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Monthly Archives: February 2019

  • Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters?

    The post Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

    Do you need filters for beautiful pictures?

    If you are old enough to have used a film camera, you know why people needed lens filters in order to accomplish visual effects in their images.  Back in the film days, you had limited control over white balance or ISO. Once you selected your film from the available film stock, and put it in your camera, you were stuck with a roll (24 or 36 exposures) of single ISO negative or slide film that was probably daylight balanced. In order to not waste money, you did everything you could to carefully mete out your images and make the most of them.

    Most film was daylight balanced so getting it right in-camera was critical

    Back in the day

    To help you make great images in the film days, you needed certain filters to help fix your white balance, and neutral density (ND) filters to allow you to slow your shutter speeds down. That was then, this is now. With the advent of digital cameras and the high-powered abilities of most image editing software, you can accomplish digitally much of the work that filters used to do.  Is there still a place in modern digital photography for optical lens filters?

    The answer is yes, but only for a few specific types of filters. In fact, you may find it difficult to get many filters in your local camera store that would have been readily available in the film camera days.  Most bricks and mortar camera stores carry few filters. The more unusual filters might be found in the bargain bin section, next to the books on how to use your new Canon 5D mark 1 (hint: that is an old digital camera).

    Some filters have to be really large to accommodate wide angle lenses

    Types of Optical Lens Filters

    I find that optical lens filters break down into six general types: UV/skylight filters, color modifiers, special effects, specialty filters, ND filters (including graduated), and circular polarizers. Most optical filters can be replaced by digital processes, either in the camera itself or in post-production. Some optical filters are really big and all take up space in your bag.

    Ultraviolet (UV) or Skylight filters

    Let’s consider UV or skylight filters. Film stock was often sensitive to UV light so it was important to protect your film by using a filter so that UV light wouldn’t make the images hazy.  Modern digital cameras are not susceptible to UV light interfering with their sensors as there are already UV and IR filters built into the cameras (we will discuss the importance of this later). Today, UV or skylight filters serve a completely different purpose: many photographers use them to protect the front element of their lenses.

    A UV or Skylight Filter will protect your lens front element

    UV/Skylight filters as lens protection

    As an aside, there are two schools of thought regarding UV or skylight filters. Some argue that putting a cheap filter in front of a really expensive lens significantly degrades the optical properties of your lens and that most good quality lenses have great coatings and are quite robust.  Alternatively, others would prefer to replace a $100 filter than replace a $2000 lens. While I agree you should never use cheap filters, I do tend to think that if you use good filters they do protect your investment in much more expensive lenses. I have replaced lots of filters that were shattered from an impact. In all of those cases, the front lens elements were protected from contact by the filter. I am not sure that would have occurred without the sacrificial filters.

    Regardless, since these UV/skylight filters don’t cause any significant changes to your image, they really are only useful for physical lens protection.

    A warming filter to adjust white balance

    Color filters

    Color filters were another common filter used with film cameras for simple color correction. Back in the film days, the film stock was mostly daylight balanced so if your images were taken in non-daylight conditions, you would need to use a color filter to correct your white balance. Although film processors had some ability to adjust the white balance in the lab, back then – today too, for that matter – it was always easier when you got things right in camera. Color filters are still available but are more of a novelty item, used for a specific effect, often in concert with gelled flashes and strobes. They are also still used for film cameras, instant cameras, and for specific applications like underwater photography.

    Special effects filters

    Once upon a time, there were lots of special effects filters that would produce in-camera special effects like grids, streaks, and starbursts. These all still work on digital cameras, however, most of these effects can be digitally produced, reducing the need for the optical filter. Many film shooters will take their images and then scan them to edit them, so the extra effort and cost of using special effects filters seem unnecessary. They are also difficult to find.

    Rectangular Graduated Neutral Density Filter

    Neutral Density Filters – Graduated

    The next filter type to consider is the neutral density filters, commonly used by landscape photographers (both film and digital). These divide into two groups: graduated neutral density filters and overall neutral density filters. Acting like sunglasses for your camera, graduated neutral density filters are all neutral colored – they should impart little color change – and darken only part of the image. Graduated filters help deal with the dynamic range of your sensors, particularly when shooting into scenes that are very bright and very dark in the same view. Most modern digital cameras have a dynamic range of about 10 – 14 stops whereas your eyes are more like 20 stops. Keep in mind that this is not really a fair comparison because our eyes work quite differently from camera sensors. Graduated neutral density filters can usually be applied in post-processing. Although, if the dynamic range is really huge, it often means you can take one image rather than multiple images that need to be composited (this is what HDR images really are).

    The left shows the image normally processed with the right having a digital neutral density filter

    Neutral Density Filters – Non-Graduated

    A neutral density filter (non-graduated) is the first optical filter type that does things that cannot be easily duplicated, either in camera or in post-production. At least not all of its functions. While it is certainly possible to darken your images digitally in post, a non-graduated neutral density filter allows you to take images that your camera would not allow you to take in full sunlight. In full sun, it may be so bright that you may not be able to stop your lens down and slow your shutter down sufficiently to get motion to blur. Non-graduated neutral density filters allow you to slow your shutter speed down in the field when conditions are bright. You will be able to take images of moving subjects in bright locales and blur the motion to create interesting effects.  For example, waterfalls are often shot using a non-graduated neutral density filter. Neutral density filters are often measured in stops to indicate the number of stops you can slow things down. At the extreme end of the non-graduated neutral density filters are the specialty filters used for photographing solar eclipses. Without these strong filters, the sun can permanently damage camera sensors.

    Neutral Density Filters on the front element of the lens

    Smooth water motion with a non-graduated neutral density filter for longer exposures

    Specialty filters

    The second optical filter type that cannot be duplicated in post-processing or in-camera are specialty filters related to UV and IR light.  By default, cameras have filters on their sensors that cut UV and IR light out so that only visible light is recorded. However, it is possible to get these filters removed (you have to send your camera body away) to allow you to shoot UV-only, full spectrum (which includes UV, visible and IR), or IR-only images. Once this is done, your modified camera is generally limited to that particular use, but the images it produces can be quite interesting. By using specialty filters on a modified camera body that allows for full spectrum, you can control what portion of the spectrum is visible in your images. There are cut filters that allow full spectrum sensors to only see UV, visible light or IR spectrum. These filters cannot be duplicated in post-processing.

    Slight neutral density cast for a circular polarizer

    Circular Polarizers

    The final optical filter type that cannot be duplicated in post-processing is a circular polarizerThere are actually two types of polarizers, linear and circular. They both cut the same light out but circular polarizers can rotate an allow you to find the optimal orientation whereas linear polarizers are fixed (you should only use circular polarizers unless you know what you are doing). Circular polarizers do two things: cut down reflections and increase contrast. Some also act as a weak neutral density filter. When light hits a metallic or watery surface, the reflected light tends to be polarized (all the light is vibrating in the same direction). The circular polarizer lets you filter out this polarized light. You do this by turning the filter.  The change can be quite dramatic, and it cannot be achieved in any practical sense through post-processing. In addition, because there is always some polarized light in the atmosphere, the filter will make the colors in your images punchier. This is a secondary feature of polarizers but adds to their use. Colors just pop more.  Different brands and types alter how much this occurs. In general, you can’t go wrong using a circular polarizer, particularly for landscape photography.

    Circular Polarizers help control reflections


    Many filters that were used with film cameras are not really required anymore because of the ability to control white balance and ISO. Other filters created effects that can easily be duplicated using image editing software like Photoshop. Despite this there are a few filter types that cannot be replaced by processes applied in post, thus they remain vital tools in your photographer’s toolbox.

    Do you use filters? Share with us in the comments below.



    The post Have Digital Filters Replaced the Need for Physical Lens Filters? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

    Source: DP School

  • 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    The post 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

    Creating portraits is challenging for many photographers, for many different reasons. There can be so much involved in making a portrait of someone that it’s easy to make mistakes.

    To make great portraits you need to be concentrating on more than just your camera settings. (I believe this is true for all photography.) You have to make sure the lighting is right, the background is suitable and wardrobe and props are on hand if needed. Most of all, you must give your attention to the person you are photographing.

    Cleaning Dispute 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    Juggling all this is not easy, especially when you have little or no experience.

    Practising taking portraits of someone you know, who enjoys being photographed, is a fabulous way to gain experience. Working with the same person for more than one or two portrait sessions will help you develop the skills you need.

    As you begin you will most likely make some or all of these common portrait mistakes. Being aware of them can help you avoid making them.

    1. Poor composition

    The most common portrait mistake I see people on our workshops making with portraits is leaving too much space above the subjects head. Emptiness above someone usually does nothing for the look and feel of the photo.

    Unless there’s significant information above a person, crop in more tightly to the top of their head.

    Red Head Scarf 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    2. Distracting background

    Having too much detail in focus behind your subject can draw attention away from them. Be careful about how you position your subject.

    Also, make your lens choice thoughtfully. Using a longer lens will reduce the amount of background in your frame.

    Woman Buying Chilli Peppers 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    3. Subject too close to the background

    Don’t get your subject to sit or stand right up against the background. If it’s a busy scene your subject may be overwhelmed and end up not being the main focus. Even with a fairly plain background, it’s often best if you separate your subject from it.

    Smart Phone Photo 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    4. Not enough in focus

    You may be tempted to open your aperture to the widest setting so you can blur out a distracting background. Be careful doing this that you maintain enough in focus on your subject.

    Blurring the background may also mean blurring your subject more than what really looks good.

    Market Porter 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    5. Out of focus eyes

    If your subject has eyes, focus on them. This is one photography rule I stick to, most of the time. It’s not often a portrait with the eyes out of focus looks great.

    When your subject is facing directly at the camera it’s easy to get both eyes in focus. If their head is turned to one side you need to focus on the eye closest to the camera.

    Akha Friends 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    6. Slow shutter speed

    People move. You need to choose a fast enough shutter speed to freeze your subject. Even if they make a slight movement it can result in a blurred photo if your shutter speed is too slow.

    1/250th of a second is usually fast enough. Slower than this and you may have problems.

    Dreadlocks 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    7. Poor lighting

    Modern cameras can take photos when there’s next to no light, so it’s easy to get it wrong.

    With portraits, it’s most important to have the right lighting for the mood you want to create in your photos. Hard, high contrast lighting is not good when you want a soft, romantic looking portrait. Equally, soft light will not help you create drama in a photo of a person.

    Muddy Ceramic artist 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    8. Bad timing

    Capturing the right expression will flatter your subject. If you don’t, they may be reluctant to let you photograph them again.

    Careful timing can make or break a portrait. Waiting and watching a person’s face for the right time to press the shutter button is vital. Most people will not stare into your camera without changing their expression. You need to be ready when they look their best.

    If you’re photographing someone who is blinking a lot you need to time your photos in between blinks.

    Buddhist Monk Yard Work 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    9. Not taking enough photos

    You need to take plenty of photos. Not taking enough photos will frustrate you when you are editing, because you will have too few to choose from.

    Try to capture a range of expressions. Don’t just sit with your camera on burst mode filling your card up with nearly identical images. Aim to create a good variety. This will please your subject as it will allow them to make their selections more easily.

    Man Studio Portrait 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    10. Taking too many photos

    Finding the balance between not enough and too many photos can be difficult. This will depend a lot on your subject.

    Some people will be more comfortable being photographed for a longer period of time than others. You need to be aware of this. If your subject is getting bored or agitated because you are taking too long or taking too many photos, this will show in their face. Your results will suffer for it.

    Man Studio Portrait 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    11. Failing to connect with your subject

    Connecting well with the person you are photographing is one of the most important aspects of portraiture. So many photographers spend more time and attention connecting with their cameras. This is a big mistake during a portrait session.

    Building a rapport with your subject, even if you only have a few minutes, can make the biggest impact on your resulting photos.

    When your subject is relaxed with you and happy, you will get better pictures of them. Your manner and the way you interact with them is vital.

    Vege Vendor 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    12. Not giving your subject enough direction

    Communicate clearly what your intention for the portrait session is. What type of picture does your subject want? What kind of image do they want to portray?

    When you know what they want, you will know what you have to achieve. If they do not understand what you are asking them to do, show them. Put your body, hands, face, just how you want them to look and they can mimic you.

    Rag Doll Girl 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    13. Feeling like you are imposing

    This is common with photographing strangers. Many street photographers prefer candid portraits because they do not want to impose on people.

    Standing back with a long lens on will not often produce an intimate portrait. You need to change your thinking and consider that what you are doing when you take someone’s photo has got the potential to bless them.

    Akha Woman Laughing 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    14. Not being confident

    If you are self-conscious and not confident this will generally be reflected back to you by your subject.

    Having a calm, confident manner when you are making portraits will enhance both their experience and yours.

    You don’t need to put on a show, but just be relaxed and assured that you are creating good photographs.

    Pretty Asian Karaoke Singer 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan

    15. Rushing to get finished

    Take your time. It’s not a race.

    Give yourself space to concentrate well on what you are doing. Make sure you are getting what you want and your subject is more likely to be pleased with your pictures.

    Boy With A Note Book 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid

    © Kevin Landwer-Johan


    It takes practice. Like learning to do anything well, it takes concentrated perseverance to succeed. This is why it’s good to practice making portraits with someone you know who is willing to be photographed.

    Know your camera, be confident with it and with your subject and you will learn to make wonderful portraits.

    When I started out as a photographer I found it incredibly difficult to photograph people. I was shy and lacked confidence. It was hard work, but over the years I have come to really enjoy the art of portraiture.

    Do you have any other tips or portraits you’d like to share? If so, do so in the comments below.


    The post 15 Common Portrait Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

    Source: DP School

  • We are known by what we leave behind

    100 years from now, no one is going to care who I am. I know this. I don’t mean that in a bad way and I don’t say it in the hopes someone will contradict me and shower me with praise; this is not said as Compliment Bait. No, I say it because it’s true. […]

    The post We are known by what we leave behind appeared first on DIY Photography.

    Source: Diyphotographynet

  • How I lost access to messenger and Facebook account due to a security bug

    Imagine having your Facebook account, messenger, and ads account ripped from your hands due to a Facebook glitch. Horrifying, right? That’s what happened to me. I’m hoping this can spread enough that the bug may get fixed, so here’s the story. I go by Hazer Live. Last week I was updating my recovery email and […]

    The post How I lost access to messenger and Facebook account due to a security bug appeared first on DIY Photography.

    Source: Diyphotographynet

  • How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight

    The post How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

    Most people don’t notice light. But visual artists do. Light is one of the essential ingredients in your photographs.

    Light can be tricky to deal with until you understand camera settings. But once you’re familiar with your camera, light is wonderful to play with in your photos.

    Personally, I love backlight. It adds a sense of drama and beauty to your photography.

    I’ll show you examples of backlight with food, landscape, and portrait photography (studio and outdoors).

    In order to achieve backlight in your photo, have the main light source behind your subject coming toward your camera. In this photo, you can actually see the warm setting sun as the source of backlight.

    What is backlight good for?

    I love backlight because it adds depth and drama to an otherwise flat, two-dimensional photo.

    Backlight helps to bring out the texture of objects that you photograph (sidelight is good for this as well). Texture is created through a combination of highlights and shadows. Since photographs are two dimensional, texture adds depth to your photo.

    A strong burst of backlight adds drama to your photo. Think about the bursts of light at a rock concert or other performances. The temperature of the backlight (warm or cool) adds to the drama of the photo.

    The backlight source might be in your photo along with your subject (as with the sunset photo above). Or the light source can be outside of the frame (as long as it illuminates your subject).

    Any source of backlight can be used creatively, but sunlight, windows, and strobes are among the most popular.

    The principals of backlight are the same no matter what camera you’re using, even your phone.

    This ice-covered tree is backlit by the sun. Without backlight shining through the branches, this tree would not have stood out so much.


    It’s great to begin practicing backlight with food. Backlight can be used to illuminate steam and bring out the texture of the food.

    While any light source will work, many photographers love using window light to illuminate food.

    The light source is not visible in this photo, but there is a window backlighting the food and making the steam visible.


    This food was photographed while still in the oven. The warm backlight is coming from the oven light.


    This is an example of soft backlight produced by a large window. I wanted to bring out the texture in the cookies. An iPhone 4s was used to capture the image and Lightroom was used to process it.

    Your food photos will be less flat and have more pop to them when you use back (or side) light. Just look for a window or any other light source. Get creative and use the light from fridges, stoves, and lamps.

    The great thing about practicing backlight with food is that if you can’t reposition the light source, you can easily reposition yourself and the food.

    Landscape and Nature

    Once you get the hang of backlight with food, use it to add drama to your landscape photos. In most cases, you won’t be able to reposition your backlight source since it will likely be the sun. However, you can always reposition yourself in relation to the sun and your subject.

    I saw this scene as I looked in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t resist pulling over to take a photo. The setting sun is the light source for this scene. You can’t see it in the frame but it’s behind the trees to the left. Notice how the electricity wires are shining and standing out from the dark trees in the background.


    The setting sun behind this crab apple tree caught my eye during a walk. I came back with my camera and found a perspective where the sun was visible filtering through the tree. An aperture of f/11 was used to create the starburst effect.


    A combination of backlight and water droplets on the lens created this special effect. I don’t recommend letting your lens get wet, I was using a waterproof case. The case was still wet from using my camera underwater.


    I love to incorporate backlight into portraits to accent the emotion. Beautiful or intense moments are brought out even more with the use of backlight.


    The best part about backlight in a studio is that you can position your light source any way you like.

    Two off camera flashes were used to produce this dramatic backlight.


    Superheros are dramatic characters by nature. Using harsh backlight instead of soft front light is better for bringing out the nature of the subject.


    Natural light

    When using natural light, you’ll have to position yourself and your subject according to the light source.

    This little guy is backlit by the setting sun, while the big open sky in front of him illuminates his face.


    One of the biggest problems about backlight is that your photo may turn out as a silhouette when you don’t want it to.

    You’re likely using a semi-automatic setting such as aperture or shutter priority. Your camera sees the bright backlight and meters itself accordingly. You can use exposure compensation to help you avoid unwanted silhouettes. Try setting your exposure compensation to +1 or +2. You’ll need to experiment according to the light conditions.

    If you’re experienced then manual mode might be the best option for you.

    The main light source is the sky in the background. The sun has not risen over the horizon yet.

    Practice backlight with everything

    Once you get the hang of it, you can introduce backlight into all sorts of situations. Use it to bring out texture and to heighten dramatic moments.

    Concerts are a wonderful place to have fun with backlight. The rapidly changing lights will create a challenge for you. Take lots of photos and be happy with the few that work out.

    I love how golden hour can add a nostalgic feel to photos.

    Use a combination of low angles and backlight to make your photo more exciting.

    I always wait until evening to visit the beach. That way the sun isn’t shining straight down onto the sand. Instead it shines down at a lower angle, creating texture through shadow and highlight.


    I love my little guy’s hair. There is a window just above him as the source of backlight.

    The post How to Make Dramatic Photos with Backlight appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

    Source: DP School

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