Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One?

The post Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

polarizing filters: the essential guide

What is a polarizing filter? And what makes polarizers so special?

In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about polarizers. I’ll explain what they are, what they do, and how they can help improve your photography. I’ll explain when you might want to use a polarizer, and I’ll also highlight certain situations where a polarizing filter is a very bad idea – so you know exactly when to use one the next time you’re out in the field.

If you’re ready to become a polarizer expert, then read on!

What is a polarizing filter?

A polarizing filter is a piece of glass that goes over your camera lens and reduces haze, reflections, and glare. It also darkens blue skies.

Without getting too scientific, light waves that bounces off water, leaves, glass, and other reflective materials become polarized, which means they vibrate in a special way; polarizing filters are designed to block this polarized light from reaching your camera sensor.

Most photographers use circular polarizing filters, which screw onto the lens and can be rotated to amplify or reduce the polarization effect. So by turning a polarizing filter in one direction, the photographer can block out reflections, and by turning the polarizing filter in the other direction, the photographer can ensure the reflections are clearly visible.

Why are polarizing filters useful in photography?

Polarizing filters are known for three highly visible effects:

  1. They reduce reflections, so you can photograph through glass and water.
  2. They reduce glare, so you can capture more saturated colors.
  3. They cut down on polarized light in the atmosphere, which causes skies to turn a deep, dark blue.

In certain situations, these effects are a big deal. For instance, if you’re photographing a beautiful rocky tidepool, a polarizer can eliminate pesky reflections and reveal the beauty underneath. And if you’re photographing a desert landscape at noon, the polarizer will turn the hazy blue sky into a darker, more evocative color.

mountain with blue skies

In fact, polarizers are used for landscape photography all the time, because you’re often faced with reflective water and foliage. Don’t like the reflections in the water? Use a polarizer. Want to capture more saturated fall colors? Use a polarizer.

And many other genres of photography use polarizers, too. Cityscape and architectural photographers use polarizers to reduce reflections in glass windows and car windshields (though note that polarizers don’t reduce reflections and glare off of metal surfaces, such as the sides of buildings).

Basically, whenever you’re faced with unwanted haze or reflections, you simply screw a polarizer onto the front of your lens. Then, by twisting the polarizer, you can block out the offending light and get much deeper, saturated colors and reduced reflections.

How to use a polarizing filter: step by step

Polarizers are wonderfully easy to use.

First, when you find a scene that requires reflection or glare reduction, simply screw your polarizing filter onto the front of your lens.

Next, look through the camera viewfinder, then slowly rotate the polarizer. As you rotate the glass, watch the areas of your composition with obvious reflective elements.

After a few moments of rotation, you should see the reflections start to fade. Continue to rotate the filter until the reflections have disappeared (or have reached a level that you like).

Then leave your polarizer as it is, and proceed to adjust your other camera settings for the proper depth of field, exposure, etc. Note that you should always set your exposure after applying the polarizing filter, because a polarizing filter blocks out light, which in turn requires exposure compensation.

Another key fact: Polarizing filters don’t always work perfectly. Depending on the angle of the sun and the quality of the light, you may notice significant changes to a polarized image – or you may notice no changes at all.

For the greatest effect, try to keep the sun at a 90-degree angle to your lens. A common trick is to make a finger gun with your thumb and index finger. Then point your thumb at the sun and rotate your index finger in a circle (as if your thumb is the axle and your index finger is the spoke on a bicycle tire). Wherever your index finger points will experience the strongest polarization effect, whereas other areas of the scene will experience the polarization effect to varying degrees.

The problem with polarizers

Now that you’re familiar with the polarization effect, you might be wondering:

Why don’t I just use a polarizer all the time? Can’t I keep it attached to my lens, then rotate it as needed?

The problem is that, in addition to their benefits, polarizers have several drawbacks.

First, polarizers reduce the amount of light that hits your camera sensor and this impacts exposure. Every time you add a polarizer to your lens, you lose light, which means you need to use a slightly slower shutter speed, a slightly wider aperture, or a slightly higher ISO. This is rarely convenient, and in certain situations, it can be a non-starter; what if you’re photographing in low light? A polarizer may cause you to miss the shot thanks to a too-slow shutter speed.

Second, polarizers don’t impact an entire scene equally, especially if you’re using a wide-angle lens. Wide-angle lenses portray so much of the scene that you’ll often get some areas that are highly polarized, and other areas that are much less affected. This can look strange – like blue banding across the sky – and so you may want to avoid using a polarizer in certain wide-angle landscape situations.

Third, while quality polarizers work well, there are plenty of poorly made options out there that will produce unpleasant color casts and reduce image sharpness. So if you do buy a polarizer, make sure it’s a good one. Don’t compromise, even if it means paying $100+ for a nice filter.

When to use a polarizing filter

While you shouldn’t use a polarizer all the time, here are a few situations when it’s a good idea to screw on that filter:

When photographing water

rushing waterfall polarizing filter

When photographing a scene with water, you’ll often get unwanted reflections, and a polarizer can make all the difference.

For example, when I was snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia a few years back, I took a series of photos without my polarizer. The water looked murky, plus it had a big, unpleasant reflection on the surface.

But when I used my polarizing filter, everything changed; the water become a crystal-clear, bright-blue color, and the shots had far more impact.

Of course, you shouldn’t always apply a polarizing filter to water shots. Sometimes, you’ll want to maintain reflections in a scene – think of a mountain reflecting in a quiet lake – in which case you should leave the polarizer in your bag.

But more often than not, if water is featured in your scene, a polarizer is a good idea.

When photographing a blue sky

Lake Bled blue skies polarizer

The color of the sky can change dramatically with a quick twist of the polarizing filter. A pale blue can turn to a vibrant, deep blue color, though the extent of the effect does depend on the sun’s position.

(Also, a polarizer can cut out a lot of the smoggy haze that you’ll find in city scenes.)

When you’re photographing a landscape on a clear day, it’s often a good idea to at least try using a polarizer, especially if you’re shooting when the sun is high in the sky. The effect is quite striking, and it can even be the difference between a mediocre shot and a great shot.

When photographing trees and leaves

fall foliage polarizing filters

When you think of reflective objects, “leaves” probably isn’t the first item that comes to mind.

Yet leaves are actually quite reflective, and this reflectivity can seriously reduce color saturation.

A circular polarizer is particularly useful when capturing fall colors – professional photographers use polarizers pretty much non-stop when photographing the autumn landscape – because it cuts down on reflectivity and glare, which consequently increases color intensity.

When photographing reflective glass

automobile photography

If you like to photograph buildings or cars, a polarizer can be a big help, assuming you want to emphasize the building/car interior.

Glass is pretty reflective, but a polarizer can do a very nice job of removing those reflections.

(Of course, there are times when you’ll want to keep reflections for an interesting effect. In such cases, keep the polarizer off your lens.)

How to choose a polarizing filter

Most lenses take screw-in filters that attach to the end of the lens barrel, just over the front element.

Because different lenses feature different diameters, you’ll need to take note of the diameter on your specific lens, then buy a polarizing filter with a matching size.

If you have several leness with different diameters, you’ll need to buy several polarizing filters (annoying, I know; the alternative is purchasing step-down filters, but they can be cumbersome and frustrating to work with).

Keep in mind that good polarizers are not cheap – but as I emphasized above, you shouldn’t skimp and buy a poor-quality filter for your top-notch lenses. Instead, pay for a good polarizer made by a reputable brand (Hoya and B+W are two good places to start!).

Polarizing filters: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know all about polarizing filters and how you can use them for stunning shots!

So if you’re attracted to the power of a polarizer, then consider purchasing one! I guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun with it.

Now over to you:

Have you ever tried a polarizing filter? What was it like? What subjects did you use it on? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

The post Polarizing Filters: What Are They and Why Do You Need One? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video]

The post See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

In October, Adobe unveiled several revolutionary updates to its local adjustment tools in Lightroom, including a new Masks panel, several AI-driven masking tools, and a revamped masking workflow.

But while these updates offer unprecedented power, they take some getting used to.

Later this week, we’ll be releasing a comprehensive tutorial on the new updates – but in the meantime, why not see the Masks panel in action?

Check out the video below, in which professional landscape photographer Nigel Danson puts the Masking Tool through its paces. Danson explains every step of his process, so you can understand exactly how he approaches editing with the Lightroom updates, plus – bonus! – you’ll see a beautiful landscape shot go from a flat, boring RAW photo to an eye-popping masterpiece.

Along the way, you’ll learn:

  • How to use Radial Gradient masks to create a gorgeous sunset glow
  • How to add drama to the sky with a Linear Gradient
  • How to fine-tune your masks with Color Range and Luminosity Range functions
  • How to combine masks for highly targeted adjustments

And once you’ve finished, be sure to leave a comment below, discussing your favorite element of the new features!

The post See the New Lightroom Masking Tool in Action [Video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It?

The post Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

burst mode: a complete guide

Do you want to capture action shots of kids running, birds flying, sports players dunking, split-second moments on the streets, and more?

Well, you can – if you know how to use your camera’s burst mode, that is.

Burst mode, also known as continuous shooting mode, allows you to shoot a series of rapid-fire images without stopping. Depending on your camera’s capabilities, you can record 5, 10, 20, or even 60 images per second, and each one offers another opportunity to capture a once-in-a-lifetime action image.

In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to use burst mode like a pro, going from the basics all the way up to advanced continuous-shooting guidelines.

Let’s dive right in.

burst mode photography fast-moving plane
Burst mode is great for capturing fast-moving subjects!

What is burst mode?

Burst mode is a camera function that allows you to capture a series of photographs in quick succession. With burst mode activated, you can hold down the shutter button, and your camera will rattle off a set of photos.

The specific burst mode speeds vary from camera to camera; low-end and older cameras offer burst modes in the 3 frames-per-second range (i.e., 3 photos per second). Class-leading sports cameras offer 20, 30, or 60 frames per second. And the average camera offers 6-12 frames per second.

Also, note that some cameras offer several burst speeds, which vary depending on the size and quality of the photo, the autofocus mode, the shutter mode, and more.

Unfortunately, most camera burst modes are not unlimited. As you take photos, your camera’s buffer – where images are stored before being added to your memory card – fills up. Once the buffer is full, your burst mode will stop working (at least until the buffer frees up space, at which point you can start shooting bursts again).

There are exceptions when shooting lower-quality images or when using top-of-the-line cameras, but generally speaking, if you hold down your camera’s burst mode, it’ll eventually freeze up.

cockatoo in the grass black and white
I used burst mode to capture this moment of a cockatoo eating grass seed.

When should you use burst mode?

Technically, you can use burst mode all the time. Assuming you don’t hold down the shutter button for too long at any one time, you can capture a burst of images every time you find a new subject.

However, I don’t recommend you use your continuous shooting mode constantly. For one, this will encourage you to get lazy with your photography – you’ll shoot in bursts and you’ll never learn how to time beautifully composed images. Plus, constant burst mode will produce a huge number of files. Your memory cards will fill up insanely fast, and so will your hard drives.

Instead, I suggest turning on burst mode when you know you’re photographing action, or when you’re about to see a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

For instance, if you’re shooting a sports game, you might leave burst mode on for the entire event; that way, whenever something interest happens – a slam dunk, a turnover, a buzzer-beater – you’re ready to capture the essential moments. Same if you’re photographing fast-moving wildlife or birds, a child’s soccer game, or a dog doing an agility course.

Burst mode is also perfect for capturing moments that are unmissable (even if they don’t involve action). If you’re photographing your child walk across the stage at graduation, burst mode will all but guarantee a shot of them accepting their diploma. If you’re photographing a portrait subject, burst mode will increase your chances of capturing an evocative expression or pose. And if you’re photographing a street scene, burst mode will help you record split-second interactions, such as spouses making eye contact.

By the way, you can also use burst photography to capture technically difficult scenes. If you’re manually focusing on a flower at high magnifications, you could fire off a series of images as you slowly adjust the point of focus, and you’re more likely to get a nice result:

series of close-up macro shots using burst mode to nail focus
Handholding with extension tubes can be tricky. Burst mode is one way to increase the ratio of sharp macro images.

Here’s a list of photography genres that use burst mode consistently:

  • Sports photography
  • Pet photography
  • Bird photography
  • Wildlife photography
  • Street photography (sometimes)
  • Event photography (sometimes)

How to use burst mode (step by step)

Now that you’re familiar with the definition and importance of burst mode, let’s look at how you can use it for the best results.

Step 1: Activate burst mode on your camera

Activating burst mode depends on your camera (and it can vary from model to model, so don’t assume that all cameras from the same brand or even from the same series are the same).

In general, you’ll want to look for a Drive menu or a Shooting mode menu. Some cameras offer dedicated Shooting mode dials (you get this on certain Fujifilm models), while others offer Shooting mode buttons (several Olympus cameras feature one of these), and still others require a menu dive to adjust the shooting mode.

Once you’ve located your Shooting mode menu, you’ll want to select the Continuous or Continuous High option, sometimes symbolized as multiple stacked frames (see the icon in the bottom right corner of this Canon 5D Mark II display):

burst mode icon on a canon 5D mk II camera

If you’ve tried and failed to activate burst mode, consult your camera manual or have a look online.

Step 2: Select the relevant focus mode

With burst mode engaged, you’ll also need to set the right focus mode. For action photography, it’s best to use your camera’s continuous focusing mode, known as AI Servo on Canon and AF-C on most other camera brands (including Nikon and Sony). Continuous focus will constantly track moving objects even as you hold down the shutter button, helping to maintain sharp focus as your subject moves across the scene and you capture bursts of images.

Alternatively, if you’ve already composed a shot but want to guarantee a good pose, a beautiful moment, etc., I’d recommend using your camera’s single-shot autofocus mode, known as One-Shot on Canon and AF-S on most other brands. Simply half-press the shutter button to lock focus, then when your subject moves into the frame, fully press the shutter button to fire off a burst.

Step 3: Carefully choose your settings

Last, you’ll need to dial in the right camera settings for your shooting situation. While these will vary from scene to scene, make sure your shutter speed is relatively fast; otherwise, you’ll end up with blurry shots (or, if your shutter speed is really slow, your camera’s burst mode won’t work properly). I’d recommend shooting at 1/250s and above for slower-moving objects, and 1/1000s and above for faster-moving objects.

If you’re struggling to get the shutter speed you need, try widening the aperture or boosting the ISO.

Step 4: Capture a burst of images

Now the fun begins! As soon as you find a subject worth shooting, hold down the shutter button, and your camera will fire off a burst of photos.

As I explained above, it’s important to show restraint when using burst mode; otherwise, your camera’s buffer will fill, and you’ll miss critical moments. So wait until a good shot starts to materialize – if you’re using single-shot autofocus, you should generally lock focus in advance – and then fully press the shutter button to capture the perfect photo.

Burst mode photo bee on a flower
Burst mode is good for capturing fleeting moments.

Burst mode in photography: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about continuous shooting photography – and how it can improve your results.

So spend some time testing it out. Find an action subject, and have fun firing off bursts of shots. You’ll get better at using burst mode, and you’ll start to understand your camera’s capabilities and limitations.

Now over to you:

Do you plan to start using burst mode? When do you think you’ll use it? Do you have any burst mode tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Burst Mode: What Is It, and How Should You Use It? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide)

The post Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

infrared photography how to get started

Do you want to capture haunting infrared pictures like the ones featured above?

Well, you can – and it’s not even hard. Infrared photography is an easy technique that can give you breathtaking, otherworldly results, and it only requires a simple filter (plus a little technical know-how).

In this article, I’m going to share everything you need to know to get started, including:

  • IR photography gear (for both beginners and advanced photographers)
  • Key camera settings for IR pictures
  • Simple post-processing techniques to get your photos looking great

Sound good? Then let’s get started with a simple overview of infrared imaging…

What is infrared photography?

Infrared photography uses infrared light to expose photos, a form of electromagnetic radiation that lies below the visible spectrum. Humans cannot see infrared light, but camera sensors can, and this IR sensitivity can be used to create images.

That said, cameras aren’t well-equipped to capture infrared wavelengths – after all, they’re designed to use visible light, not IR light! – so infrared imaging requires special filters or adjusted camera sensors.

When you capture an infrared photo, the result usually looks like this:

unprocessed infrared photography

It’s interesting, but not what most photographers are after. However, with a little post-processing, you can achieve a beautiful infrared look:

branches against the sky infrared

If you’ve encountered infrared images, you’ll immediately notice that the look stands out – and while some find it rather eerie, others are intrigued by the way the IR look can transform the ordinary.

Infrared photography gear

To shoot infrared photos, you’ll need standard photography equipment – a camera and a lens – but you’ll also need to create the infrared effect, which you can do in one of three ways:

  1. With an infrared filter
  2. With a professionally converted infrared camera
  3. With infrared film

Let’s take a look at each option in turn:

Infrared filters

If you are just starting to explore infrared photography, an IR filter is the cheap and convenient way to go. Simply place it in front of your lens, and it’ll allow infrared light to hit your camera’s sensor while blocking out all visible light. The results can be very nice; here’s an image I shot with an infrared filter:

river with white trees in infrared

There are plenty of options out there, ranging from screw-on to slide-in filter systems. The Hoya RM-72 is a popular screw-on infrared filter, and is a great introductory option to the world of infrared.

Note that different filters render color differently, depending on the specific IR and visible light ranges they filter in and out, so the results are inconsistent from filter to filter; this can be frustrating if you want your IR photos to look like everyone else’s, but the silver lining is that you can experiment with different filters until you find one that suits your vision.

infrared landscape

Converted infrared camera

If you are truly committed to infrared photography, then you should consider purchasing a dedicated infrared camera body.

As far as I’m aware, no DSLR or mirrorless manufacturers produce infrared cameras, but you can send off a camera body to be converted by third-party companies. Alternatively, you can buy an already-converted IR camera used on eBay or from an IR-conversion dealer.

When a visible-light camera is converted to capture infrared, the infrared-blocking filter (which sits in front of the sensor) is removed. It’s certainly more expensive than purchasing a $75 filter, but the benefits include convenience and consistency.

Note: Once a camera has been converted, its sole use is infrared photography; you cannot take regular images. So buying a dedicated infrared body involves purchasing a second camera body (unless, of course, you want to fully dedicate yourself to infrared!).

ocean with lighthouse in infrared

Infrared film

Infrared film is readily available and relatively cheap, too – so you might consider purchasing an inexpensive SLR, grabbing some IR film, and testing the infrared waters.

Unfortunately, developing infrared film is tough. For one, not all labs can handle infrared film, and it generally costs more, too, so you’ll need to do a careful cost-benefit analysis before grabbing an infrared film setup.

ocean with tree in infrared

Infrared camera settings

Selecting the perfect IR camera settings involves a lot of trial and error, and while nothing beats proper experimentation, here are some guidelines to get you started.


When you’re starting out, shoot both RAW and JPEG files. You won’t be capturing thousands of shots, so space shouldn’t be an issue, and RAWs and JPEGs each offer valuable benefits.

On the one hand, RAW files give you the most scope when processing (and infrared photos do require significant edits). A RAW file will let you recover blown out highlights and clipped shadows, which is essential for infrared photography, as the right exposure settings can be tough to nail down (more on that later!).

On the other hand, JPEGs are easily viewable, so you can see the results of your infrared photos on your computer screen without any processing.

It’s important to emphasize, though: Straight-out-of-camera infrared photos look horrible. At first, you’ll probably be turned off by their flat, pink appearance – but over time, you’ll get used to it, and you’ll soon develop the skills to identify a good IR image from a bad IR image at a glance.

buildings in the countryside infrared photography


When you’re exposing for infrared photos, all common wisdom goes out the window. You can’t trust your camera’s meter, you can’t trust handheld meters, and you’ll simply need to take some test shots, preview the results on your LCD, and keep going until you get a good result.

(I’d recommend you take careful notes; that way, as you progress, you’ll start to figure out the right settings for the look you’re after.)

Infrared filters require extremely long exposure times; they block out visible light but don’t let any extra infrared light through, so on a bright sunny day, you’ll often work with exposure times between 30 and 120 seconds (assuming you’re shooting at f/8). Here, a tripod is essential.

If your camera is infrared converted, your settings will be much more standard. On sunny days, you might shoot at f/8 and 1/125s, though the settings will vary depending on the light.

Whether you use a filter or an IR-converted body, review your photos constantly, especially in the beginning. As soon as you’ve taken a shot, check the LCD and view the image histogram. You might consider bracketing your photos to increase your chances of capturing a nice exposure.

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Infrared post-processing

As previously mentioned, when you shoot RAW infrared images, you’ll get a dull pinkish-red image, like this:

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Infrared RAW image straight out of the camera.

Not such a great look, right? Fortunately, processing an IR file is pretty easy. Here’s what I recommend:

Step 1: Start with Auto Tone

This is a common way to handle infrared images. Simply import your file into Photoshop and apply Auto Tone (hit Image>Auto Tone).

Photoshop will analyze your image, then it will make a series of adjustments for the best results (at least, the “best results” according to Photoshop!). Often, this looks pretty good. Here’s what Auto Tone gave me when I processed the file shown above:

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

At this point, I could continue processing my infrared photo like a normal image – that is, I could proceed with a normal editing workflow – or I could proceed with the next step:

Step 2: Do a channel swap

To get natural blue skies, you’ll need to channel swap your colors. Here, the goal is to take one channel (e.g., red) and convert it completely to another channel (e.g., blue), which is simple to do; create a new Channel Mixer layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Channel Mixer), then adjust the Red, Green, and Blue channels until you get the result you’re after.

But while channel swapping is an essential part of infrared photography processing, photographers disagree over which channels to swap to what values, and there’s no one “right” answer, because it’s all about looks and personal preference.

Here are a few common channel-swap values. Experiment until you find the one that works for you:

Changing the Red and Blue channels only:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0

Changing all the channels:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=0, Blue=0
  • Green channel: Red=0, Green=100, Blue=0

Another creative option:

  • Red channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100
  • Blue channel: Red=100, Green=100, Blue=-100
  • Green channel: Red=0, Green=0, Blue=100

Here’s my image after a bit of channel swapping:

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

As you can see, the sky looks more natural, and the trees – while still pale pink – feel more grounded.

Step 3: Do any final edits

At this point, we’ve finished all specialized infrared post-processing, but feel free to add final touches like you would to any image.

For instance, you might consider cropping, adjusting the saturation, dodging and burning, adding a vignette, or even converting your photo to black and white. It really all comes down to your personal taste, and as always: experiment, experiment, experiment!

3 Things You Need to Know to Get Started with Infrared Photography

Infrared photography: final words

Infrared photography is a growing photography niche, and it’s a great way to capture creative images, get out of a photographic rut, and just have a lot of fun.

I’d recommend you start off simple with filters, then – if you still enjoy IR photos – graduate to a dedicated infrared camera body.

Now over to you:

Have you tried infrared photography? Do you think you’ll purchase IR filters or an IR camera? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

An Introduction to Infrared Photography

The post Infrared Photography: How to Get Started (Beginner’s Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide)

The post 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

tips for stunning portrait photography

How do you do portrait photography that has the wow factor?

Capturing stunning portraits often seems difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy once you know a few tips and tricks. Below, I share my 10 absolute favorite techniques for shooting portraits, including tips for lighting, composition, perspective, and much more.

I’ve also included plenty of portrait photography examples (to get you inspired as we go along). Hopefully, by the time you’re done, you’ll be a more confident portrait photographer – and you’ll be excited to get out your camera and take some beautiful images of your own.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Alter your perspective

Most portraits are taken on a level with your subject, where the camera lens aligns perfectly with the subject’s eyes.

And while this is a good idea in most situations, if you want to spice things up, I recommend completely changing the angle you shoot from.

For instance, you can get up high and shoot down on your subject from above:

stunning portrait high perspective

Here, you have several different options. You can ask your subject to lie down on the ground and then simply point your camera downward (this works well when shooting in the studio or on clean ground, but it’s not something you can try when photographing in a lake!). You can also find a nice vantage point, like a balcony or even a roof, then ask your subject to look up. And if you’re really focused on getting that overhead shot, you can bring a step stool or ladder with you out into the field.

Another great angle for portrait photography:

Get down low and shoot up. You’ll make your subject appear strong and powerful (and you’ll make the viewer feel small):

stunning portrait shot from low down

Obviously, different angles are more appropriate for certain image types; business executives will appreciate the power of a low-angle portrait, but they probably won’t want to be shot lying in the grass. So pay careful attention to your subject and surroundings, then pick angles that complement the scene. Make sense?

2. Play with eye contact

It’s amazing how much the direction of your subject’s eyes can impact an image.

Now, when you’re just starting out with portraits, I highly recommend you work on attaining perfect eye contact (with the eye in sharp focus). This looks great, and it can create a real sense of connection between a subject and those viewing the image.

Once you become a more advanced portrait shooter, however, there are a few more techniques worth trying.

Looking off-camera

Ask your subject to focus on something outside the frame (a tree off to the left, a house off to the right, etc.). This can create a feeling of candidness, plus it can create a little intrigue and interest; the viewer of the shot will wonder what the subject is looking at, which will cause them to engage further with the image.

subject looking off-camera

This intrigue is particularly strong when the subject is showing some kind of emotion. The viewer will ask, “What’s making them laugh?” and “What’s making them look surprised?” which can lead to interesting narratives and emotional connections.

But be careful; when you have a subject looking out of the frame, you’ll push the eye of the viewer to the edge of the image, and unless you’ve composed your shot carefully, you may take away from the main point of interest: your subject.

Looking within the frame

You might also ask your subject to look at something within the frame. A child looking at a ball, a woman looking at her new baby, or a man looking hungrily at a big plate of pasta; it can all work!

See, this technique creates a second point of interest, as well as a relationship between your subject and another key element in the scene, which in turn helps create a story. (And in photography, stories are pretty much always a good thing!)

Here, the mother is looking at her child, which highlights their relationship and emphasizes their emotional connection:

woman looking at child stunning portrait

3. Use the rules of portrait composition, then break them

There are plenty of portrait photography composition rules (guidelines, really) out there, and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with them. On the one hand, the rules are great for beginners; on the other hand, as you progress, the rules will start to hold you back. So in this section, I’ll start by offering a few useful rules, and then I’ll explain simple ways to break them.

So here are a few compositional guidelines that’ll help you as you compose your portrait shots:

  • The rule of thirds urges you to position your subject a third of the way into the frame; it can often be helpful to put your portrait subject’s eyes along the top-third gridline of your image.
  • The rule of space advises you to position your subject looking toward empty space, rather than away from it. In other words, your subject should look toward the more distant frame edge.
  • Triangular composition theory suggests that elements positioned in a triangle tend to look great. So you can arrange three subjects with their heads at points of a triangle, or you can arrange the subject’s head and the shoulders or arms in a triangular fashion.

Then, as you advance in your skills, you’ll want to experiment with breaking these rules. For instance, placing your subject dead-center will violate the rule of thirds, but it can sometimes create a powerful image (especially when symmetry is involved):

stunning portrait centered

And the rule of space, when broken, can create a level of mystery and tension:

portrait with no room to look into

So learn the photography rules, then learn to break them!

4. Experiment with lighting

In portrait photography, lighting is key, and there are literally thousands of blog posts and video courses devoted to portrait lighting.

But for now, I just recommend you learn the basics.

For instance, soft light is generally best, which you can create with a softbox or you can find on a cloudy day (the golden hours can work well, too).

As for lighting direction: Front light is best avoided, because it tends to produce very flat, bland images. Instead, for good portraits, I’d recommend sidelight, which will add three dimensionality and create mood. I’d also recommend backlighting, which can create plenty of mystery.

Below is a fully sidelit subject. Notice the drama?

sidelit portrait

(For a more subtle sidelit image, you can use a reflector or fill light on the other side of your subject, or you can bring the light out in front of the subject, so it sits at a 45-degree angle to the face.)

Once you get down the lighting basics, start to experiment. You can use rim lighting to capture subtle silhouettes, and you can even have fun with long-exposure light painting, which will give you portrait photos like this:

long exposure image with single flash

5. Move your subject out of their comfort zone

Unless you’re photographing professional models, your subjects will likely be a bit (or a lot!) uncomfortable in front of the camera. And an uncomfortable subject makes for uncomfortable photos.

To get your subject more relaxed, start out with some “softball” shots. Photograph your subject just standing or sitting, use simple light setups, and don’t ask for anything out of the ordinary. Praise them after every few shots (even if the shots are bad).

Then, as your subject begins to warm up and as you complete all the basic shots, ask them if you can create more interesting images. Don’t push them, of course – you don’t want to send them back to square one – but gently suggest that they mix things up a bit. For instance, you might ask them to jump, you might ask them to run, dance, make faces, climb trees, and more.

By the way, don’t feel like these more experimental shots need to fit the tone of the shoot. Once you’ve nailed your standard shots, it’s okay to get a little creative. You can ask a family to make silly faces, or even ask a businessperson to jump off rocks, for example:

man jumping

6. Shoot candidly

Sometimes, posed shots can look somewhat…stiff. Bland. And while there’s nothing wrong with a posed photo, especially if it’s for a corporate flyer, if your subject seems lifeless when posed, why not try a candid approach?

Ask your subject if you can shoot them at work, with family, or doing something that they love. This will put them more at ease, and you may end up capturing some extra-special shots where your subject reacts naturally to the situation.

(Pro tip: If the candid approach is working and you want to get yourself completely out of the way, try grabbing a 70-200mm lens to give your subject lots of space.)

I find that the candid approach can work particularly well when photographing children, but even when photographing adults, it’s worth a shot!

candid child image

7. Introduce a prop

Portrait photographers love props – and for good reason. Props can add a sense of story and place to an image, they can help your subject feel more at ease, they can add interest, color, and texture…the list goes on.

So don’t be afraid to bring a handful of props to your portrait photoshoot. Then give your subjects the ones that seem to fit with the scene and/or their personality, and get photographing!

A warning, however: Don’t let the props overwhelm your main subject. The goal is to photograph the model with the props as an accent, not the other way around. If you use too many props, or your props become distracting (either visually or more generally), it’s time to toss the props and get back to basics.

portrait with gum and candy as a prop

8. Focus on one body part (and get close up!)

Here’s a fun way to create unique portrait photos:

Use a long lens (anything in the 100mm+ range should work), then zoom in to capture some detail shots.

I’m talking about images of your subject’s hands, eyes, mouth, shoes, or clothing, all of which can tell an interesting story, plus the results will be far more eye-catching than your standard head-and-shoulders portrait.

Here’s an image of a subject’s hand; it has an element of artistry and intrigue that you rarely find in conventional portrait photography:

woman's arm in field

Of course, feel free to go even more abstract than that; with a macro lens, you can focus on tiny details, such as the curl of your subject’s hand or the light on their hair.

9. Obscure part of your subject

Throughout this article, I’ve emphasized the value of storytelling, mystery, and intrigue in portrait photography.

Well, here’s yet another way to add mystery, and it’s extremely simple to pull off:

Cover your subject.

For instance, you can cover the face with clothes or hair, or you can use hats or scarves to cover the head. Usually, it’s a good idea to leave some recognizable features exposed, but if you want to make things really interesting, you might cover your subject completely (e.g., you could wrap the subject’s entire face in their hair!).

A lens with close-focusing or macro capabilities will be a big help here, because the closer you can focus, the more you can cut out of the frame and the more you can isolate certain features. In the image below, close focusing was essential (plus, it created a lovely shallow depth of field effect that really emphasized the subject’s eyes):

eyes stunning portrait

10. Take a series of shots to capture the action

Whenever you’re photographing active portrait subjects – runners in motion, as in the image below, owners playing with their pets, or even children just having fun – I highly recommend you use burst mode, also known as continuous shooting mode.

You see, burst mode allows you to capture a series of shots in quick succession (the specifics depend on your camera, but these days, 10 frames per second or more is not uncommon). And this does two things for your portrait photography:

  1. It allows you to nail those once-in-a-lifetime moments and expressions, like a couple looking longingly at one another, or a child throwing leaves in the air.
  2. It allows you to take a series of images that can be presented together, as a unique story.

I don’t suggest using burst mode all the time, unless you have a huge amount of storage space and don’t mind sifting through thousands of images after each photoshoot.

But when you expect action, switch to burst mode. And have fun getting those split-second images!

people running in a race

10 ways to take stunning portraits: final words

Capturing stunning portraits is easy – as long as you remember a few of these simple tips!

So start thinking about compositional rules (and start learning to break them). Start thinking about lighting. Start thinking about angles.

And practice your portrait photography!

Now over to you:

Which of these portrait photography tips is your favorite? Do you plan to use any in your next shoot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Table of contents

Portrait Photography

The post 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits (Portrait Photography Guide) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darren Rowse.

Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide

The post Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Elizabeth Halford.

vibrance vs saturation: a guide

What is vibrance? What is saturation? And when should (or shouldn’t) you use these post-processing tools to enhance your photos?

Vibrance versus saturation can be a confusing topic, one that causes a major headache for Lightroom beginners. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, and in this article, we break it all down for you.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • An easy-to-understand vibrance definition
  • An easy-to-understand saturation definition
  • Plenty of visual examples showing how these adjustments affect your photos
  • A quick guide explaining when to use one (or both) tools

So if you finally want to learn the difference between these two editing tools, then read on!

What is saturation?

Saturation simply boosts the intensity of all the colors in a photo. It intensifies the greens, it intensifies the reds, it intensifies the yellows, it intensifies the oranges, and more.

Here’s an image with no added saturation:

boat on the water saturation

And here’s the same image, but with the saturation cranked up to 100:

heavily saturated image of a boat on the water

(It’s an extreme example, and it looks horrible, I know. It’s just for illustration purposes.)

Now, pretty much every post-processing program includes a Saturation slider. Here it is in Lightroom Classic:

Saturation slider in Lightroom

And boosting the saturation is as simple as pushing the Saturation slider upward. (You’re also free to drop the saturation, which will turn your photo black and white.)

What is vibrance?

Vibrance is often referred to as “smart saturation,” because it intensifies colors – but it does so more selectively. Specifically, vibrance boosts colors that are more muted. And it mostly ignores warmer colors (yellows, oranges, and reds), while prioritizing cooler colors (blues and greens).

Here’s the image featured above, once again with no adjustments:

boat on the water

And here’s the same image, but with the vibrance pushed to 100:

boat on the water with lots of vibrance

Note that the greens of the water and the blues in the mountains and sky become insanely intense, while the yellows and oranges in the mountain and the boat are only boosted slightly.

Here, Lightroom is trying to avoid skin tones; vibrance lets you increase the colors of an image without creating unnatural, oversaturated portraits. That’s why portrait photographers are big fans of vibrance, and why vibrance is often more useful than saturation, especially when people are in the frame.

Here’s the Vibrance slider in Lightroom Classic:

Vibrance slider in Lightroom

Vibrance vs saturation: what you should know (+ examples)

At this point, you should be roughly familiar with the differences between vibrance and saturation (in Lightroom and otherwise): Saturation boosts all the colors, while vibrance boosts muted colors and cooler colors, not skin tones.

But I’d like to offer a few more examples to make the effect even clearer. First, a standard portrait with rather subdued colors:

portrait of a woman at sunset

Then the same portrait, but with the Lightroom Saturation slider pushed to 100:

highly saturated portrait of a woman at sunset

Finally, the same portrait, but with the Saturation slider set to 0 and the Vibrance slider pushed to 100:

woman at sunset with lots of vibrance

As you can see, the oversaturated version looks unpleasant and garish, while the vibrance-adjusted version is significantly more palatable. I would never recommend boosting the Saturation slider or the Vibrance slider to 100, but you could push the Vibrance slider to 35 or so and get a nice result:

more subtly edited portrait of a woman

Here’s another image, which features both a person and a landscape:

woman sitting on a rock overlooking a lake

Based on what you learned above, you might expect +100 Saturation to create crazy skin tones, and you’d be right:

woman sitting on a rock overlooking a lake with lots of saturation

The sky and the lake are boosted, too, of course, but not on the same level.

And then we have another version, set to +100 Vibrance:

woman sitting on a rock overlooking a lake with lots of vibrance

Interestingly, while the skin tones are more muted, the sky and water actually appear more saturated than in the oversaturated version above – so if you’d prefer to intensify cool tones over warm tones, vibrance is the better bet.

When (and how) should you use saturation on a photo?

In general, I recommend you use saturation subtly. Yes, it’s a nice way to make your photos pop, but it’s very easy to go too far – and end up with a garish, even nauseating, result.

So when you’re faced with a new image, try boosting the saturation in increments of +5 and see how it looks. You’ll rarely need to go over +20 or so (and if you do increase the saturation beyond +20, pause and consider before continuing; try hitting the “” key to see the before and after version).

I often subtly boost the saturation on images full of bright colors, especially if those images don’t include people (remember, saturation really intensifies skin tones!). So if I’m editing a nice landscape, a sunset, or a flower close-up, the Saturation slider is often my go-to tool.

However, if my photo includes people, I’ll often focus on vibrance instead, as I explain in the next section.

When (and how) should you use vibrance on a photo?

Vibrance is great for photos with people – as you know, it prevents oversaturated skin tones – so whenever you’re editing a portrait, I’d recommend increasing the vibrance.

You can also use the Vibrance slider when faced with more subtle landscape and flower images. Maybe you want to add a bit of pop while keeping the intensity to a minimum; if so, vibrance will serve you well.

Still, you should apply vibrance carefully. Don’t boost it all at once, and feel free to use the method I recommended for saturation adjustments, where you increase the slider by increments of +5 each time.

Vibrance plus saturation: the experimental method

While it’s useful to know what saturation and vibrance mean, most photographers don’t know exactly what they want to do to a photo in Lightroom before they do it.

Which is where a more experimental method of boosting colors comes into play.

Instead of thinking carefully about vibrance and saturation, it’s often a good idea to simply test the waters. First, boost the Vibrance slider and see what happens. If the result looks bad, drop it back down.

Then boost the Saturation slider and see what happens. Work in small increments, of course, and monitor your photo. When you reach a result that you like, keep it.

In fact, many photographers work this way. Sometimes, they end up using both vibrance and saturation together for a great edit. Other times, they end up dialing in negative saturation (i.e., desaturation) or negative vibrance to get the look they’re after.

So don’t be shy – go where your eye takes you!

Vibrance vs saturation: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know what vibrance means, what saturation means, and why you might want to use one editing tool over the other.

Plus, you know how to approach an image for the best possible results.

So find an image or two, then test out your Vibrance and Saturation sliders. See what you get. And have fun!

Now over to you:

What do you think about vibrance and saturation? Which do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Vibrance vs Saturation in Photography: The Essential Guide appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Elizabeth Halford.

dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

This week your weekly challenge photography theme is “Perfectly aligned” by our dPS Facebook group member Sharon WIlliams.

Use the hashtag #dPSPerfectlyAligned if you’re sharing on social media.
Share your photograph in the comments below if you don’t use social media. (Here’s how)

Perfectly aligned? The sun? Lines on a road? Kids artwork on a wall (I’m running late this week, that’s all I’ve got – BUT – I will find something during the week!)

dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned
Perfectly Individual | Perfectly Aligned

There are a whole list of articles HERE that may have a plethora of inspo in them, for you. Take a look and see what you come up with!

Find all of our previous weekly challenges here.

The post dPS Weekly Photo Challenge – Perfectly aligned appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!)

The post 7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

macro food photography tips for beautiful results

When your objective is to communicate that your subject is tasty and delicious, macro food photography might be just the technique you need. And sometimes, it’s not so much about the appeal to the palate as it is about capturing the interesting colors, textures, and patterns of a food subject. An extreme macro of food might not even clearly identify the subject – instead, it might simply be interesting as an abstract.

Whatever your intent, let’s explore the tools and techniques you can use for gorgeous macro food photos.

To begin: macro or close-up?

In the purest sense of the term, a “macro” photo renders the subject at a 1:1 ratio. That is to say, the actual size of the object is perfectly represented on the camera sensor. With a full-frame camera, that’s about 24mm x 36mm. A U.S. quarter will fill the frame from top to bottom at that size (or if we’re doing food photography, an average-sized grape).

true macro photo of a quarter
If your full-frame camera and lens can produce this shot – with a U.S. quarter filling the frame from top to bottom uncropped – you can achieve a true macro photo.

But is that the size we want to represent the food we photograph? If we are shooting tiny food objects like peppercorns, we might want to be in much tighter. If our food subject is a cupcake, we might want to include the whole delicious item, which would not technically be a macro photo.

macro food photos of apples close up versus macro
The shot at left is a close-up while the one at right is a macro. What matters is the story you want to tell about your subject.

Does it matter? No. What you intend to communicate is what should dictate how closely you shoot food, what you include and crop out, and whether you are making macro or just close-up photos. For the purpose of this article, I may use the term “macro,” but I’m really referring to any close-up rendition of a food subject.

pepper close-up photos
How tight you shoot is more a function of what it is you intend to communicate. The top shot is interesting, but we may not even recognize the subjects as peppercorns. In the second shot, the spoon gives some clue as to the size of the objects. The third shot tells more of a story and might be used to advertise peppered crackers.

1. Get the right equipment

You can do macro food photography with almost any camera, and you can even do an admirable job with many phone cameras. If you want to get more serious, however, you should probably use a decent DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lens capabilities. A true macro lens, one allowing 1:1 representations, as discussed above, will also prove useful. Remember that most macro lenses will also let you shoot from farther distances if needed.

Want to do macro photography but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated macro lens? Combining extension tubes with standard lenses can get you much closer to your subject; you might even try the reverse-lens macro technique.

Any kind of serious macro work requires a tripod. Camera movement is magnified when you are shooting very close to your subject, and so keeping your camera rock-steady is critical to getting sharp photos. Extreme detail is what will make your macro food photography stand out from the rest, and you should do everything in your power to achieve tack-sharp results, even if it means purchasing a solid, sturdy tripod for in-studio use.

Other equipment can be useful for macro photography, especially if you intend to get ultra close. Items such as focusing rails, bellows, and specialized lighting may be things you’ll add to your kit in time, but probably aren’t as necessary for most macro food photography (especially as a beginner).

apple still life and peppercorn still life
What’s the objective? Often food photography is about marketing a product.

2. Identify (and style) the “hero” object

Your first task will be to determine the food object you’ll be shooting. That will dictate many things: your lens choice, your lighting needs, your supporting elements, your background, etc. After you decide on the subject, you will want to pick out the very best representative as your “model.”

In the professional food photography world, this is called the hero. While the photographer may set the scene, position the lights, and get everything else ready, they will likely have a “stand-in” for the subject. Meanwhile, a food stylist prepares the “hero” object, much as hair stylists and make-up artists ready a fashion model.

Say you’re doing a shoot for a McDonald’s hamburger. The food stylist will pick just the right bun, condiments, tomato, lettuce, cheese, pickle, and whatever else goes on the burger. They might place each sesame seed on the bun individually with tweezers and brush the burger with oil to give it just the right glisten. They might take a blow torch to the cheese for just the right amount of meltiness. High-end food stylists are artists in their own right. The “hero,” when ready to be placed on the set, might not even be edible – but it’ll sure look good.

You probably don’t have a food stylist to do these kinds of things, but even so, do what you can to pick out the very best subjects for your shot. Your objective is the same as a professional stylist: to make the food look as delicious as possible. This is especially crucial with tight macro food photography. A blemish on an apple, an overripe berry, or a speck of anything that doesn’t belong there will force you to do significant retouching or might make the shot unusable altogether. Pick the best representative for your hero subject and learn some food styling tricks as you go along.

fruit close up
Sometimes, your macro food photography might be less about making a yummy-looking food shot and more about capturing the interesting colors, patterns, and details of a food subject. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun!

3. Set the scene to complement the “hero” object

A movie set director carefully chooses what props to include in a scene – and you, as a food photographer, will also need to decide what props and background items to add to your photos. With macro and close-up photography, you’ll be shooting tight and your depth of field will likely be limited. Keeping your set simple so that the “hero” food object is the main focus is usually the best option.

Additional objects you decide to include in the scene should enhance the “story” and support whatever it is you’re trying to communicate. Backgrounds can be simple: a plate for the food object, a board, or maybe some colored cloth or paper. Think about how the colors, textures, and patterns of background objects will help enhance your subject.

cupcake close-up
The props, the plates, the backgrounds, and how the colors of your scene coordinate should all be key food photography considerations.

With any kind of photography, composition is king. How you position elements in the frame so the viewer’s eye moves to the main subject is critical. Therefore, compositional techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry and patterns, natural frames, and choice of aspect ratio are very important. Consider the rule of odds when making a photo with multiple objects.

Camera angle is also very important in food photography. Do you want to shoot from table level, perhaps to emphasize the size of the food, a 45-degree angle as a diner might view their plate, or do what is called a “flat lay,” a shot from directly above? Think about this, and if in doubt, make shots from various angles.

dinner on a plate
This is a 45-degree “diner’s view” angle. I happened to be the diner and made the shot with my LG V30 cellphone just before I ate my subject. I know I’m not the only one out there who takes pictures of their dinner!

4. Carefully light your macro food subjects

Photographers doing studio portrait photography spend lots of time learning how to light their models. Think of your food subjects as models, too, and learn how to light them to highlight their best qualities. Here are some basics to think about:

  • Lighting types. Will you use natural daylight or artificial lights? If you go the artificial route, will you use tungsten, fluorescent, LED, or flash? Remember that each of these lighting types will have different color temperatures and you will need to correctly white balance your shot to keep the food looking natural and appetizing.
  • Start with daylight. Often the easiest and best lighting for food photography is natural light. Place your food subject near a window and then fill in shadow areas with reflectors.
  • Consider the lighting angle. Do you want to use three-point lighting like you might do in portraiture? Side light? Backlight? Rarely will you want to light directly from the front, as this will usually make your subject look flat and uninteresting. Side light can help bring out the texture of your subject, and for some food subjects, especially food that is translucent, backlighting can be dramatic.
  • Use lighting modifiers. You may want to soften the shadows in your shot with softboxes or lighting scrims. This can be useful when your food object is shiny and produces specular highlights. Fill cards can be used to reflect light back onto a subject, lighting “flags” can be placed to block light from select areas of your subject, and devices like snoots can be used to restrict light to very specific parts of your subject.
  • Specialized lighting instruments. One real advantage of lighting in macro food photography is that you are dealing with a small area and not much light is usually required. Small-lighting instruments like LED flashlights can often work well. Sometimes, when the camera is in close proximity to the subject, your biggest challenge will be to stop the camera from blocking the light. Many macro photographers favor ring lights, which can help evenly distribute light around a small subject and soften shadows.
fruit with water
Thinly-sliced foods that are translucent can be backlit and make for some colorful and interesting subjects.
LED lighting for macro food photography
You needn’t buy fancy lights to get started with macro food photography. These cheap hardware-store LED flashlights have worked well for many of my shots.

5. Use the right setup and settings

Here’s a list of things to consider when setting up your camera for macro food photography:

  • Work on a tripod. This bears repeating. Thanks to the limited depth of field and magnified motion when doing macro work, keeping the camera rock-steady via a tripod is mandatory.
  • Use Manual mode. Taking full control of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will help you better control your exposure and depth of field. It is also a useful way to maintain shot-to-shot consistency. Once you determine the proper settings, you can then concentrate on subtle tweaks to your composition while knowing the exposure will remain consistent.
  • Turn off image stabilization. Be sure lens and camera image stabilization is off. If you’re working on a tripod, this technology won’t help and might even hurt.
  • Use Live View. Most newer cameras have the ability to display a live preview of an image on the LCD screen. This is a good way to shoot, especially if your camera has a flip-out LCD screen; you can visualize your composition, rather than needing to peek through the viewfinder. It will also help minimize the movement you’d create by touching the camera. Another option, if you can set it up, is tethering your camera to a computer. Viewing your composition live on a large monitor or even a laptop screen is a great way to visualize your shot.
  • Use a remote release. Eliminating camera movement when you make the shot is important, so if you can trip the shutter without touching the camera, you’re bound to get sharper results. Another option is to use your camera’s two-second timer. The camera will wait two seconds to take the photo, enough time for any vibrations to die down.
  • Pay attention to the plane of focus. When making tight macro shots, depth of field is minimal. Try to keep key objects at an equal distance from the camera; that way, everything stays as sharp as possible. Think of the camera sensor as one plane and the objects in the shot as another – then try to keep those planes parallel.
  • Use your depth of field preview button. Most cameras have a button that, when pressed, will stop down the lens to its set aperture and will thus display what’ll be in focus when you shoot. This will greatly aid you in determining the perfect aperture for your desired depth of field.
  • Learn how to position your focus point. By default, if you simply point and shoot, your camera will typically choose the center focus point. But what if the object you want in sharp focus is not in the center of your composition? (If you are using the rule of thirds, then it won’t be!) Learn how to reposition your focus points so the camera focuses where you want it to.
food close-ups
The colors, patterns, textures, and details of food are often more than enough to make for an interesting image.
  • Use manual focus. You can disregard the previous point if you turn off autofocus. It wasn’t so long ago that cameras didn’t have autofocus and photographers did just fine without it. Most macro food photography is done with static subjects in a controlled situation where fast focusing isn’t necessary. So take full control and set focus exactly where you want it to be.
  • Use your base ISO. The lowest ISO setting on your camera is the one that will produce the least noise in your images. Typically, you will raise the ISO if there’s not enough light to get the aperture/shutter speed settings you’d like. But in macro food photography, you will usually control the light. If there doesn’t seem to be enough, add more. If this isn’t an option, then slow down your shutter and make a longer exposure. With a static subject (and your camera on a tripod), nothing should blur, even if your exposure time is a few seconds. Stick with ISO 100 (or whatever the lowest setting is for your camera) whenever you can.
  • Work the triangle. I’m referring to the exposure triangle, a foundational photography concept that is crucial to understand if you are to become a skilled photographer. In macro food photography, of the three triangle settings – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – you will usually be most concerned with aperture, which controls your depth of field. So start by determining what you’d like your aperture to be. We just said to try to leave your ISO at base level, usually ISO 100. What remains is the shutter speed, and with static subjects, that shouldn’t really matter. Leave your ISO at 100, set your aperture for the desired depth of field, and then adjust your shutter speed to whatever you need for a proper exposure. Simple, right?
blueberry macro photography
The blueberries weren’t going to move and I was shooting on a tripod, so an 8-second exposure was not a problem. It also gave me time for a little light painting with a small flashlight.

6. Experiment with food in motion and special effects

I just said that shutter speed usually won’t matter with a static subject, and that is true. But what if your food subject isn’t static? What if you want to create some drama with a food object in motion?

The photos below might give you ideas of how you can create interesting food photography images with some creative camera and lighting work. Read the captions for insight into how these photos were taken.

falling food
A brightly lit white card served as the background for the raspberry shot, and a 1/1000s shutter speed froze the motion. The strobe-mode of a flash was key to the multi-image look of the falling pepper shot.
splashing food
These shots were “flash-frozen;” that is to say, it was the high speed of the flash, not the (often lengthy) shutter speed, that froze the action.
food dropped into water
Bright sun was the key to getting sufficient light for the 1/2000s-1/3200s shutter speeds that froze the motion in these shots.

7. Don’t forget to edit your macro food photography!

You’re no doubt familiar with photographers who preach the importance of “getting your image right in camera.” I wholeheartedly agree that getting the best exposure you can, composing so you don’t have to crop, working to get perfect white balance, and doing everything you can to produce an image that won’t need editing is a worthy goal.

But it’s a goal that you’ll rarely achieve, especially with macro food photography.

First, your RAW image (and you are shooting in RAW, I hope?) will need at least some processing. More importantly, there are the fine nuances of lighting, white balance, sharpness, and many other things you can control with editing but you simply can’t control with your initial shot.

Second, as careful as you might be, tiny details, like specks of dust, crumbs, blemishes on fruits and vegetables, stray hairs, and all kinds of other things will inevitably show up in your shot. You can remove these things with skilled editing.

Lastly, a good editor can help highlight areas where more attention is needed, darken or blur areas where less attention is needed, give more pop to an image with contrast, clarity, saturation, or sharpness adjustments, and perform all kinds of other enhancements.

An editing session should never be a rescue mission to save a poorly executed shot, but can and should take a good shot to the next level.

cracker close up
There’s more editing here than might meet the eye. The white balance was adjusted, highlights and shadows tuned, areas were dodged and burned, and the background made more blue than the initial shot. There were also some crumbs to clean up. Expect to do some editing to your macro food photography if you want to give it that extra polish.

Macro food photography tips: final words

fizzy orange in water

Maybe you are mostly a landscape photographer, or you do portraits, sports, action, travel, or some other genre of photography. Even so, learning other skills will help you grow as a photographer. Food subjects are as close as your pantry, garden, or refrigerator, your studio can be the kitchen counter, and your lighting can be what comes in the window.

If you don’t want to spring for a dedicated macro lens, buy some extension tubes or try the reverse lens technique. Macro food photography is a lot of fun, and – bonus! – you can often eat your subject when you’re done.

almonds and spoon food macro photography
Go nuts and make some interesting macro food photos!

The post 7 Macro Food Photography Tips (for Eye-Catching Shots!) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021

The post The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

the best Black Friday deals for photographers in 2021

If you’re looking for the best Black Friday deals for photographers, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve put together a huge collection of discounts, including incredible savings on cameras, lenses, photography courses, photo editing software, presets, and more. Note that we’ve also included some affiliate links, which we use to promote our trusted partners. While we receive a commission for products purchased through these links, this is at no cost to you, and it has not biased our recommendations; our goal really is to share the best Black Friday discounts!

Bottom line: If you want to level up your photography, then you need to take advantage of these deals while they’re still available. So without further ado, let’s look at the current best Black Friday deals in 2021!

You can click below to go directly to the product category you’re interested in:

  1. Special Deals, Ebooks, and Courses
  2. Cameras
  3. Lenses
  4. Software and Presets

Special Deals, Ebooks, and Courses

Black Friday is an amazing time for photography learners of all stripes, from beginners to professionals. Why? Because the best photography education companies in the world offer major discounts on training materials, courses, and ebooks. Here are a few of our favorite deals:

Photzy Action Cards (88% Off)

Do you want to get better at photography – but without all the difficult book learning, the trial and error, and the thousands of wasted photo opportunities?

It seems impossible, but it’s not – once you have access to Photzy’s world-class Action Cards. 

Photzy action cards

You see, the Action Card set is designed to streamline the photography learning process. Instead of lengthy theoretical books, you get 65 succinct Cards, and each one breaks down a key photography concept in a simple, practical, easy-to-understand way. 

Interested in macro photography? There’s a card for that, which explains the equipment you need to get started, plus it offers up tips, example photos, and even a handful of “Action Assignments” that’ll help you cement your skills. Love landscape photography? There’s a card for that, too, and it’ll get you capturing stunning scenics in no time at all.

In fact, Photzy has cleverly organized the Action Cards into two sets: 

  • The Genre set, so you can quickly tackle each and every photography subject that interests you
  • The Composition set, so you can develop your compositional skills and start taking pro-level images, fast

It’s a great product, and it’s basically a full photography education rolled into one easy-to-digest pack of cards, so it rightfully costs several hundred dollars ($325, to be exact). But for Black Friday, you can grab the cards at 88% off, for just $39.

So grab the Action Cards here – and become a better photographer!

Secrets to Tack-Sharp Images, by Brent Mail (77% Off)

Are you tired of taking blurry photos? Do you wish you could capture sharp, crisp, clear images every time you hit the shutter button?

Then check out Brent Mail’s top-quality ebook, which shares everything you need to know for tack-sharp results.

Secrets to Tack-Sharp Images eBook

Brent identifies the 12 focus mistakes that are causing you image-quality problems – then he shows you exactly how to fix them, in simple, easy-to-undersand language. 

You don’t have to spend hours wading through unnecessary content, either; the book is short and to the point, with four simple chapters (totaling just under 30 pages).

Normally, the book costs $39 – but for Black Friday, you can buy it for just $9 (and you get several handy bonuses, too!), so click here to grab your copy!

Photzy Snap Cards (93% Off)

Have you ever been out taking photos and wished you could have your training materials open in front of you? Or better yet, have you wished for a photography expert to be standing next to you, giving you advice as you choose your settings and press the shutter button?

Thanks to Photzy’s Snap Cards: Essentials, it’s possible.

Photzy snap cards Black Friday deal for photographers

Because the Snap Cards are designed by experts to do exactly that:

Tell you what you need to know about photography – when you need to know it. Not when you’re sitting in your room reading about photography, but when you’re actually out in the field taking pictures.

The Snap Cards consist of 20 printable cheat sheets, including plenty of key information about:

  • working with your camera
  • creating perfect exposures
  • arranging perfect compositions
  • photographing people
  • capturing beautiful night photos
  • and much more!

They’re easy to read, they offer quick solutions in the field, and they’re wildly effective. But don’t take our word for it; here’s what Snap Card customers have said about this one-of-a-kind product:

  • “I was a little worried whether there’d be enough useful information on the cards…but I was pleasantly surprised. They are extremely useful. I’ve printed out different sets and they now live in my bag!” – Amy W.
  • “The cards were truly a blessing to me as I could take my time and peruse them at my own pace while I played with the camera as I was reading through them…Your cards covered many “basic” ideas such as how the exposure triangle works together, yet you also gently covered intermediate topics and even branched into some advanced topics without leaving me on the fringe. Thank you.” – Charlie E.
  • “A very comprehensive way to understand photography concepts.” – Alitza A.

Normally, the Snap Cards cost $100 USD.

But for a limited time, you can grab the Photzy Snap Cards at an insanely low price:

Just $7 (or less than $1 per card).

So make sure you grab the Snap Cards at this ultra-discounted price while you still can. Because the deal certainly won’t last!

Click here to get the Snap Cards at 93% off, right now.

The Travel Photography Course, Plus Photo-Editing Training for Lightroom (80% Off)

Most of us like to take snapshots while traveling…

…and they’re just that: snapshots. They’re not powerful, they’re not eye-catching, and they’re certainly not evocative. 

But in Mitchell Kanashkevich’s Travel Photography Course, you’ll learn to enhance your travel photos – so that the next time you take a trip, you bring back photos that belong in magazines like National Geographic (and they’re guaranteed to impress your friends and family, too!).

The Travel Photography Course

The video course covers all the travel photography essentials in just under 4 hours, including composition, settings, mood, and photo editing. And you’ll be learning from the best; Mitchell Kanashkevich has been named a 2015 Travel Photographer of the Year, plus he’s been published in countless books and magazines. 

Normally, the course costs $129.97, but for Black Friday, you can grab it for only $49.95. It even comes with a free second product, Light-Based Presets & Photo-Editing Training for Lightroom, which packs 43 presets and 4 hours of Lightroom training into a helpful bundle.

So if you’re interested in travel photography, Lightroom presets, and/or Lightroom, go ahead and buy this package at 80% off!

A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition, by Contrastly (50% Off)

What’s the difference between a beautiful photo and a blah photo? Often, it’s the composition: the specific arrangement of elements in the photo that achieve a balanced (or imabalanced) effect. 

Unfortunately, learning to compose like a pro can be pretty darn challenging – unless you have an outstanding teacher, that is!

Enter A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition, straight from the experts at Contrastly. The ebook promises to get you composing beautiful photos in no time at all, thanks to its 90 pages of carefully explained tips, tricks, and secrets. And it includes plenty of stunning example images and beautiful diagrams, so the learning never gets boring.

A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition eBook

Normally, you can grab the book for $29 – but for a limited time only, A Modern Approach to Photographic Composition is available at over 50% off, for just $14.

So if you’d like to start taking beautifully composed photos, or if you ever struggle with composition, I highly recommend you check it out.

Understanding Your Camera Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

If you’re just getting started with photography, you’re probably feeling insanely overwhelmed – by all the buttons, the knobs, the dials, and the confusing concepts (exposure compensation, anyone?).

Of course, you could take the slow approach: read your camera manual, play around with your equipment, and see what happens.

Or if you prefer the faster, easier, all-around more helpful route, check out Phil Steele’s Understanding Your Camera course, which explains everything you need to know to get up and running. In only a few hours, you’ll discover the secrets to beautiful, well-exposed images; you’ll learn how to balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO for artistic results; you’ll learn how to set the proper white balance in camera; and you’ll learn to focus like a pro.

Understanding Your Camera video course Black Friday for photographers

It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s infinitely more satisfying – plus, for the next few days, it’s 40% off, at just $59 (instead of the usual $99). Check it out here!

All Access Pass to the Photzy Photography Training Guide Vault (95% Off)

Are you a beginner looking to improve your photography skills? Then you’re going to love Photzy’s Photography Training Guide Vault, which contains literally dozens of ebooks, covering topics such as:

  • Getting to know your DSLR
  • How to get off Auto mode
  • How to master editing in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • How to work with light
  • Ideas for creative photos
  • How to capture beautiful portraits
  • How to capture beautiful landscapes
  • So much more!
Photzy Training Guide Vault

For the beginner photographer, these materials are gold (and they certainly offer plenty of instruction for intermediate and even advanced photographers, too).

In total, the Photzy Vault costs $1829. But for Black Friday, you can purchase an all-access pass for just $69 per year or $12 per month. Get it here!

Lightroom Mastery, by Contrastly (50% Off)

If you’re hoping to create stunning images, then editing is essential. After all, editing is how you take a decent photo and turn it into a masterpiece.

The problem? Learning to edit is overwhelming, and many photographers give up before getting anywhere at all. They never manage to make their photos shine. 

Fortunately, there’s an easy way forward:

Contrastly’s Lightroom Mastery ebook, which gives you everything you need to start editing your photos in Lightroom Classic, one of the best photo editors for beginners, enthusiasts, and even pros.

Lightroom Mastery eBook

Learn from professional photographer Adam Welch, who takes you through the ins-and-outs of Lightroom, from adjusting tones and making colors pop to improving sharpness, using presets, and more. There are over 300 pages of expert content – and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a bona fide Lightroom pro.

Under normal circumstances, Lightroom Mastery costs $39. But right now, you can purchase your copy for just $19 (at over 50% savings!).

Photoshop Basics for Photographers Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

Photoshop is, quite possibly, the most powerful photo editing program on the planet. You can use it to revolutionize your photography – by creating complex color grades, adding cool artistic effects, removing distracting objects from the background, and lots more.

It’s also ridiculously hard to learn, so the majority of photographers stop before they’ve ever really started.

Happily, there is a solution:

Phil Steele’s Photoshop Basics course, which offers a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand overview of Photoshop. In three hours, Phil takes you through all the PS essentials, from the interface and layer-based editing to layer masks, sharpening, portrait retouching, and beyond. You’ll even learn to prepare images for social media – so after you create a breathtaking image, you can immediately share it.

Photoshop Basics for Photographers video course

Normally, the course goes for a reasonable $69, but over the next few days, you pay just $39 for complete access.

7 Mastering Photography Ebooks, by the Creative Photographer (46% Off)

If you want to improve your photography fast, then check out this excellent Black Friday deal from the Creative Photographer, which offers 7 first-rate ebooks at $7 each (just $49 in total). 

Each book includes plenty of tips, tricks, and secrets for beginner, intermediate, and even advanced photographers, covering camera operations, lens use, exposure techniques, composition, and more.

Mastering Photography eBooks discounts

And if only a few of the books interest you, no need to worry; you can select individual books at just $7 each, for a perfect custom bundle of photography education.

The deal only lasts until the end of the month, however, so get these ebooks while you still can!

Secrets of Successful Event Photography Video Course, by Phil Steele (40% Off)

Do you want to capture gorgeous photos of events? Do you want to come home from weddings, birthday parties, holiday parties, and even concerts – with a memory card full of outstanding images?

Event photography isn’t the easiest photography genre out there, but with Secrets of Successful Event Photography, you’re in good hands. The video course expertly guides you through the rocky terrain of event shooting, including:

  • How to capture sharp photos in low-light environments
  • How to work with flash for beautifully lit images
  • How to capture stunning candid portraits
  • How to pick the proper gear for pro-level shots
  • Much more!
Secrets of Successful Event Photography

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate shooter, or even an advanced photographer; Secrets of Successful Event Photography has something for everyone, thanks to the careful instruction of Phil Steele and Julie Kremen, both highly successful event photographers with over 25 years of combined experience.

So grab the course and learn to become a top-notch event photographer! It’s currently available for $89 versus the usual $147.

Cameras and Camera Bundles

Black Friday always features an outstanding set of camera deals, and this year is no exception.

While there are too many great camera discounts to list, here are a few that we think you’ll really love (and for more, check out Amazon’s Camera, Photo, and Video section).

Canon EOS RP With 24-105mm Lens (14% Off on Amazon)

The Canon EOS RP is Canon’s cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera, but don’t let that fool you; it can go toe-to-toe with models that cost far more, thanks to its powerful sensor (26 MP), fully articulating screen, and 4K video capabilities.

Canon EOS RP With 24-105mm lens

For those who are thinking of going full-frame but aren’t sure where to start, the EOS RP is a perfect choice. Alternatively, if you’re a Canon user ready to make the jump to mirrorless, this bundle is a great way to go; you get the powerful EOS RP, plus the ultra-useful 24-105mm lens, which can handle all kinds of shooting, from street photography to landscape photography to walkaround photography and more.

So grab the Canon EOS RP plus the 24-105mm f/4-7.1 while it’s still on sale, because you can get it for an ultra-low $1199 on Amazon!

Canon EOS R With 24-105mm Lens (10% Off on Amazon)

If you’re after a top-notch full-frame camera at an unbeatable price, then check out the Canon EOS R, which features an outstanding 30 MP sensor, beautiful low-light performance, and excellent ergonomics, including a robust grip and a touchscreen.

The EOS R may not be as flashy as the (newer and more expensive) EOS R5 and R6, but it’s certainly capable of pro-level portrait, landscape, and street images, not to mention decent videography, thanks to its 4K/30p recording and a fully articulating screen.

And the included 24-105mm lens offers a wide focal length range for photographers of all stripes; it’s perfect for casual walkaround photography to serious travel shooting and more.

Normally, this EOS R kit goes for $2099 on Amazon – but you can currently grab it for just $1899.

Nikon Z6 (20% Off on Amazon)

The Nikon Z6 may not be the newest mirrorless camera on the block – it’s since been succeeded by the Z6 II – yet it still offers excellent value for money, thanks to a class-leading sensor, along with a tough body and outstanding ergonomics.

Nikon Z6 camera body Black Friday deal

Low-light performance is jaw-droppingly good, so you can use the Z6 for beautiful night photos, indoor event shots, and even astrophotography. And if you like to record video, you’ll appreciate the high-quality 4K/30p footage and in-body image stabilization (though you may wish for a fully articulating touchscreen, which is conspicuously absent).

The Z6 is compatible with a slew of incredible lenses, including Nikon’s ever-expanding Z lineup and, via the relatively inexpensive FTZ adapter, Nikon’s huge array of top-notch F-mount glass.

Usually, the Z6 goes for $1997, but you can currently grab it for just $1597 on Amazon.

Nikon Z50 Plus the 16-50mm and 50-250mm Lenses (11% Off on Amazon)

The Z50 is a user-friendly, high-performing APS-C mirrorless model from Nikon, perfect for photography beginners, casual photographers, and Nikon DSLR users looking to upgrade.

Nikon Z50

While the Nikon Z50 doesn’t include any real standout features, you get a very respectable 20 MP sensor, 4K video, a tilting touchscreen, and decently fast shooting speeds.

And the bundle also includes two highly useful lenses: the 16-50mm, perfect for sweeping landscapes and wider portrait photography, and the 50-250mm, great for tighter portraits, action photography, and the occasional street shot.

Grab the Nikon Z50 plus the 16-50mm and 50-250mm lenses for just $1197 on Amazon, down from its usual $1347 price.

Sony a7 III With 28-70mm Lens Bundle (9% Off on Amazon)

The a7 III is one of Sony’s most popular professional cameras, combining outstanding low-light capabilities, in-body image stabilization, class-leading autofocus, a 24 MP sensor, and 4K recording capabilities into one ultra-powerful package.

If you’re looking for a standout full-frame mirrorless camera that can do just about anything, the Sony a7 III is a great choice – and this discounted bundle includes all you need to get your photography off the ground: a 28-70mm lens, perfect for portraits, landscapes, street photography, and casual shooting, a 32 GB memory card, an extra battery, a handful of filters, and more.

It’s currently available for just $1998 (versus the usual $2198).

Sony a7R IV (14% Off on Amazon)

The Sony a7R IV is a resolution monster, packing 61 megapixels into a gorgeously crafted full-frame sensor; it also boasts a stunning electronic viewfinder, excellent autofocus, and a line of class-leading lenses (see our lens discount section below!).

Sony a7R IV

If you’re a landscape or commercial photographer in need of mind-blowing detail, then the Sony a7R IV is the perfect pick, especially at its current discounted price of $2998, versus its normal $3499.

Fujifilm X-T3 With 16-80mm Lens (20% Off on Amazon)

Despite its age, the Fujifilm X-T3 is one of the best APS-C cameras to debut in recent years; Fujifilm managed to combine a beautiful design, a great shooting experience, excellent autofocus, and blazing-fast shooting speeds for a do-it-all camera that you won’t be able to put down.

If you’ve never tried a Fujifilm camera before, you’re in for a treat. Yes, the X-T3 is geared toward serious photographers and hybrid shooters, but in truth, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an enthusiast, or a professional – as long as you’re a fan of the retro design, then you’re going to love this model, not to mention the outstanding 16-80mm lens.

This Fujifilm X-T3 bundle normally sells for $2000 – but you can currently purchase it, with the excellent 16-80mm f/4 kit lens, for just $1599 on Amazon.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III With 14-150mm Lens (39% Off on Amazon)

The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is one of Olympus’s most eye-catching mirrorless cameras, packing beautiful images and 4K video into a small yet robust body. It’s perfect for photographers aiming to upgrade from their point-and-shoot models, as well as anyone looking for an affordable entry-level mirrorless option.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera

And thanks to the articulating screen plus the in-body image stabilization, the E-M5 Mark III is also an excellent choice for vloggers and hybrid shooters.

This discounted kit includes the versatile – and impressively small – 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II lens, which can shoot landscapes, wildlife, and everything in between.

So if you want a nice little camera that packs quite the punch, give this E-M5 Mark III bundle a try. It’s currently selling at 39% off, which puts the price at just $1099 on Amazon.


These are some of the best Black Friday lens deals that you’ll come across:

For Canon

For Sony

For Nikon

For Fujifilm

For Micro Four Thirds

Software and Presets

Every year, the Black Friday deals on editing software and presets seem to get better and better. Check out the incredibly low prices on these powerful products:

Skylum’s Luminar Neo (45% Off)

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly photo editor that’s insanely powerful, then I highly recommend you check out Luminar Neo, which will debut this winter but is currently available for preorder. Luminar Neo promises to be Skylum’s greatest program to date, packing all the standard editing features you’d expect, plus plenty of AI-powered extras.

Luminar Neo depth of field mapping

For instance, Luminar Neo includes the all-new Relight AI, which analyzes and adjusts scene lighting for unprecedented flexibility when editing backlit landscapes, shaded portraits, and other poorly lit subjects. You’ll also gain access to AI Power Lines Removal and AI Sensor Dust Removal, so you can clone out power lines and dust spots with zero work, as well as Portrait Background Removal, so you can transform bland portraits into unique artistic masterpieces.

In addition to Luminar Neo’s new tools, you can expect AI offerings included in past Luminar programs, such as Sky Replacement AI (so you can quickly replace skies for more dramatic results), Atmosphere AI (so you can add fog and haze into your photos), and Face AI (so you can enhance portraits with a few easy adjustments).

Luminar Neo normally costs $99, but the Black Friday discount knocks the price down to $59 for a two-seat lifetime license – plus, you get an additional $5 off the price, thanks to our special dPS discount (just make sure to use our link below!).

So click here to grab Luminar Neo for just $54!

The Complete Lightroom Presets Bundle, by Contrastly (50% Off)

Want to give your photos a stunning professional look with a single click?

That’s where the Complete Lightroom Presets Bundle comes in handy, which packs literally every preset you could ever need. (And when I say “every preset, ” I’m not exaggerating; the product includes a breathtaking 1450+ presets, far and away the most I’ve seen in a single package.)

Contrastly Lightroom presets

The presets cover a huge number of genres and styles, including:

  • Film simulations
  • Portrait presets
  • Landscape presets
  • Wedding presets
  • Dramatic presets
  • Noir presets
  • So much more!

These presets would normally cost you $99 – but for a limited time, Contrastly is offering the entire bundle for just $49. Buy it before the deal disappears!

Adobe Creative Cloud (40% Off)

We all know Adobe’s products, but did you know that you can currently purchase Lightroom, Photoshop, and all the other Adobe CC apps for 40% off, at just $29.99 per month?

The deal includes both versions of Lightroom – CC and Classic – as well as Photoshop CC, plus Adobe’s industry-standard video editing apps, graphic design apps, and more. 

Adobe Lightroom

If you’ve been on the fence about going all-in with an Adobe subscription, then now is the time to do it. Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC are better than ever, thanks to the new masking updates, and Photoshop is on another level entirely. Plus, the video apps you’ll get as part of your Creative Cloud subscription are perfect for vloggers, YouTubers, and videographers. 

So start taking your photos – and videos – to the next level, today. Click here to get your Adobe CC subscription at 40% off!

Capture One Pro (20% Off)

If you’re looking for an advanced program that offers image organization and image editing capabilities beyond even Lightroom, then Capture One is the software for you. Yes, there’s quite a learning curve, but for those after maximum post-processing power, it’s undoubtedly worth the effort. 

For instance, Capture One takes color editing to a whole new level, offering all the standard color grading and HSL adjustments plus an Advanced Color Editor that allows you to make granular changes to skin tones and other colors in your scene. 

Capture One editing tools

There’s also Capture One’s session-based workflow option, where you organize images by photoshoot rather than genre. It’s the perfect way to approach image organization when working with a high volume of clients, which is why I highly recommend portrait and event photographers try Capture One, especially if Lightroom feels too restrictive.

Capture One 21 is the current version of the software. But Capture One 22 is on its way and will be available for all subscribers (though Capture One 21 license holders will need to purchase a second license to access Capture One 22).

Normally, you can purchase a Capture One subscription for $179 per year. However, for Black Friday week only, the subscription price is down to $143 – so if you’re after an advanced photo editor that’ll really level up your image organization and editing, then click here to get your Capture One discount!

ON1 Photo RAW 2022 (25% Off)

ON1 Photo RAW is an easy-to-use, feature-packed alternative to Adobe Lightroom Classic, combining streamlined image organization with pretty much all of Lightroom’s editing functionality and sporting a beautiful interface to boot.

And with the latest version of the software, ON1 Photo RAW 2022, you get unprecedented editing flexibility, thanks to ON1’s No Noise AI, which is “the best noise reduction software for photography” (or so ON1 claims!), as well as Sky Swap AI for automatic sky masking and replacement.

ON1 Photo RAW 2022

There are die-hard Lightroom fans out there who refuse to consider ON1 Photo RAW, but the software is genuinely great and surpasses Lightroom on a number of fronts. Plus, ON1 Photo RAW 2022 is a pleasure to use; it just feels right, thanks to ON1’s focus on user experience.

Normally ON1 Photo RAW costs $99.99 for a one-time license, and now – thanks to Black Friday – it’s just $74.99. So click here for the deal!

The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers: Final Words

Well, there you have it:

Our favorite Black Friday deals for photographers in 2021, including training materials, camera gear, software, and more.

I encourage you to grab these great discounts as soon as possible. While there are plenty of amazing deals, they won’t stick around for long. Pretty soon, Black Friday will be over and prices will go back to normal.

So take advantage of these deals while you still can!

Know of any fantastic Black Friday deals for photographers that we missed? Share them in the comments below!

The post The Best Black Friday Deals for Photographers in 2021 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own

The post 10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

creative photography tools and accessories everyone should own

Looking for the perfect creative photography accessories to spice up your photos? You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I share my favorite fun photography tools, all of which practically guarantee creative images. I’m talking about filters, lighting accessories, toys, and more to take your images to the next level. You’ll also find a few basic items on this list, some of which you may already own – but I make sure to explain exactly how you can use it each tool to capture uniquely beautiful images.

So if you’re ready to discover the coolest photography accessories on the planet…

…then let’s jump right in.

1. Strobe

Strobes are a great piece of creative photography equipment. They are a little intimidating to learn, so beginners often gravitate toward natural light – but if you can master the strobe, you can revolutionize your photography.

Don’t just buy a single on-camera flash and call it a day. Instead, invest in radio triggers and receivers so you can do off-camera flash with multiple strobes. And experiment with modifiers like snoots, umbrellas, softboxes, and color gels.

Here are a couple of techniques you’ll need your strobe for:

  • Water droplet photography: You can capture a water droplet in midair by photographing it with a strobe. The idea is to bounce the light off a background behind the droplet, then take a photo as the droplet falls.
  • Low-key photography: Use snoots and a darkened background to create low-key photos. The bright flash will light your main subject, allowing you to underexpose the background until it turns black.
  • Stroboscopic photography: Get repeated snapshots of the same scene with a high-speed pulse. A tripod is essential for this technique.
water droplet photography accessories

A strobe is required to take this type of water droplet photo.

2. LED light stick

There are lots of ways you can create beautiful light paintings, but the LED light stick is a game-changer for this genre. It’s such a cool photography accessory that, as soon as you try it, you’ll be hooked.

LED light stick photography is always long exposure, so a tripod will also be required. You can use your light stick to create abstract light paintings, like this:

LED light sticks are a fun creative photography accessory

The great thing about light sticks is that they’re fully programmable. You can input the exact light you want to paint and whether it will feature colors, stripes, pictures, or patterns. At the moment, the two main LED light sticks on the market are the Pixelstick and the Magilight.

3. Tripod

Yes, a tripod is a basic photography accessory, and maybe it doesn’t seem that fun. But I have to mention it, because without a tripod, you’ll fail to pull off many of the techniques on this list – and with a tripod, your creative photography will explode with awesomeness.

Let’s look at some of the techniques a tripod will allow you to try:

  • Digital blending: This technique involves blending multiple images for a beautiful result. You can do it handheld, but your results will be greatly improved by using a tripod.
  • Cloning: You can capture several photos as you move throughout a scene. You can then layer them together to create a single photo with “clones.”
  • Light painting: Use flashlights or external light sources such as car light trails to light paint across your photo.
  • Astrophotography: You can create stunning shots of the Milky Way, but you’ll need lengthy exposure times.
  • Long exposure photography: Long exposures look great at night, and they can look very interesting during the day, too. You’ll need a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady as water and clouds zoom on by.

Here’s a photo that combines digital blending and long exposure techniques:

long exposure of a bridge at night

Quick tip: Avoid getting a cheap tripod that has unsteady legs, and instead invest in a heavier, sturdier tripod. If you’re traveling and need a light backpack, you can compromise a little. You’ll still want a strong tripod, and preferably a hook on the central tripod pole so you can add more weight once the tripod is set up.

4. Lensballs

The lensball is quite possibly the most fun photography accessory on this list, because it lets you take wild shots that are otherwise impossible. It’s quite cheap, too, and it’s simple – just a crystal ball that you place in front of your lens:

lensball landscapes

But lensballs are insanely versatile, and here are just a few of the techniques you can try:

  • Floating ball: Capture the ball in midair, as I did for the picture above. This requires some Photoshop work, but the results will be worth it.
  • Portrait: This one’s a little trickier to achieve. You’ll need to avoid showing the background as you focus in on the ball (assuming you want the portrait to appear only within the ball). Alternatively, you can use the ball as more of a prop within a regular portrait photo.
  • Landscape: Use the lensball’s fisheye-like properties to capture a unique lensball landscape; you can give a creative twist to popular locations.

5. Filters

Is there a need for filters when post-processing is so powerful? The answer to that is certainly “Yes,” especially if you wish to spend lots of time photographing (as opposed to post-processing on the computer). Plus, there are some filters that just can’t be replicated by editing software.

Filters can be used for the following forms of creative photography:

  • Infrared: Infrared filters filter out all light except for – you guessed it! – infrared. You’ll need a long exposure, and you’ll probably need to post-process your results. The in-camera photo will appear red, so you’ll need to adjust the color channels in Photoshop so the red areas of the photo become white.
  • Long exposures: The use of a strong neutral density filter will allow you to take long exposures even in the daytime.
  • Adding color: You can use filters to make your photo sepia or add more color to the sky during sunset. This is an area where post-processing is an equally powerful alternative, though.
  • Starburst effects: Some filters make points of light into a starburst. The same effect can also be achieved by using a smaller aperture.
  • Soft shots: Portrait photos can be enhanced with a softening filter; they’ll give your subject a Hollywood glow. Alternatively, you can stretch a stocking over the front of your lens, which will also soften the photo.
infrared filters are a great creative accessory

Infrared photography can create interesting scenes on a sunny day.

6. Prisms

Like the lensball, the prism refracts light – but it offers a completely different effect.

For one, you can redirect the light to create interesting doubling effects. And you can also use a prism to project a rainbow onto a surface (maybe even someone’s face!). Really, it’s all about experimentation, so grab a prism, hold it in front of your lens, and go wild!

Here’s an example of the prism’s interesting double-exposure effect:

prism photography

You might also consider fractal filters, which offer all sorts of cool, fun, prismatic results (especially for portrait photography).

7. Steel wool

Steel wool allows you to light paint, but with an urban industrial twist.

You can use the wool to create lots of flying metal sparks, which will light paint across your photo as they hurtle through the air. This is a really fun technique to try out, but you need to be careful; you’re creating thousands of red-hot metal shards, and each has the potential to start a fire. You’ll need to exercise lots of caution when taking this type of photo. Be sure to avoid locations that could start a forest fire.

Steel wool can also be used for portrait photography – but ensure the safety of those involved in your photoshoot by thinking through all eventualities, ensuring the portrait subject stays far away from the sparks, and by making sure water is on hand, just in case.

steel wool photography

Steel wool is fun to use, but you need to be extremely careful!

8. Metal tube

What’s another fun photography tool you can hold in front of your lens? The metal tube! The diameter of the tube will affect the result you get, but it’s pretty typical to use a copper pipe (you can get one in the plumbing section of your local hardware store).

The idea is to photograph through the tube, which creates a “ring of fire” within your photo. This ring of fire is actually flare, and you can use it to frame something or someone in your scene.

9. Umbrella

Portrait photographers use umbrellas all the time as props, and for good reason: they look great, plus they’re often full of color.

There are several different ways you might use an umbrella with a model. If you’re photographing your subject’s whole body, the umbrella will take up a small part of the frame. Alternatively, you can use the umbrella as a background, with the model’s head and shoulders featuring in the photo.

Personally, I’d recommend rainbow-colored umbrellas, the traditional paper umbrellas, or transparent umbrellas. Transparent umbrellas can be held by your subject, but they can also be positioned in front of the lens, with the spokes acting as a frame for your main subject.

using umbrellas as a creative photography accessory

This photo uses umbrellas to frame the subject.

10. Water

Is water really a creative photography tool? Absolutely!

I recommend you carry water with you at all times, which you can use for all sorts of interesting effects. For instance, if you find a cool building, you can create a small puddle on the ground, then photograph the reflection. Note that the puddle doesn’t need to be large; a good wide-angle lens can make the most of a tiny splash of water.

Water has other uses, as well! Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Splash: Add dynamism to your portrait work by throwing water at your model (but only with their permission, of course!).
  • Droplets: Create some droplets (with a spray bottle or a syringe, if necessary), get your macro lens out, and photograph some little refracted worlds.
  • Ice: Take photos of objects frozen in ice. It’ll give your still life photos a very different feel!

water droplet refraction photography

Creative photography accessories and tools: final words

Hopefully, now that you’ve finished this article, you’re feeling inspired – and you’re ready to grab some cool photography accessories!

So go out and purchase your tools. Then have fun capturing unique photos!

Now over to you:

Do you have any creative photography tools you recommend? Which of the items on this list is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post 10 Creative Photography Accessories and Tools Everyone Should Own appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.