing rooms or production houses that rely on sidecar files to store edits, DNG might not be the best option.

Finally, if you research this issue long enough, you will hear some trepidation about the longevity of DNG since the biggest camera makers, like Canon, Nikon, and Sony, do not officially support it. Personally, I’m not too worried about this since DNG is a widely-adopted industry standard, and if it’s good enough for the Library of Congress, then it’s good enough for me.

How to use DNG

If you want to give DNG a try, you can start by converting some of your existing RAW files. In your Lightroom Library module, select the RAW files you want to convert and then choose Photo->Convert Photo to DNG.


I recommend checking the values you see here, though if you are ready to go all-in, you can also select the option to delete originals. The “Embed Fast Load Data” option is what really speeds things up in Lightroom.

Un-check the option to use lossy compression if you want to retain all the data from the RAW file instead of having Lightroom toss out some in favor of a smaller file size. Also, you don’t need to embed the RAW file since doing so will more than double the file size of your DNG.
Another option is to use the Copy as DNG setting when importing photos from your memory card. This will add a great deal of time during the import process since Lightroom converts every one of your RAW files to DNG.

However, for me, the tradeoff is worth it since DNGs are so much faster to work with in Lightroom compared to traditional RAW files.



As with many aspects of photography, the answer here isn’t black and white, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The question of RAW vs DNG isn’t about which format is better, but which format suits your needs.

There is no data loss when working with DNGs, but there are some issues compared to RAW files, and it’s important that you make an informed choice.

If you have experience working with DNG files and would like to share your thoughts, I would love to have them in the comments below!

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7 Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make The Camera Can’t Be Blamed For Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:32 +0000 There are many mistakes beginner photographers make. It’s healthy to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. Be willing to understand why your photos […]

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There are many mistakes beginner photographers make. It’s healthy to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. Be willing to understand why your photos are not turning out how you wanted them to. Don’t be quick to blame circumstances or your camera gear when you mess up.

Here are some common beginner photographer mistakes you can’t blame the camera for.

1. Poor composition

Poor composition is one of the main mistakes beginner photographers make. Not getting close enough to your subject, results in having too much unnecessary space in your pictures.

Sometimes being too close can ruin a composition too. Are you cutting off your subject’s feet?

Be mindful of what’s inside your frame. Ask yourself if everything you see is relevant to the picture you are taking? If it’s not, fix the mistake. Move closer, zoom or change your position.

Leaving excessive space above a person’s head is the most common compositional mistake I see beginner photographers make. Often what’s above a person’s head is not relevant to the photograph. Get closer or tilt your camera angle down to minimize this space.

mistakes beginner photographers make

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Rushing your photography

Take your time, and you will take better photos. Being impatient will never make you a fabulous photographer. Whatever style of photography you engage in, being patient will benefit you.

Grabbed moments don’t often capture the best photographs. Of course, there are exceptions, but typically it pays to prepare yourself and anticipate action before it happens. Doing this, you can set your camera and line up your composition.

Using manual mode will help you slow down. You will visualize that you are photographing differently. This is because you are forced to think more about every aspect of taking your pictures.

During our photography workshops, I love to teach people how to slow down by using manual mode. Most people I teach develop their skills quickly. Their photos are well exposed and composed because they are working more slowly.

mistakes beginner photographers make

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Distracting backgrounds

Having distracting backgrounds is another mistake beginner photographers make. It’s easy to concentrate on your main subject and not see what’s behind them until you look at your photos later.

When you do see that you have a distracting background, there are several options to avoid this.

  • Use a longer focal length lens.
  • Move your subject somewhere else.
  • Change your camera angle or location.
  • Use a wide aperture to blur the background.

A longer focal length lens will reduce the amount of background you see. Move back from your subject and use a longer focal length. You will see the background differently than using a wider lens.

Moving your subject or your camera location will change what’s behind your subject. Sometimes you will not be able to move your subject. When you can’t, you’ll have to move. This sometimes means you need to compromise with the lighting or composition.

Blurring a background can sometimes be the best way to avoid distractions. You’ll need to open your aperture wide to achieve this, except when you are using a long lens or focusing very close to your subject.

Young Woman in the Park mistakes beginner photographers make

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

4. Not looking for alternative angles

Taking a picture from the first angle you think of, is not always going to make the best photo. This is another common mistake beginner photographers make.

Move around – even a little. Shift your camera from side to side. Tilt it higher or lower. Pay attention to the relationships of elements in your composition as you do this. At times, even a very slight alteration of your camera angle will result in a more striking photograph.

Always consider taking both a vertical and a horizontal perspective with your camera. When you can’t make everything fit the way you want, use a Dutch Tilt. Turning your camera to an off-kilter angle to accommodate your subject can work very well.

When you find something interesting enough to photograph, take more than one or two frames. Looking at a subject from different angles will help you visualize it in fresh ways. I think one of the advantages of using prime lenses is that you are more likely to move about to change your composition. You cannot stand in the same spot and zoom, so you will be more inclined to seek out different points of view.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Not giving people enough direction

How often do you avoid giving directions to the people and have them pose awkwardly? These are common mistakes beginner photographers often make.

Communicate well with the people you photograph. Talk to them about what you are doing and how you want them to look in the photo. Start with some easy, relaxed poses so they’ll be more confident with you.

If you leave them to come up with poses on their own, they may not be very interesting.

People will feel better when you give them direction, particularly if you do so with relaxed confidence. Be clear about what you want them to do and speak to them politely.

Image: © Kevin Landwer-Johan

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Failing to relate to your subject, whatever you are photographing

When photographing people, it’s important to develop a rapport with them. Give them instructions so you can get the photos you want. Moreover, connecting with these people.

If you spend your time looking down fiddling with your camera settings, your subject will most likely feel awkward. You might want to adjust your camera settings, so they are technically perfect. But when you fail to relate to your subject, you will not capture the most interesting photo.

This is most important when you’re photographing people, but not exclusive. Whatever your subject, you’ll make more appealing photos when you include feeling.

Think about why you are photographing something.

What attracted you to take these pictures? How can you incorporate this feeling into the photos you take?

Many beginner photographers will find this challenging. However, as long as you are aware of how you relate to your subject and seek to develop this, you will become more skilled at it.

Muddy female Ceramic artist

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Being fearful to take photos

Many beginner photographers will hesitate to go after the pictures they want because they are fearful.

If you want to photograph something dangerous, where there’s a high degree of risk, being fearful is natural and healthy. For example, it wouldn’t be wise to get close to a bear cub or a poisonous snake in the wild. These situations require fear to motivate us to keep our distance.

Not photographing people because you are fearful that you might impose is entirely different. You can’t know how someone will respond until you ask if you can take their photo. It’s taken me years to learn this, and still, at times, I hesitate.

Tame the negative, fearful thoughts in your head. When you see something you want to photograph, consider the reason why and how you can. Don’t be consumed by thoughts and excuses of why not and how not.

Being committed to the ideas you have about the photos you want to capture will help you develop your personal photography style.

Chiang Mai market porter

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Mistakes beginner photographers make can be very frustrating. When you take your time and review the photos you take, you’ll see how to improve and not keep making the same mistakes.

Moreover, look over the photos you take each time you load them to your computer. This is most helpful when you have not deleted the ‘duds’ off your cards before uploading.

When you see your best and worst photos side by side, this can help you grow as a photographer.

mistakes beginner photographers make

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Are there any other mistakes that you have made as a beginner photographer that you’d like to help others learn from? If so, please share them with us in the comments section.

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How to Create a Portfolio Template in Photoshop and Profit from Layer Types Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:32 +0000 Your portfolio is your presentation card. It should always be current with your latest works, coherent with your style and accessible to your clients. Perhaps there’s […]

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Your portfolio is your presentation card. It should always be current with your latest works, coherent with your style and accessible to your clients. Perhaps there’s one on your website, another one printed, and one for pitch presentations. All of them need to be up to date. So, how do you keep up with that? Create a portfolio template that is easy to update that you can scale to different formats.

Keep reading to learn how to create a portfolio template in Photoshop.

Create a Portfolio template examples

While Photoshop is a fantastic photo editing software, it does have some tools that are useful for graphics work too. This will relieve you of the task of having to learn another program like Illustrator. One of the best things for creating a portfolio template is profiting from the characteristics that each type of layer can offer. You can use Vector Layers for your design and logos, Text Layers for all the information, and Smart Objects for your images.

Let’s go through it step by step.

The fundamentals

First of all, what is a Layer?

When you open a new project, whether this is a blank canvas or a photograph, it opens as an image layer by default. This is the base that you build upon. You can then add as many layers as you need.

Imagine that the Layers are paper sheets that you can stack. Each one will then modify, add or block the content of the ones below. The properties of each layer depend on the type of layer it is.


Photoshop Layers in Perspective

Layers are one of the most versatile and useful tools in Photoshop.

There are many types of layers, some are stand-alone layers like images or vectors. Others work only in combination, as Adjustment Layers.

The important thing to understand is that each one has different characteristics that can be used to simplify your life. Here I’ll discuss the ones I find most useful to create a portfolio template.

The template

Designing your template

The first thing you’ll need is to draw the design of the template. Here, you can decide the elements and colors you want to use. Because this is a template, it should be able to fit most images and situations. So, you might want to keep it simple, but this is up to you.

In any case, every element that you design is best drawn with the Shape tool. Doing this creates a vector layer by default. To make sure of this, check that the menu in the options bar is set to Shape.

Create a Portfolio Template with Shapes

This is important because, unlike images, vectors are independent of resolution. This gives you the advantage of modifying the elements without losing quality, as you would do with pixels. This is why most graphic programs, like Illustrator, work with vectors. Shapes and vector layers are also great for creating your logo.

Adding a logo

If your logo consists of many shapes, select all of them and turn them into a Smart Object by right-clicking on top and then choosing Convert to Smart Object from the menu.

This is a different type of layer, not only can you scale it as many times as you want – just like the vectors – but you also retain the source data so that you can work non-destructively.

Because of this, every time you open your Smart Object, you’ll still find all the original shape layers to work on them independently.

Create a portfolio template with smart objects

Another cool feature from smart objects is the possibility to link one or more copies.

This means that every time you modify your logo, it will automatically apply the changes to all the copies. This is useful if your design includes more than one logo. To do this, create a copy of the layer by dragging it to the Duplicate Layer button at the bottom of the panel.

Create a logo with smart objects

If you want to keep your copies working independently from each other, you can create a copy of the smart object that it’s not linked. Do this by using New Smart Object via Copy. You can find it in the menu that pops up when you right-click on the layer.

Create a portfolio template with logo

Adding text

This is as straightforward as it sounds. When you use the Text tool, it creates a Text Layer. Keep in mind that because it’s a different kind of layer, not all the tools are available for use. For example, you can’t use the filters.

If you want to use them, you will get a prompt asking you to “rasterize the layer.” This will turn it into an image (a pixel layer). You shouldn’t do this if you want to be able to edit the text in the future. If you do want to rasterize your layer, make a copy of it first and turn off the original by clicking on the “eye” next to the layer in the Layers panel.

Create a Portfolio Template Rasterize Layers

Another useful tip when designing your template is to confine the space for your text, so it doesn’t ruin your design if you change or add content later.

Instead of just clicking and typing, click and drag a rectangle text box where you want the text to be. That way, whatever you type adjusts to that space. I usually put one next to the image to add all the information like title, technique, and project. Then I can update it for every image.

Create a portfolio template

Adding images

The photos are the stars of your project, so you want to make sure to work non-destructively on them. The best choice for this is the Smart Object. 

To add your photo as a Smart Object layer, you have to go to Menu->File->Place. Because in my design, I added a rectangle to serve as a frame for my images, I can now add a Layer Mask to fit it inside without losing any information.

create a portfolio template for your photography

You can do this by placing the smart object directly on top of the rectangle shape designed at the beginning. Now create a Clipping Mask by pressing Cmd+Alt+g (Ctrl+Alt+g on PC). The Mask will reveal the image through the frame without cutting it or changing any of it.

Create a portfolio template

To update the images, you can open the Smart Object and place the new one there so that you don’t change the Layers or Masks of the template.

Save and close

Because you used Vectors, Texts, and Smart Objects, you can change the resolution from web to printing as many times as you want while keeping the quality of it. Just be sure to save each page of the portfolio separately, so you don’t overwrite your template.


I hope that you have found How to Create a Portfolio Template in Photoshop and Profit from Layer Types useful for creating your own portfolio templates.

Remember, save each template as a PSD file so that you can go back and utilize them again when you want to update your photos or text. Saving as a PSD file retains all of your layers so that you can access them and change them easily. If you save it as a JPG or another lossy format that flattens the layers, you will no longer have the ability to edit them.

If you have any other tips for creating a portfolio template, please share them with us in the comments below.


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Canon EOS R5 on the Way, With a 45 MP Body and 20 FPS Electronic Shooting Wed, 19 Feb 2020 04:47:32 +0000 After months of vague rumors regarding upcoming Canon mirrorless bodies, we now have specifics on a camera, right down to the name: The Canon EOS R5. […]

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After months of vague rumors regarding upcoming Canon mirrorless bodies, we now have specifics on a camera, right down to the name:

The Canon EOS R5.

While still unconfirmed by Canon, the EOS R5 is shaping up to be a powerhouse of a mirrorless camera, sporting a 45-megapixel full-frame sensor, in-body image stabilization (potentially 5 stops, and 7-8 stops with a combined IS lens), and 20 frames-per-second continuous shooting with the electronic shutter (12 frames-per-second with the mechanical shutter).

In fact, the EOS R5 appears to correct most (if not all) of the faults of Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless body, the EOS R:

First, instead of a single card slot, we’re on track to see dual slots in the R5. This is a necessity for pretty much any photographer who requires redundancy in their work, such as professional wedding shooters (after all, you can’t reshoot that big day if your card fails!), as well as professional sports photographers.

The programmable touch bar on the back of the EOS R, which received significant criticism following the R’s release, will be replaced by a scroll wheel.

And, as mentioned above, we should see some impressive IBIS, something which the EOS R left out, and which plenty of shooters see as a key trait in mirrorless bodies.

Astonishingly, the EOS R5 is reported to shoot 8K video at 30 fps and 4K video at 120 fps. While the details of these specs aren’t certain, 8K video of any kind would be a significant upgrade from the Canon EOS R, which offers 4K video at 30p.

So who is the EOS R5 for?

From the specs listed above, it’s clear that the EOS R5 will be aimed at professional shooters. The dual card slots and high continuous shooting rate suggest a body designed for serious sports photographers, wildlife photographers, and some wedding photographers. And while no details on the autofocus system have been released, I suspect that we’ll see something impressive, even compared to the excellent AF offered by the EOS R.

As far as the release date goes, the Canon EOS R5 will supposedly be announced in mid-February, several weeks prior to the late February CP+ show. The camera will likely ship in July.

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