How to check whether your exposure is correct?

How to check whether your exposure is correct?

In this weeks article, we are going to talk about how check your exposure settings, and how to get the perfect exposure settings for each image. To correctly expose is often regarded as a difficult matter. Especially for beginners, it can be hard to grasp. After failing a couple of times, beginning photographers might resolve to the automatic mode of their camera again. With this article, I will try to show that it doesn’t have to be that difficult. With learning how to read the histogram you will see that it is a very good tool to find the best exposure and to manipulate and correct the exposure to get the image you want.

 Image 1: Shooting toward the sun is a tricky thing to do. I is easy to get blown-out highlights or clipped shadows. Therefore the histogram is of great importance to shoot images like these. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 27 mm | F/18 | 2 Sec | ISO 100 with NiSi Medium GND8 & Landscape CPL

Image 1: Shooting toward the sun is a tricky thing to do. I is easy to get blown-out highlights or clipped shadows. Therefore the histogram is of great importance to shoot images like these. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 27 mm | F/18 | 2 Sec | ISO 100 with NiSi Medium GND8 & Landscape CPL

In photography, the basic element is light. You won’t get a good picture without a proper exposure; it’s as simple as that.  That used to be the case with analog cameras and it is no different in the digital era. If there is too little light on the sensor, the photo is underexposed. If there is too much light on the sensor, the picture will be overexposed. In the case of an underexposed photo, the details will disappear in the dark areas and, in an overexposed photograph, in the light areas. The room to correct this afterwards is very limited so it is best to get it right in camera. In contrast to the analogue era, however, we now have some amazing tools that we can use to guide us in finding the best exposure we need to get the results we desire.

Required shutter speed
The required shutter speed for a well-exposed photo is determined by the amount of light and the subject (still or moving), in combination with the aperture and the ISO value, plus the intended effect of the photo. If you want a waterfall to be sharp and detailed, you use a shorter shutter speed than when you want to emphasize the effect of moving water. The ‘correct’ exposure therefore depends on what you want to show. A good example of a ‘correctly’ exposed image is Image 2. Because the northern lights were moving constantly, I did not want to make the shutterspeed too long because that would mean the beautiful details in the aurora would be lost. Still, I did not want to lose too much light because then the photo would become too dark. By choosing a shutter speed of 5 seconds and setting the aperture and ISO accordingly, I succeeded in freezing the movement of the northern lights without losing detail in the foreground.

 Image 2, I wanted both the aurora and the foreground to have enough detail. Based on the speed of the aurora, I set the shutterspeed to 5 seconds. By adjusting the aperture and ISO accordingly, I managed to keep enough detail in the foreground. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/2.8 | 5 Sec | ISO 1600

Image 2, I wanted both the aurora and the foreground to have enough detail. Based on the speed of the aurora, I set the shutterspeed to 5 seconds. By adjusting the aperture and ISO accordingly, I managed to keep enough detail in the foreground. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/2.8 | 5 Sec | ISO 1600

Back in the days of the analog camera, it was necessary to determine the correct exposure values using an external light meter. This was based on knowledge, experience and a certain dose of luck. This was really hard practice and you had to get a lot of experience to master this. Film was expensive so you wanted to have it correct right away. There was no way to preview your image. Fortunately, nowadays the camera has a number of very useful functions. We have the LCD-display, the built-in light meter, and the histogram. I deliberately put them in this order, because that is the way they should be used, as we will learn in the following part of this article.

LCD-display
Now you might think that the image on your LCD screen or digital viewfinder provides sufficient information about the exposure. Overall this might be true, but it is anything but accurate. Because you can set the brightness of the LCD screen, it is variable. Furthermore, environmental factors such as sunlight, reflections or darkness also influence what you see on the screen. It is a handy check to know if you’re getting there, but it’s not a reliable method to perfect your exposure. Therefore, the  LCD-display should only be used as a rough indicator.

Built-in exposure meter
To determine whether your settings are correct or not, you can use the built-in exposure meter. You do this by pressing the shutter button halfway down (as with autofocus). A bar with scale will now appear. This is the exposure indicator. The pointer indicates whether your exposure is correct (image 3). The camera thinks the picture is right when the pointer is in the middle. With an underexposed photo, the pointer is on the left. With an overexposed photo, on the right. The numbers are called stops. From 0 to -1 means half the amount of light, and 0 to 1 means a double the amount of light.

 Image 3: This image clearly shows what the exposure meter does. With an underexposed photo, the indicator shows a negative value. With an overexposed photo a positive value.

Image 3: This image clearly shows what the exposure meter does. With an underexposed photo, the indicator shows a negative value. With an overexposed photo a positive value.

Personally, I often use the outcome of the light meter as an indication. It often happens that my exposure turns out to be either above or below zero. This really depends on my subject and my intentions. For instance, photographing in snow or straight into the sun messes with the exposure meter. In those situations you need something else, something much more reliable. Luckily we have it! It is called the histogram!

Histogram
The histogram is an amazing tool! Unfortunately, it is also feared by a lot of people because of its seemingly complex appearance. For that reason, a lot of (beginning) photographers won’t use the it. This is a pity because it offers so much information and once you know what it means, it is really simple to use. As mentioned, the histogram is a much more reliable method to check whether your exposure is correct and to make sure you get the result you want. Let me begin by explaining what a histogram is by using a definition: the histogram is a compressed bar graph of a frequency distribution. This might sound a bit abstract but stay with me, it will be a lot easier once you know what the graph stands for. It is a graphical representation of an exposed image, which shows you how many pixels in your photo have a certain tone on a scale from 0 to 255. The horizontal axis runs from pure black (0, very dark) to pure white (255, very light), with mid-gray in the middle.

 Image 4: The histogram is nothing more than a graphical representation of the number of pixels with a certain brightness.

Image 4: The histogram is nothing more than a graphical representation of the number of pixels with a certain brightness.

Each tone is one pixel wide. The vertical axis shows the amount of pixels that have that certain tone. If you see a peak, then many pixels have that tone. If the photo is predominantly dark, then the weight of the graph is on the left. If the photo is light, then the weight is on the right (Image 4 & 5).


 Image 5: The histogram explained

Image 5: The histogram explained

How to read and use the histogram
Using the histogram, it will become quite easy to see when details will be lost in either shadows (pure black) and/or highlights (pure white). A peak at the immediate left side means that image information disappears in pure black. A peak against the right side means information dissolves in pure white. Both are not desirable, but if you are forced to choose (because of extreme contrast difference for instance), go for a peak on the pure black side. In general, black shadows are experienced as less disturbing than blown out highlights. The shape of the graph depends on the subject and the amount different tones (light and dark areas). And, because all brightness information is displayed in this graph, we can use the histogram for checking our exposure because it accurately reflects the brightness levels. Moreover, you can clearly see what you are doing using live view and therefore prevent errors when fine-tuning your exposure (Image 6).

 Image 6: Using the histogram allows you to easily check for errors.

Image 6: Using the histogram allows you to easily check for errors.

Because each picture is different, your histogram will be different too. If the histogram shape doesn’t match the typical mountain shape with the center of gravity in the middle, it does not mean that it is poorly exposed. Do not compare your photos with a certain type of histogram. It is a tool that is useful for correcting over- or underexposure and to check whether all tones are represented or not. It is not a fixed rule that you should keep with every shot. The final exposure is determined by what you want to transfer with the photo and your creative vision. This means that you sometimes deliberately overexpose a photo and another time you will underexpose. Sometimes, you even have to over- or underexpose to get the correctly exposed image.

Correctly exposing light scenes
In situations where you have predominantly light areas in your photo, such as a beach or in the snow, the automatic mode will produce an underexposed photograph. To illustrate this, I used a picture of the Paard van Marken lighthouse in the Netherlands (Image 7). At the end of the winter, there was a beautiful ice deposit due to prolonged cold and strong eastern wind. I wanted to capture this during blue hour (an hour before sunrise) to emphasize the icy cold even more. The first photo is exposed to the middle. The gravity point is exactly on medium gray. It can clearly be seen that the photo is underexposed. As a matter of fact, the pars that should be white turned out medium gray. In order to get the correct exposure, I’ve exposed this image towards the right, which means that the center of gravity within my histogram has shifted to the right side of the graph.

 Image 7: It is easy to see that exposing towards the middle results in an underexposed image with a lot of tones missing.

Image 7: It is easy to see that exposing towards the middle results in an underexposed image with a lot of tones missing.

Put it to use!
Almost all modern cameras have a means to view the histogram. Depending on the brand and type of camera, this can be live, which is awesome because it immediately shows the effect of adjusting the shutter speed, aperture and/or ISO. Your camera doesn’t have a live view of the histogram? That’s no problem; use the light meter of your camera as an indication, take a picture and view the histogram in the viewer. Adjust the exposure and repeat until you are satisfied.

Thanks a lot for reading
That’s it for this week’s article! Thanks a lot for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed it and you learned that using the histogram isn’t scary at all. I hope it will help you to get better images. If you have any questions, please let me know! If you enjoyed this article please feel free to share on social media! And, if you like my photography, please follow me on Instagram @harmenpiekema

I would like to thank my buddy Cody Fjeldsted for proofreading this article! Your help is awesome and means a lot, thank you so much.

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Optimising images for social media

Optimising images for social media

I’ve had a lot of people reach out to ask when the next blog was coming and to share their ideas for topics they would like me to write about. So, thank-you for your patience. All of the ideas and requests on topics have been most welcome and I’ll certainly do my best to cover off as many of them as possible over time. 

Okay, here we go. One of the recurring themes in the questions I’m asked is how I optimise my images for social media. That is certainly reasonable, as it’s a problem I’ve broken a light sweat over from time to time, so that’s the topic I’ll try and focus on in this piece. 

Instagram+Elephant.jpg

 

 

First things first though, let’s say hi to the elephant in the room - the Instagram crop which doesn’t matter, yet somehow really matters a lot.

When I joined IG a few years ago, it hurled a big pineapple in my entire workflow. Why? Because of the stupid low res 1:1. 

Then in July ’15, Zuckerberg gave us a warm “we’re listening to you” with an upgrade to the pitiful 640pixel square to a heartier 1080.

 

 

Instagram+Pineapple.jpg

A few weeks later, it was announced that IG would support non-square uploads. A peak into the fine-print affirmed we could now post landscape images in a 1.91 to 1 ratio which was wonderful. I assume this was an exercise towards cross platform compatibility for FB and IG ads because 1.91:1 is exactly the same as a Facebook link preview image but, it solved my issue. 

The truth I’ve learnt though is posting a landscape image on IG is of little value. All images will be cropped to a square on your grid so only the 1:1 mid-section of your beautifully wide shot will be shown, which generally looks a bit naf.

What’s more, they don’t present well on vertical mobile devices which is exactly what IG is designed for. That’s not a big deal to some but it discourages others from re-sharing your images which will really curb the breadth of your exposure, if that matters to you, then this matters to you. Sorry. 

 

 

WHO, WHAT, WHERE

As with any process, we can’t decide the best steps to take unless we first nail what it is we want to achieve.

Who are the audience, what is the format, where will it be seen? An image should be finished very differently for presentation on a wall at an exhibition than it should for Facebook or Instagram.

My process is exclusively geared towards online viewers and I’ll keep a full resolution tiff file saved in the event I need to re-visit the image for printing purposes later.

My primary online audience is Instagram and my secondary audience is Facebook and Flickr. All the others fall a distant third. My images are optimised for these audiences to view on their mobile devices but also on a larger desktop screen, so I need a balance between file size and resolution.

 

IN THE FIELD

As recently as a few years ago I was shooting almost, exclusively, panoramic. I had a camera and lens set-up dedicated to this style of shooting and my images were all finished at at-least a 3:1 if not wider.

I loved that look, and I still do, but it was more work. Today I shoot single frames. I find myself choosing a vertical frame more often. This has been a hard transition, as the purist landscaper in me just doesn’t see the same aesthetic character in a tall and thin image as I do in a more grandiose wide scene, but I’m mindful of how my images are most commonly presented and what’s most satisfying for the viewer. 

33562190904_71b5ccdeba_z.jpg

 

 

IN POST

Once I’ve edited my RAW file (I just use Adobe Camera Raw) I’ll open it in Photoshop. By this point, I have an idea of what proportion the end result will be. For example, 3:2, 5:4, 1:1 and if it’ll be vertical or landscape. In the rare instance where I’ve taken multiple frames for a panoramic, I’ll place the stitched image on a blank canvas and literally skew and scale parts of it to fit the canvas using the transform tools in photoshop (Edit > Transform > Scale / Skew / Warp / Perspective shift).

Screen+Shot+2018-04-06+at+8.38.51+pm.png

Once I’ve finished editing the image to my liking, I’ll flatten all of the layers and save it as a high res file (there’s a bit to this so make sure you see my dedicated section on Saving below). Now that I have a high res version of the file safely tucked away it’s time to go to town on it.

If the image is a portrait, I’ll crop it to a 5:4 vertical – that’s the max vertical proportion I’ll use for Instagram, resize and save as low res. Note, I would happily share a 3:2 jpeg online and a second 5:4 version of it for Instagram only. If the image is a landscape I'll save it in its native aspect ratio and then create a second IG-specific 1:1 version of it.

 

80s+workout+clothing.jpg

Getting a 5:4 or 3:2 down to a 1:1 can be a calamitous and heartbreaking ordeal, slicing away mountain peaks hurts. Where possible I’ll try to scale in sections of the image and that works but I STRESS caution - an overly shrunken image catches the eye like 80’s workout clothing, it's function and, for a fleeting moment it’s a good idea but everyone will notice right away, and no-one will think it’s cool.

I recommend only doing this to selected portions of the image without any identifiable shape to them. Sky, water etc. 

 

SAVING

This isn’t the place or time for an in-depth analysis on file formats and compression but understanding the basics of how to properly save an image is important. Photoshop (and most other editing applications) offer an abundance of file formats and options so here’s what I know.

Image quality is a product of two variables; resolution and compression, both of which can be cryptic business.

The easiest convention for resolution is the one that’s used to describe the width x height in pixels.

Compression is a little more complex and used to manage the file size of an image. If you’ve heard the terms lossy and lossless in a conversation than chances are you were inadvertently talking compression (nerd alert). Compressing an image reduces file size which is great for getting a big file to a small enough size for uploading online.

Lossy and lossless compression are characterisations of explicating data from an image file. Saving an image using lossy compression discards information from the image which drastically reduces the file size. The problem comes when we need to re-save the file. Each time a lossy file is re-saved it’s recompressing, compression on compression, and each time, the quality of the image is reduced.

Lossless compression is akin to vacuum sealing a suitcase. Sucking out the air reduces the size for storage, but the air can be let back when it’s unpacked, and everything returns to normal.

Compression+copy.jpg

 

The reason I’m talking about this is because I do both. I’ll save a full resolution version of my image as a TIFF (Lossless). I’ll then reduce the image size (File > Image Size) to 1080 pixels on the longest side and re-save it as a JPEG (Lossy). If I need to create a second version of the image for Instagram (5:4 or 1:1) I’ll revert to the original image size, crop and scale as necessary then re-size to 1080 again and save as a second JPEG. All files will be saved at 300dpi using an RGB colour mode. 

I will never re-open either jpeg and re-save it. Any changes or copies I need to make will be done from the TIFF and then saved as another JPEG from it. 

Files+types+copy.jpg

 

THE FINISHING TOUCHES.

My TIFFS are saved on two separate hard-drives (usually) and backed up to the cloud. My JPEGS are saved on one hard drive.

300x0w.jpg

I have two dedicated folders on my phone, IMAGE UPLOADS and IMAGE UPLOADS – IG. I’ll airdrop both JPEGS from my laptop to my phone (Airdrop = Apple, just, do it) and store them accordingly.

I’ll upload my jpegs to Facebook and Flickr separately, I don’t automate this, then upload to IG. I generate half my hashtags using an app called Focalmark and then take a punt on the other half. 

For anyone who has seen my IG stories, I use an app called LumaFusion which is an iOS video editing app and super capable. I’ve made a standard project template in it for IG stories and set to 1080 x 1920 resolution (the standard IG story size) at 30fps and saved as an MPEG4. I’ll then open the saved video file in a second app called HypeType to add the animated text, re-save and upload. 

 

WATERMARKING

Last but not least is this old chestnut. I’ve seen some heated debates on this topic and there isn’t a right or wrong approach, but I haven’t put a watermark on an image in two years now.

This all comes down to your objectives and use cases for social media. If you want your images to get shared and drive traffic back to you then don’t watermark them. They’ll still get shared, just a lot less and IMO watermarking just cheapens a classy shot.

I know many people will argue that they need to prevent theft and that’s fair enough, but I’d ask who you are afraid is going to steal your image? If a scoundrel is bold enough to pass off your image as their own, chances are they’re probably bold enough to remove your watermark as well. If you’re worried about the opportunity cost of someone downloading your image for commercial use, then I’d recommend making sure the version you publish online is no bigger than 1080pixels. Whilst this size looks good for social media, it’s rather ineffectual or inoperative for any other purpose.

Well that’s about it folks. I hope this has been helpful and please keep the questions coming. I don’t have an awful lot of time to churn out blogs, but I’ll make a better effort at keeping them a little more frequent.

Muchas gracias. 

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@CANON_PHOTOS MUST HAVES**

Canon_photos are back with a blog about gear must haves. Recently we have decided to let our fans know what gear we use and what we can recommend to all of you. The blog will outline, what we think are must haves when starting out in the business. 

 

CAMERAS

Canon EOS 750D/ Rebel T6i

The canon 750D marks one of Canons entry-level DSLRs, which we can recommend when you are planning to get your first ever DSLR Camera. Few of our team members started out with this camera! The camera has a 24,2 Megapixel APS-c sensor and has the ability to capture stunning photos and Full HD video footage. The camera is usually sold with the 18-55mm kit lens, which is the perfect way to enter the world of photography. 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                    FOR USA                 FOR UK

 One of the best entry level DSLR's, the Canon 750D!

One of the best entry level DSLR's, the Canon 750D!


Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The canon 5D mark III is the perfect accessory for any high level amateur or professional photographer. The camera has recently been succeeded by the newer Canon 5D Marl IV, but still holds up as the most sold professional camera made by Canon in recent years. The camera is used by team member Ian Harper (@Ianharper). Just click for his instagram if you are interested in some impressions. The camera offers a 22 Megapixel full frame - CMOS sensor, which handles low light really well. You also have the ability to record Full-HD video. 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                   FOR USA                 FOR UK


Canon EOS 1dx Mark II

The Canon 1dx Mark II is the flagship of Canon. This camera comes at a slightly higher price tag, but is the one trusted by almost every high end professional photographer around the globe. This camera is trusted by Canon_photos founder Henry Nathan (@henry.nathan). 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                  FOR USA                 FOR UK

 Canons flagship camera, the 1Dx Mark II

Canons flagship camera, the 1Dx Mark II


CAMERA GEAR 

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8// Canon 16-35mm f/4

One of the most versatile lenses Canon has to offer. Perfect for landscapes and architecture with superb sharpness and extremely good low light capabilities. This lens should be in every photographers bag. If the lens is too pricey for you, check out the f/4 version of this lens, which is not quite as good in low light, but still everything you'll ever need when you shoot mostly on tripod. 

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8:

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                     FOR USA                 FOR UK

 Considered the best lens for Landscapes. The Canon 16-35 f/2.8 

Considered the best lens for Landscapes. The Canon 16-35 f/2.8 

Canon 16-35mm f/4

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                 FOR USA                  FOR UK


Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM// Canon 50mm f/1.4

One of Canons more budget lenses, which is a killer for portraiture due to its big aperture. Some professional portrait photographers we know mostly shoot with just this lenses, as it offers unbelievable value and quality for the price. There is also a slightly more expensive f/1.4 lens (around 100 bucks more), which is able to produce an even bigger depth of field, which can be really nice when mainly shooting portraiture. 

Canon 50mm f/1.8

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                   FOR USA                  FOR UK

 Canon's amazing nifty fifty.

Canon's amazing nifty fifty.

 

Canon 50mm f/1.4

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                    FOR USA                  FOR UK


Canon 100mm Macro

A lens, which every marco photographers tends to have. This is the perfect accessory if you want to get closer than ever to your subject. 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                    FOR USA                  FOR UK


Canon 24-70mm f/2.8//Canon 24-70mm f/4

For us, this lens is an always "on the camera" lens, meaning we usually don't even take this one off the camera. It is extremely versatile for all kinds of photography subjects. We have shot portraiture, architecture and landscapes with it and it never let us down. For this lens, there is also a cheaper f/4 version, which team member Steffen Eisenacher (@se_images) uses for most of his shots. 

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                    FOR USA                  FOR UK

 The amazing 24-70mm, is perfect for all kinds of photography

The amazing 24-70mm, is perfect for all kinds of photography

 

Canon 24-70mm f/4

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                   FOR USA                  FOR UK


DRONES

Drones have become a huge part on the photography market in the recent years. These are the drones we have personally tested and can recommend. 

DJI Phantom 4

DJI Phantom 4, successor of the DJI Phantom 3, is a drone trusted by many arial photographers. Especially with the recent drones released by DJI, this drone has seen a price drop to make it affordable to most people. We have tested this drone and can highly recommend it. 

If you're interested in everything the drone has to offer click here:

                    FOR USA                  FOR UK


DJI Mavic Pro

The DJI Mavic marks on of the newer released drones by DJI. It features amazing 4k video, 12 Megapixel RAW photos and up to 30 minutes of flight. This drone is the one we recommend the most, if your budget is not an issue, as it offers most value for the price. If you are happy to cut down slightly on flight-time and Image quality the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is the one for you!

To see all the features follow the hyperlinks down below!

                  FOR USA                  FOR UK

 The amazing Mavic Pro!

The amazing Mavic Pro!


ACCESSORIES 

Manfrotto Tripods

There are a few Manfrotto tripods, we can recommend, including budget ones, ones that are perfect for travelling and sturdy ones, which will never let you down. 

 The perfect Travel Tripod. Lightweight and small, the Manfrotto Befree!

The perfect Travel Tripod. Lightweight and small, the Manfrotto Befree!


Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium:

This tripod is one of the more budget tripods offered by Manfrotto. It support weight up to 9kg.

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                   FOR USA                  FOR UK 


Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 + XPRO ball head

This tripod was announced on of the best tripods they have in terms of value and sturdiness by many photographers and tech services. 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                  FOR USA                  FOR UK


Manfrotto Aluminium BeFree

The BeFree is one of the best travel tripods Manfrotto has to offer. It is light, sturdy and extremely small when collapsed. 

For more view the hyperlinks down below!

                    FOR USA                  FOR UK


Glidecam HD 4000

Glidecam is known for producing some of the best camera and filming accessories. The Glidecam HD 4000 is perfect to get these really smooth camera movements you often see. We have used this one for some of our promotional videos we have created and can really recommend this slider, if you're looking for something like this. 

For more details or to purchase the product click the hyperlinks down below:

                     FOR USA                  FOR UK

 


**Transparency: By clicking and purchasing through any of the above links, CP Collectives will receive a small percentage from AMAZON UK. You won't pay anything more than you would normally, but you will greatly help CP Collectives and @Canon_photos. 

How to photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower?

August usually means Summer, at least for the northern Hemisphere and the Perseids. The perseids are an amazing meteor shower usually occurring during mid August with up to 150 meteors an hour. In 2018 the peak is happening tonight (12th of August) and tomorrow night!  In this blog I will outline how to capture this amazing event with your DSLR or even with your PHONE!

 Image courtesy: www.usatoday.com

Image courtesy: www.usatoday.com

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER?

WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE PERSEIDS:

- A DSRL or mirrorless camera or PHONE, where you have the ability to set manual settings

- A tripod that keeps your camera steady during longer exposures.  

- A lens (PHONE)  that has a high aperture of at least f/4, better would be f/2 or even as low as f/1.4

 - Clear Skies, check the weather forecast. Small clouds could ruin the shot!

 - A dark place in your region without too much light-pollution. Lightning Pollution Maps is a great service to find a dark place close to you!

- A wide-angle lens (phones usually have ultra wide angle lenses attached). Meteors often travel along the whole sky!

 Image Courtesy: www.space.com

Image Courtesy: www.space.com

How to set the camera?

1. You will need to select the manual modus on your Camera of choice. If your phone doesn't allow this, there are great 3rd party apps. The biggest names are Camera+, ProCam 5ProCamera (for IPHONE) and Manual Camera  (for ANDROID).

2. Deselect autofocus and set the focus to "infinity" or focus on a star through live view!

3. For the shutter speed you should set something between 15-30 seconds. For the Aperture you should select the lowest you can possibly set, as you want to collect as much light as possible during the exposure. For the ISO you start at something like 640 and work your way up depending on the location you are shooting at. NOTE: Especially on Smartphones the shot will get noisy!

 

SO GO AND HAVE FUN AND ENJOY THIS AWESOME EVENT!

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How to photograph the Lunar Eclipse (Blood Moon) 

How to photograph the Lunar Eclipse (Blood Moon) 

Tonights lunar eclipse will be the longest we have seen in the 21st century. The totality will be around  1 hour and 20 minutes, while the whole eclipse will almost take 6 hours. During the totality phase, the moon is going to have a bright red color, hence the unofficial name "Blood Moon" 

Why does it occur? 

 Source: www.pacificsciencecenter.org

Source: www.pacificsciencecenter.org

Usually we would see the moon in a white colour, as it reflects the light caused by the sun. During an eclipse, though, the moon enters the shadow of the earth. In the earths atmosphere blue light is filtered out, meaning that the bypassing light, which is reflected off the moon will be red.

How to photograph the lunar Eclipse?

What you will need for photographing the Milkyway:

- A DSRL or mirrorless camera, where you have the ability to set manual settings

- A tripod that keeps your camera steady during longer exposures.  

- A lens that has a high aperture of at least f/5.6, better would be f/4 or even as low as f/1.4

 - A lens with 200-400 mm focal length for close ups, you can go wider as well if you wish.

 - Clear Skies, check the weather forecast. Small clouds could ruin the shot!

 - Make yourself familiar when the moon rises and sets at your place!

 A shot of the 2015 lunar eclipse, as seen from southern Germany! This was shot at 70mm and cropped!

A shot of the 2015 lunar eclipse, as seen from southern Germany! This was shot at 70mm and cropped!

What settings do I need? 

That's a hard question, and I will tell you why. During the eclipse the moon changes from white and bright to dim and red, meaning that you will have to adjust the camera during the eclipse. When photographing the standard full moon I usually start off with something like 1/300 to 1/400 of a second, wide open aperture and a low ISO, like 100. Especially when shooting with a 400mm lens you will need a fast shutter speed, if you want your images to be sharp. If you have a tracking mount you can expose for longer, of course. I suggest that you start off with the above settings and then just play around and see what works best with your camera and lens!

Once the the eclipse goes towards totality (the phase where the moon is way dimmer), your exposure can well be up to 1-2 seconds. Don't shoot longer than that, and rather increase your ISO to ensure sharp photos!

 A photo of the full moon at 600mm by Steffen Eisenacher 

A photo of the full moon at 600mm by Steffen Eisenacher 

Things to consider:

If you want to shoot the whole eclipse, be prepared, as it almost takes 6 hours. So pack something to snack and to drink, and ensure that you've got enough batteries and storage. Last time I photographed the eclipse I filled two 64 GB SD cards. 

The Lunar eclipse is a stunning astronomical occurrence and really easy to shoot. I wish you guys all the best of luck, especially weather wise. And don't forget to look up and take it all in!

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Was this quick tutorial any help for you? You are still confused and want to know more? Let me know in the comments below!

How to shoot panoramic photos. A tutorial from shooting to editing.

Shooting panoramic photos

Sometimes a landscape can be really overwhelming and beautiful, but when photographing such a scene, you might get disappointed. Imagine standing on top of a huge cliff overlooking the landscape. The view is absolutely breathtaking, but your images turn out rather boring. The result doesn’t look anything near what you see with your own eyes. How is this possible you might wonder. The explanation is that our field of view is much wider than the single frame from your camera. An ultra-wide angle lens will do the trick you might think! But if you would use, lets say a 14 mm lens in order to widen the field of view, everything will look small and far away. This of course reduces the impact of the photo too. So, what can we do to capture an image that is as stunning as the view itself (read: almost.. nothing is as stunning as being actually there of course). The answer is quite simple, we make a panoramic photo!

 This panoramic image of Kvalvika and Vestvika beach, consists of three overlapping portrait oriented photos. I forgot my remote trigger so I had to use the 10 second timer and run to get the last frame. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/9 | 1/13 sec | ISO 100

This panoramic image of Kvalvika and Vestvika beach, consists of three overlapping portrait oriented photos. I forgot my remote trigger so I had to use the 10 second timer and run to get the last frame. Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/9 | 1/13 sec | ISO 100

In this post I will try to explain how I make panoramic photos. I will talk about the things you have to keep in mind, and finally, I will show you how I stitch my images using Lightroom. There is plenty of good software that will do this for you, but I think Lightroom does an amazing job with just a few clicks.

Method

There are devices like smartphones and compact cameras that are capable of making panoramic photos by simply panning the camera along the horizon. This works fine if you just want a nice holiday photo, but we are going to focus on taking a panoramic photo with a dSLR. As with normal photos, you’ll get the best results when photographing in Raw. The file with get a lot bigger but you will have a much more information to work with, resulting in a higher quality panoramic image when post-processing.

 The view you get when standing on top of Reinebringen is so overwhelming that a single-frame-photo won’t do it justice. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/9 | 1/125 sec | ISO 100.

The view you get when standing on top of Reinebringen is so overwhelming that a single-frame-photo won’t do it justice. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/9 | 1/125 sec | ISO 100.

When taking the photos for the panoramic, you can do two things. One, you can put your camera into landscape orientation, or two, you can put your camera into portrait orientation. Would you be shooting a panoramic image in landscape, the result will be a narrow image (less sky and foreground, lower resolution, lower margin of error in post). Whilst shooting in portrait mode will result in a broader panoramic image (more sky and foreground, higher resolution, higher margin of error in post). More of the sky and more foreground can make for a much more impactful image. A downside of this method is that it requires more photos (and thus a higher chance of making mistakes), and because of this the file gets much larger.

Level your tripod

If you want the photos to aline perfectly, you need a sturdy tripod. The next step is to make sure that the tripod is leveled. Most high-end tripods have a waterlevel which can be used to do this. It requires some practice but trust me, it’s really useful and worth your time. If the tripod is leveled, your photos will be straight and stitch perfectly without losing much of the top and bottom. If you have enough margin of error, you can come away with losing some of the photo, but sometimes you need the whole frame to fit everything. I learned this the hard way and had to trow away one of my panoramic images because my tripod wasn’t leveled!

Next to having your tripod leveled, it is important that your ballhead is straight. This way the horizon will be straight. Most ballheads have a waterlevel making it as easy as leveling the tripod. But a lot of ballheads (especially the cheaper ones) have a waterlevel that only works in landscape orientation. This means that if you want to shoot in portrait orientation, you need to use an L-bracket to be sure the horizon is straight. You can read this article for an explanation.

 A beautiful early winter morning. When shooting panoramic photos like these, make sure your image doesn’t get too dark when moving away from the sun. Of course, de difference in light is something natural and is a consequence of the sunrise, therefore part of the difference should be left untouched. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/11 | 2.5 sec | ISO 100

A beautiful early winter morning. When shooting panoramic photos like these, make sure your image doesn’t get too dark when moving away from the sun. Of course, de difference in light is something natural and is a consequence of the sunrise, therefore part of the difference should be left untouched. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/11 | 2.5 sec | ISO 100

Using filters

You can use filters when making a panoramic image but you have to be careful. With every shot you take, make sure to check whether the filter still does what is supposed to do. The filters I use the most are gradual ND filters and a polarizer.

Gradual ND filters

When you pan the camera, the relative angle with the horizon changes. And, as a consequence, the position of the gradual ND filter. This means you have to correct for this by adjusting the position of the filter. When using a medium- or soft edge filter you will get away with this but when using a hard edge filter a slight shift will introduce an error immediately. If this goes unnoticed, it will ruin your panoramic image. Furthermore, some parts of the photo may become too dark (if you pan away from the sun for instance) and you might need to swap the ND grad filter for a lighter one.

Polarizer

Another filter that might introduce errors is the polarizer. Although fantastic in landscape photography, you need to pay extra attention when using this filter for panoramic photography. The reason for this is that the strength of the polarization depends on its angle with the sun. The filter is at its strongest when in a 90 degrees angle, thus when moving the camera either towards or away from the sun, you have to correct this by adjusting the polarizer. If you forget this you will get a dark area in your stitched panoramic.

 The arrows mark a dark area in my photo. This is caused by the polarizer, I had forgotten to adjust my polarizer while panning. This illustrates that you have to adjust the amount of polarization when panning.

The arrows mark a dark area in my photo. This is caused by the polarizer, I had forgotten to adjust my polarizer while panning. This illustrates that you have to adjust the amount of polarization when panning.

In order to know where the darkest spot (the 90 degree angle) will be, you can form a pistol with your thumb and index finger and point towards the sun. Keep pointing straight towards the sun and If you now rotate your hand clockwise or counterclockwise. Your thumb will point towards the area with the maximum amount of polarization. Take this into account when making your panorama and check with every photo. It would be such a pity if you get home and discover an ugly dark spot in your photo like the one shown above.

Exposure

When shooting panoramas in low-light conditions, for instance at sunrise, the difference between the image closest to the sun and the image furthest away, can be too big. If this happens, you can balance the exposure by adjusting your exposure. This can be done by adding stops (1 stop is the doubling of halving of the amount of light let in by the camera). For example, if we make a panoramic that consists of 5 photos, with the sun in the first frame, we set our exposure in a way we’ll get a pleasing result, than if we move to the second photo, we adjust the exposure with 1/3 stop, the third photo will get 1/2 a stop, the fourth will get 2/3 and the fifth 1 full stop. This is just as an example, again, the best way is by checking every image. Of course, the difference in light is something natural and is a consequence of the sunrise, therefore part of the difference should be left untouched. Otherwise you will end up with a flat and unnatural looking image.

 The night I took this photo, the aurora was quite boring. It didn’t move but just formed a large band in the sky (and a few flares behind the mountains). A single image of this scene was uninteresting, therefore I decided to shoot a panoramic photo. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/2.8 | 20 sec | ISO 2500

The night I took this photo, the aurora was quite boring. It didn’t move but just formed a large band in the sky (and a few flares behind the mountains). A single image of this scene was uninteresting, therefore I decided to shoot a panoramic photo. Five images shot with a Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 @ 24 mm | F/2.8 | 20 sec | ISO 2500

Focus

It sounds obvious but make sure that every single shot is in focus. It might be that when panning the camera, the foreground gets out of focus. If this is your main subject, than your panoramic is ruined. But also take notice of the wind. A panoramic consisting of long-exposure shots, can easily be ruined by camera movement. It would be a real pity if you get home, stitch your shots and discover that one of the images is softer than the others because of the wind. Furthermore, if plants (trees, reeds, flowers etc.) are in your frame and it is windy, they will become blurred.

The wind can cause another problem that can even be evident at lower shutter speeds. If the wind changes the shape of a tree for example, and this tree happens to be close where the frame gets stitched, an error will occur leaving an artifact in your panoramic shot. Wait for the wind to settle or make sure no movable objects are within the range of the stitched area.

Stitching

As I mentioned in the introduction, there is plenty of software (both free and paid) to do the stitching for you. I like to use Lightroom because it works in a convenient way and does an amazing job. It is really simple too. First you choose and edit the images you want to stitch. When editing for a panoramic, only stick to global adjustments first, then use synchronize to apply the settings to all the images, and manually adjust each image if necessary to make them fit perfectly. Lightroom will only use global adjustments when stichting. If you want to make local adjustments like a radial or graduated filter, you can do this after the image is stitched. Next you select all images you want to use and right-click one of them. Choose Photo Merge –> Panorama. Now you will see a dialogue box with 3 different projections, an option to auto crop, and a boundary warp slider. On the left side you’ll see the preview of your stitched panoramic.

Pano_land1-1.jpg

Spherical

This projection stitches your image as if placed onto the inside of a sphere. Best option for really wide, multi-row and 360 panoramas.

Cylindrical

This projection stitches your image as if placed onto the inside of a cylinder. Best option for very wide panoramas. This option tries to keep vertical lines straight and works really well with landscape photography.

Perspective

This projection stitches your image as if was placed onto a flat surface. Tries to keep vertical lines straight and works best for architectural photography. Doesn’t work very well for very wide panoramas because it tends to distort the edges a lot.

After choosing the projection mode that fits best to your image, you can either choose the Auto Crop function (to crop the white edges off) or use Boundary Warp (to fill the frame by folding the edges). Press Merge when you are satisfied. Depending on the amount of photos and the size of the raw files this might take a while. The output file is a Digital Negative Raw file (DNG). This file can be edited like a normal Raw file. Now you can do local adjustments as well. For instance to remove small stitching errors or to brighten or darken the sky.

A post shared by Harmen Piekema (@harmenpiekema) on

How to improve your smartphone photography.

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I have been receiving tons of questions if I could write a blog about smartphone photography. These days almost everyone has a smartphone capable of taking great photos. At daytime or when shooting in good light, you can almost not see a difference between a very expensive DSLR camera and a smartphone. Some of you also mentioned that they can't afford a DSLR or mirrorless camera at this time and just wanted some tips on how to improve their current way of shooting. 

It's not about the camera you own, it's about what you do with it"

 

Down below I have gathered some tips on what you can do to shoot stunning images with your smartphone. ALL IMAGES IN THIS BLOG WERE TAKEN WITH A PHONE.

1. Choose the right light 

A.) Choosing the right light is most likely the most important thing when it comes to photographing with your smartphone. Smartphones, especially new ones, tend to handle shooting at daytime really well, but then again, since their sensor is really small, shooting at low light situations is going to be a problem. I would suggest, that if you want to take nice images with your smartphone to only shoot, when there is sun or enough artificial light around. If it is too dark you will end up with a really noisy image. 

 

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B.) There is another important reason why shooting with the right light is so important. It creates interest. Especially since a smartphone usually doesn't have a lot of Depth of Field or Dynamic Range, light is what can give your photograph that stunning depth. 

 

 

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2. Learn about compositional rules

Compositional rules are very important. Composition is what creates interest. Composition can make you tell a story with the image. The most important rule would be the rule of thirds. Down below is a screenshot of the camera of my phone. Can you see the lines? That's the rule of thirds.It is basically dividing the frame of your image and tells you where parts of the image should be placed to create a visually appealing image. As you can see, the rock is placed on the left third of the image and my horizon has been placed along the bottom third of the image. The grid can be easily set up in the camera settings on both on IOS and Android. If you are keen to learn more about composition, I have a blog exclusively on that matter, which covers it all. To read it click HERE

 The Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds.

 

3. Post Processing

A lot of people hate on others if they are using filters or if they are editing their pictures. Don't listen to them! Editing your pictures is very important. Things like increasing the black and white parts of the image, increasing the shadows and dropping the highlights or even adding a bit of saturation are important in digital photography. But be careful to not overuse filters and editing. If your pictures are overly edited, it really does look bad sometimes. Down below is and image edited in the iPhone camera roll, no special programs used. 

 Before editing

Before editing

 After editing

After editing

 Tip: Consider different editing styles, as well. I really like this shot in Black and White. Edited in Camera Roll. No app or programs used.

Tip: Consider different editing styles, as well. I really like this shot in Black and White. Edited in Camera Roll. No app or programs used.

 

 

4. Shoot manual

 Photo from Product Description,  PRO CAM 5  for IOS

Photo from Product Description, PRO CAM 5 for IOS

A lot of smartphones give you the ability to shoot with manual settings. Shooting manual is a great way to learn about photography and the different parts of the exposure triangle (Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO). If you are a little more experienced and have already learnt how to edit, most of these smartphones also give you the ability to shoot RAW (a lossless file format and uncompressed, which gives you a lot of benefits during post-processing). If you are shooting on an iPhone you might be thinking: "I can't do anything like that". You are right, the standard camera coming with the iPhone and some other smartphones, doesn't support manual shooting. BUT, there is a ton of third party apps which are able to give you that litte more freedom. The biggest names are Camera+, ProCam 5ProCamera (for IPHONE) and Manual Camera  (for ANDROID). Most of these apps will set you back a few bucks, but it will help you to improve your photography greatly. 

 

 

 Photo from Product Description,  Manual Camera  for ANDROID

Photo from Product Description, Manual Camera for ANDROID

 

5. Keep your lens clean

 

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Yes, a thing as easy as that can get you better pictures. If there is dust on the outside of your lens you are going to have ugly spots on the final image. Especially when you keep your phone in your pocket for most of the time, remember to just wipe off dust that might be on the lens before taking the shot. 

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6. Don't zoom

Zooming on a smartphone can really ruin your shot. Most smartphones only offer digital zoom, what basically just means that you are cropping the photo before taking it. The further you zoom, the more quality of the image is lost. So if you have the ability to move closer to the object you are photographing, do it. Walking just a few meters towards the point of interest is going to make a huge difference in the end!

Photo+30.09.17,+18+32+12.jpg

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave me a comment down below!

Growing on Instagram?

HOW TO GROW AN ORGANIC FOLLOWING ON INSTAGRAM AS A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER (OR WHY YOU ARE FAILING AT IT)

A post shared by Felix Inden (@felixinden) on

If you are a landscape photograpers trying to get his work out there, you have surely heard about that one big imaging platform called Instagram. 

So you made yourself a profile and started dropping all your gorgeous work that you worked hard for and suddenly you wonder: Why is nobody liking my images and why do I have 50 followers while others have thousands and just keep growing?

There reason for it isn´t one- it´s actually many and I´ll try to cover some of them here in this article, giving some tips along the way that have worked for me in the past. 

I´ll also cover why this isn´t exactly working super effectively for myself anymore at the end of the article.

The idea for this article came to my mind after receiving many direct messages about the topic on my Instagram account, so I thought my answers might be interesting for others as well.

 

If you aren´t doing what i´ll talk about now, that is surely part of why Instagram isn´t working for you (so far)

Using Instagram with the expectation to have a growing following isn´t an easygoing thing. For most people at least, unless you are already a superstar in the worldwide photography business. 

BUT we are not one of those right (at least not me). So for us it will be a decision that more than anything else will involve time spent on the platform and some changes to our imagery done especially to post them effectively on Instagram. 

A post shared by Felix Inden (@felixinden) on

Spend the needed time

You might have read this often, but because it´s true you´ll read it again here: You need to spend time on Instagram in order to grow- „post and run“ does not work! 

So prepare to have at least an hour, better two or more per day to spend „working“ on Instagram. 

Engage with people that have similar interests and well running accounts. While it might be effective to simply like and comment whatever stuff you see, don´t do it and choose images and photographers whos work you really cherish and like. 

After all you are trying to build a name for yourself and it´s important to stay true to quality. Once you have some kind of „name“ you want people to appreciate a like given by you, because they know it´s honestly telling them that they did something right. 

Who you should follow

Same applies for following people, so watch out that you don´t fall in the follow/unfollow trap and instead curate the list of people you follow. I also follow friends that aren´t photographers at all and some people i also follow because they are just fun people. In those cases i don´t care about the imagery they post, but for those photographers that i have been following: I follow you because i appreciate your work. 

Optimize your images for Instagram

Different to other imaging platforms, on Instagram you know 100% that people will be seeing your work only on a very small screen. And your image will compete with bazillions of others beeing posted at the same time. You only have a fraction of a second to capture the viewers interest to get him to double tap and maybe even drop a comment. 

So your images need to stand out in some way. 

Ignoring this might be the biggest mistake causing people to not grow on Instagram. They process the images like they always do and then upload. Most likely it will be looking quite dull on the phone, because the size factor that other platforms offer get´s lost. The image won´t just stand out because of a neat composition and when very subtle colors can totally work seen on a big screen, on a little phone screen they might look less interesting.

Crop your images to vertical format or 1:1

 Square 1x1 Crop

Square 1x1 Crop

 4x5 Vertical (Portrait orientation) Crop

4x5 Vertical (Portrait orientation) Crop

Now comes the hardest part for us landscapers that often tend to shoot landscape formats or even panoramic work. 

Landscape format does not work well on Instagram. Why? Because only a small part of the screen is used to display the image. Your phone screen is the canvas that you have to display your image, so make sure to use it to the fullest. 

So you´ll have to shoot vertical format (I use this format very often because I love portrait format landscapes, i was lucky there) or if you shoot wide, crop the images to square or portrait format in order to fill the screen with them. 

At this point i got some reactions from people that didn´t want to follow the tip of keeping the aspect ratio of posts in mind. They made a principle about not adjusting/applying changes to their work just because of a social network. But in my opinion one can totally do that without loosing the realness factor- if you spend time on platform then do it effectively. At least that´s my view on it.

Instagram is not your real portfolio- that one should be on your homepage or somewhere else where people can really appreciate your shots in full size with all the important details that you worked out carefully in the field and afterwards on your postprocessing system. 

Instagram is a valuable tool for self promotion of your work and it doesn´t make you less of a landscaper if you adapt to it a little bit. It will instead only improve your Insta experience.

How I actually shot this image

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Pimp the images with the inbuilt processing tools

It´s a good idea to post the images with a little higher saturation and contrast than you would normally do. Also enhance sharpness and structures slightly in the app. 

Don´t go too far, but something like dialing in something in between of +5 and maximum +15 will do your images a favor as they will look more crisp. 

Optimizing an image for upload in the app 

Use Hashtags

While it might seem obvious to most of you reading this, there are still some that post on Instagram expecting people to see their work, but have never really spent thoughts about why people keep tagging their images. 

A post shared by Felix Inden (@felixinden) on

In this huge ocean of posted images, hashtags are a way of getting your image seen by people with certain interests. But to use them to their full potential you need to understand how they work. 

There are very popular tags that are used very often and others that don´t get used much. Using #landscape (87 million tagged images), #sunset (176 million) or #nature (328 million) is not effective unless you are already getting thousands of likes on your shots in rather short amount of time. Your tagged image will dissappear from the tag list in seconds as so many images get posted with these tags. 

Drop them in every now and then, but don´t make it a strategy to use them. Better look out for tags that have between 30k and a million tagged images- there you have the biggest chance of getting your image seen because of the used tag. 

Also it´s not the smartest thing to use tags with very low tagged images, because it´s most likely that noone is interested in them (unless a promising new hub or company has just invented the tag- then try it). 

While you can use up to 30 hashtags per post, lately it seems to be better to use between 10 to 20 max- don´t ask me why this is the case. I just noticed it in the last year. Same applies to where you drop the tags. I personally prefer to put them in the comments as my captions look more clean this way, but i don´t think that it has an effect on how the mighty algorythm ranks the image.

Conclusion

If you really want to use Instagram as a landscaper, tripod warrior or whatever you wanna call us, realize that it´s not the best idea to ignore the key factors that can make your work function on the app. Traditional landscape photography is not the ideal kind of imagery for this app- you see it when you look at other photographers that chose the way of a rather documentary style of landscape photography that many call adventure/lifestyle photography. Here they often place humans doing something or interacting with the scene in the frame.

I really love this kind of work by many artists out there when they achieve to create that strong feeling of wanting to get out into nature and gaze at the elements. Often I also find it rather boring when I notice that it was just done to have a potentially popular image.

While this style of imagery is definitly more likely to quickly gain traction I have never considered changing my style just for this fact and i think you shouldn´t do this neither unless that is what inspires you the most. 

We only live once- follow your own passion!


Now we come to the point where maybe some of you may think: OK, Felix, thanks for the tips, but if we look closely you haven’t really been killing it yourself on Instagram anymore. And yeah… that’s true.

The days when I spent the needed time for this app are long gone. There are many different reasons for this fact, the biggest and most important of all being my wife and my two sons. They deserve my attention more than my phone, and this alone is already a disadvantage if I still wanted to keep my account growing as it once did.

I also don’t feel as inspired by the app as I once was anymore. I don’t want to start circle jerking just exchanging likes and comments with others just for the sake of it.

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave a comment down below!

 

Filters on drones?

Filters on drones?

ARE DRONE FILTERS WORTH IT FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?

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I often see a lot of people asking “what filters did you use?” and also spending money to buy them. Therefore to help clear up any confusion, set the right expectations and hopefully save some peeps a few bucks here’s a quick little brain dump on filters. It might be of some help to those who may be new to photography. 

 

I tend to think of filters in two groups. Optically altering and non-optically altering. Filters such as UV and polarising filters literally change or modify the light. ND and Grad ND Filters do not modify the light. 

 A standard screw in UV lens filter

A standard screw in UV lens filter

 Just part of my personal Lee Filters landscape  kit.

Just part of my personal Lee Filters landscape  kit.

 

Whilst there’s literally hundreds of filter variants not all of them are applicable to aerial photography so I’ll explain the four different types of filters I often see people ask about or buy for drones. 

1. UV: A UV filter was traditionally used to block UV rays from the film. Digital camera sensors have an IR or UV filter built in making UV filters completely redundant for this purpose. Many still like using a UV filter to protect the lens of their camera from scratches. Personally, I’ve never used a UV / clear filter for protection.

I’ve never scratched a lens and the lens of a drone camera would be even harder to scratch (given they’re used in the air). I’ve seen a lot of people buy UV / Clear filters for their drones and IMO this is of no benefit and in-fact will degrade image quality. 

2. Polarising filters: Of all the filters available for drones, a polarising filter is the single filter I agree has the most value for photography. The type of polariser filter used is a circular polariser (circ.pol) 

These could be seen to benefit aerial photography in a number of ways. They remove reflected light waves, reducing glare and helping improve clarity in things such as water and clouds. They can also help improve the natural saturation of colours. 

There are a lot of people who swear by polarises but IMO they’re not worth it for aerial photography. Here’s why:
-They work when they are perpendicular to the direction of the sun. This is controlled by manually rotating the filter which obviously one cannot do when their lens is in the air. 
-The guessing game of ‘putting her on and sending her up’ can impair the image with uneven areas of polar reduction. 
-Photographers compose their shots to ensure uniformed saturation with polarises. Again, this isn’t possible when the lens is in the sky. 
-Polarises reduce approx. 2 exposure stops of light which has subsequent impacts when your camera is airborne (I’ll get to this below). 

So – I agree, circ.pol filters can absolutely have an impact on the photo. IMO, the results aren’t worth it and with the above limitations in mind, are probably better achieved in post-production. This is a personal preference though 🙂

3. Neutral Density (ND) filters. I think ND filters are one of the more misunderstood filters in the drone community. ND filters are optically neutral, meaning, they don’t change the light like polarises or UV filters do. ND filters are literally just darkened glass (perspex, plastic etc). Landscape photographers will have many times when they need to reduce the amount of light entering their lens. This comes down to the basic principles of exposure. Ie. Exposure is a product of three variables. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO (film sensitivity). 

If a photographer wishes to reduce their shutter speed they are then allowing more light into their lens, this is compensated by closing the aperture. For example. 1/1000th of a second and f2 is the same exposure as 1/500th second and f2.8 and the same exposure as 1/250th second and f4 and so on. All variables work in sync. So if a photographer needs their shutter speed to be slow (ie 1/8th second) they need to compensate this with their aperture. In the above example 1/8th sec would be an aperture of f22). 

This isn’t always achievable or ideal, so, enter ND filters. 

 

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IMO, this isn’t valuable in drone photography because the only value of slowing the shutter speed would be for long exposures (to blur water for example) which requires a tripod. Some might say their gimbals are magic and can allow for this, and whilst it’s a fun novelty, the image won’t be sharp or useable for anything other than phone size screens.

So why do ND filters serve no other purpose? Some drone camera’s such as the P4P and Inspire camera’s allow for aperture control. Even on drones without aperture control and fixed at f2.8, if you need to reduce the exposure you can simply dial up the shutter speed. 

(I'll pause here to make it clear I'm talking to photography and not videography. I absolutely agree some videographers will want ND filters for many other reasons). 

4. Grad ND: Grad ND’s are filters which gradually change from clear to a darker number of exposure stops. These are invaluable for landscape photographers when they want to balance their foreground light with the higher exposure of the sky. 

Could you do that on a drone when airborne? I guess maybe. Would I spend money on a filter for it for my drone. Nope. I’d take two exposures and blend them. It’d be easier than trying to balance the horizon along the grad line in the air.

The 7 Wonders Of The World (according to Instagram).

We all know about the 7 wonders of the world. We also know that there are many different versions. The 7 ancient wonders of the world, the 7 natural wonders of the world, the 7 modern wonders of the world.. The list goes on.

With Instagram being a huge source of travel inspiration for millions of people around the world, I think it is about time someone took note of the most shared and most desirable locations around the world based on what we see on Instagram as a platform.

So here are The 7 Wonders of the World: according to Instagram.

Coming in at Number 7

We have the The Faroe Islands

This beautiful and remote archipelago is the home to many iconic viewpoints filled with geographical drama and humble living situations. Whilst the weather may toughen you up, if you can push through you will certainly get some shots to amaze and inspire.

Photos from @giuligartner

Number 6 Lake Bled - Slovenia

Often referred to as Fairytale Lake, when you see shots like these it is easy to see why. The church on the island makes for a intriguing shots in almost any condition and the forests and mountains provide a perfect frame for these serene location.

Photos from @Jordhammond

For Number 5 Horseshoe Bend - USA

A must see road-side stop for anyone in northern Arizona, just a short walk over a sandy hill and you could be in another planet, the sound of the highway disappears and in-front of you it this visually stunning canyon formation. No photo will ever do justice to the sheer scale of it.

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Photos from @oliver_wheeldon

Going back to the cold for Number 4... Iceland

The true land of ice and fire has been growing increasingly popular over the past few years, as an island packed with waterfalls, volcanic beaches and great opportunities for the Northern lights it makes sense that so many photographers are flocking here.

Photos from @henry.nathan

Into the final three we’re staying up north for Number 3 with The Lofoten Islands - Norway

Again as a location combining dramatic mountainous coastline with small abodes, Lofoten has been a photographer favourite for a long time, competition tightly with Iceland as a northern lights hotspot it just inches ahead because so many shots are seen from a smaller specific region.

Photos from @henry.nathan

This spot had to be on the list and so high because the same shot is so common, for Number 2 its St Johann Church/ The Dolomites - Italy

Bringing back the fairytale vibes of Slovenia, this spot combines a beautiful church in a pristine rolling field with a dense forest and one of the most exciting mountain ridges in the world. A spot that works in every season and time of day, it was a no-brainer for it to feature so highly. 

Photos from @guerelsahin

Finally, the big one. The US takes it with Yosemite National Park - California.

Yosemite has been iconic for decades, with several viewpoints that provide their own unique photography opportunities there are so many unique spots with their own natural wonders, from the incredibly high waterfalls that to half-dome and mirror lake. Yosemite is also home to the John Muir trail which takes you up the valley even more waterfalls. Yosemite had to be number one because of its endless possibilities, its timeless presence on everyones feeds as one of the greatest natural environments that people visit year round giving people such different experiences. 

Photos from @oliver_wheeldon

Runners Up

Ubud Light Rays - Bali

These shots always crop up in our feeds as they are featured time and time again, whilst it might not be one of the most popular destinations, when instagrammers go, they get so many killer shots it had to get a special mention.

Photos from @Jordhammond

Moraine Lake - Canada

This was originally an old favourite for number one, but the reality is it just isn’t as popular as it used to be, whilst still an iconic destination, it clearly isn’t attracting the instagram crowd like it used to.

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Painted Mountain - Peru

Similar to the Ubud light rays, as a more remote destination it isn’t as popular, but when people do go the photography opportunities are incredible. 

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Dubai - UAE

I wanted to give this city credit not only as a hub for photographers so often passing through from Europe and the USA to asia, it has become a favourite destination in itself for not only its truly unique cityscapes, but the wilderness adventures that can be had just an hour outside the insane metropolis.

Photos from @henry.nathan

That Wanaka Tree - NZ

Again originally a clear favourite for the list as such an iconic and recurring view but again it just isn’t being seen as much as it used to be. 

Photos from @ianharper

Have any questions? Do you agree with our list? Want to add something? Leave a comment below ↓

Interview With a Photographer | Steffen Eisenacher

Where’s home?

For me home is Germany, but with having lived in Australia during my teenage years, I would call Australia my second home. 

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What is the favourite place you’ve travelled to?

Definitely the arctic. I know, Arctic isn’t very specific, but I couldn’t quite decided between Iceland, Lofoten and Lappland. These place are so diverse and always look different during the different seasons. You can shoot the same place 4 times a year and it would always look different! 

How did you get started as a photographer?

That’s an interesting question. For me it all start with a passion for meteorology. I have always been interested in severe weather, such as thunderstorms since I have been a kid. At the age of 8 years I got my first very cheap digital camera and from there on my goal was to capture lightning. I remember when I finally scored my first bolt, I was smiling for days. To compensate the lack of severe weather in winter, my focus slowly shifted towards classic landscape photography! 

Want to know more about lightning photography? Check out our blog here

What camera equipment / software / tech do you use?  Any must haves?

I use a Canon 6D with the Canon 24-70mm f4, the Samyang 24mm 1.4 and the Samyang 14mm 2.8. 

For editing I use Lightroom, Photoshop and Starry Landscape Stacker. 

I don’t think there are any must haves. Up until 2 years ago I was shooting with a Canon 500D (you can get that used for less than $200) and a lot of the images you see on my feed and website are still shot with that camera. First improve on your photography, take the gear to the absolute limit and if there is absolutely no way around upgrading, then it’s time to do so! 

What photographers have influenced you, how you think and shoot?

Thinking about this now, I have always tried to keep my style, so I wouldn’t quite say I was influenced, but more inspired by the work of others. If I was to name some of them, it would be Micheal Shainblum (@shainblumphotography) , Jonas Piontek (@jonaspiontek) and Marc Adamus (@marcadamus).

Any top tips for Instagram?

2 things: 

  1. Stick to your style. I have seen many good photographers that started to adopt too much to the style that other instagrams are doing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be inspired, but some people try to follow, what they think will make them most successful on this platform. Nothing wrong with being successful, but I can guarantee you that you won’t be happy, if you’re only doing what you do for the gram. 
  2. Interact, talk and collaborate. Don’t be afraid to reach out to big features pages, such as @canon_photos, if you have quality content on your feed! I, for example got my first ever feature on @canon_photos by sending them a DM. 

What are you trying to communicate through your photographs?

I am always trying to tell a story with my images. The most important part in doing so, is to find a composition. If you want to know more on how you can achieve that, check out my tutorial on composition! (Here

What motivates you to continue doing what you’re doing?

Uffff.. that’s a good one. Sometimes I do get phases where my motivation is down and I don’t feel like doing much. That’s when it is more important than ever to get inspired. Usually I search through Google, Instagram etc. to find images that I would have loved to capture myself. My competitive self will then want to take a better shot than I had just seen. That’s kind of what keeps me going explained easy 

Are you a bathroom singer?

Haha not really, but I do have my moments where I just start singing. Also, I’m really bad with lyrics, so I often just make them up. 

Do you have any advice for young aspiring photographers?

As already stated above, it is most important to stick to what you most love. If you have always taken colourful images, don’t start to edit your images with whiteout sky, just because a lot of people are doing well with it. You’re giving up your individuality just in oder to get more likes. In the long run, people will always look up to people that are different, people that are individual, people that differ from the mainstream content everyone creates. 

What are your goals for the future, regarding your work?

I don’t really have any specific goals, I’m a person that believes that everything happens for a reason. I’m open for everything, and I’ll let my self surprise as to what my future holds. 

Any Questions for Steffen? Ask away ↓

Landscape Photography Tips: Part 2

This is Part 2 of the "Top Tips for shooting landscapes", I you haven't read Part 1 of the series, make sure to follow this link. 

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WHAT IS LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT? 

Nowadays landscape photography is often confused with adventure photography. In my opinion these are fundamentally different, even though adventure photography heavily features landscapes. Adventure photography is basically showcasing the great time you had including things like the hike you did or the boat you paddled in. One thing all adventure photographs have in common is that it will feature people or anthropogenically created features such as campfires in the image, often making the person the point of interest and only putting the landscape as a second. Here comes the difference. Landscape photography is about telling stories with the landscape itself. It is about creating interest using topographic features such as rivers, mountains, trees etc. and telling a story with it. That is where the first challenge comes in. Finding a composition and giving the photograph a meaning. Learning this will help you to stand out from the million of snapshots being uploaded to Instagram featuring different landscapes.

For tips 1-5, read HERE

TIP 6: LIGHTING

Lighting is definitely something you need to consider. Most landscape photographers rarely shoot during midday, because the light is boring and very harsch. It often lacks saturation and colours. I will usually be out shooting during dawn and the early hours of the morning and then again during the late afternoon, sunset and into blue hour. But all that being said, a good photographer tries to adapt to the situation he is in. Especially with the use of filters you can also take great shots during a stormy midday. 

 Epic lighting during daytime. 

Epic lighting during daytime. 

 Sweet lighting during the early hours of the day

Sweet lighting during the early hours of the day

TIP 7: PACK WITH CARE

Packing with care is actually really important. Reading this you are probably thinking why I included this, but packing your stuff carefully can really prevent major frustration. I for example didn't always pack with care and so it came that I went on a 20km biking trip to a mountain to photograph a sunset to only realise on location that I forgot all my SD-cards. The only reason I rode there was to take photos. Coming back with just a crappy phone shot is incredibly dissatisfying. So keep this in mind. 

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TIP 8: DEPTH OF FIELD 

 Shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field

Depth of field is essential in your landscape photography. When you look at landscape photographs and compare them with portraits, you'll quickly notice one key difference. In landscape photography we usually want to maximise sharpness by creating a deeper depth of field. You rarely see images with a shallow depth of field these days, but if done right it can create a really cool and powerful effect, as well. To the right you can see a capture by me using a shallow depth of field (looks weird, right). Using this technique you can really stand out, as in most photographers eyes you are breaking the rules by taking that action. The shallow depth of field only works in some cases though and usually your aperture should be set to around f/8 to f/16  when shooting landscapes. 

 Deep depth of field. Shot at f/11

Deep depth of field. Shot at f/11

TIP 9: INDIVIDUALITY 

Be individual. I know its easier said than done. By saying be more individual I mean not to copy other photographers work. Search for new composition and stand out with these. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing extremely talented landscape photographers moving from sight to sight and taking exactly the same photograph as everyone else has before. And like I said I am being caught up in the misery myself where ever I go, especially when you are on a trip visiting something, that you are only photographing because you were inspired by seeing a certain picture in the first place. I aways try to shoot a composition that is slightly different to the one we have been seeing all along. 

 Not very individual, if you know what I mean ;) 

Not very individual, if you know what I mean ;) 

TIP 10: CHANGE UP THE ORIENTATION

The last tip is to change it up. I see a lot of landscape photographers strictly shooting in landscape orientation. My tip is to get creative and use portrait orientation in your landscape photography as well. Using portrait orientation you will have to get a whole lot more thoughtful about your composition, as you will more than likely feature a lot more of your foreground. Back in the days I only used to shoot my images horizontally, but I personally believe that changing it up from time to time has helped me greatly to improve my photography. 

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave me a comment down below!

The Ultimate Travel Guide To Bali

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You may not like Bali at first. Especially if you’re coming off a plane after having spent the last 24 hours travelling, arriving just after midnight with a massive, almost impossible to be moved 30kg suitcase, wearing a completely unsuitable outfit for the boiling heat outside, and the taxi driver who’s giving you a ride from the airport to the hotel hasn’t got a single clue where your hotel is (and not using a GPS either.) You won’t like Bali too, if you don’t fancy street dogs, cats, rats and bats, and massive traffic all day, every day.

Even if you decide to do a quick meditation in the taxi to release the stress and focus on some positive affirmations, it may still come as a bit of a shock to you when the taxi driver pulls the car over, explaining in broken English that the traffic is too much (at 1am on Sunday!) and he is not able to drive you to the hotel (which, he is still unsure exactly where it is situated). Welcome to Bali!

Yeah, as I said, Bali is not a love at first sight. But it’s this kind of love that lasts forever.

Do I need a visa for Bali?

Depends on where you are from. If your country is in this list, then you’re allowed to stay in Indonesia for 30 days visa-free. You also don’t need to pay any tax when you arrive or depart the country, as the airline companies include the fee in your flight purchase.

Where can I exchange money?

My advice here is always to exchange money in the country you’re visiting. It was quite a struggle for us to find Indonesian Rupiah in the U.K, so my boyfriend and I exchanged a little amount at the airport that would do us for the first couple of days. Don’t do it! (Obviously, unless you really don’t have any other option!) The commission is over the top, the exchange rate is awful, and it’s simply not worth it. When we arrived in Bali, we found out that there are Money Exchange desks at pretty much every corner and the currency rate they were offering was even better than the official one stated on Internet! Here’s a pro tip - don’t exchange all of your holiday budget at once. At least not in Bali! Do it in parts, otherwise you might end up coming back home with a lot of Indonesian rupiah left. Everything in Bali is amazingly cheap! 

Where to stay in Bali?

When it comes to accommodation in Bali, the choice is great. You can stay the night in a hostel or motel for as little as £6 per night. Or go to an average to nice 3 or 4-star hotel for £13 per night. There are also incredibly fancy villas and spa resorts with private beaches for the people with the finest taste (and fattest wallets). There is a trick here though! Most of the cheap places (including the “average to nice” hotels I mentioned above) are not always as great as shown in the photos and described on the Internet! So here is my tip - when you’re booking your holiday online, book only one-night stay regardless how long you’re visiting for and when you arrive, if you’re happy with the place, you can always extend your stay. If you’re not happy though, as I said, there is plenty of choice around. We personally used www.lastminute.com but I probably won’t use them for our next trip.

What to do in Bali

Everything! You can literally do everything! From exploring the culture by visiting temples, museums, coffee and rice plantations, and indulge yourself with spa treatments, such as massages, manicure and pedicures, ear candles, and anything you wish really. To surfing, bodyboarding, skydiving, jet skiing, scuba diving, river rafting, safari and breakfast with elephants, sacred monkey forest, and turtle conservations. The list is never-ending, guys! My personal advice is: rent a scooter for a week (it costs about £25) and explore the island for yourself! There is so much to be seen! Little villages with local people doing their daily activities, women carrying massive baskets with fruits on their heads (so impressed by the body balance they’ve got!), hidden waterfalls, stunning private white sand beaches, magical sunsets and sunrises, and so much more.

What are the best beaches in Bali?

It really depends on your personal taste. For example, if you’re all about surfing, you’ll love the Kuta beach. If you’ve never done in before, but always wanted to try, here is some good news! The price for a surfing lesson with instructor and board is just under £9 per hour!

On the other hand, if you’re like me and looking for something rather Instagrammable, like blue waters and white sands, but don’t have a big budget to spend, then I’d recommend visiting the Nusa Dua Beach. There is no entrance fee for the public side of it and I was surprised to find out that there were barely any visitors, despite the fact the beach was so nice and fully accessible.

If you don’t mind spending £20 and want something super chic, go to the Dreamland Beach! Come back to thank me later! ;)

What to eat in Bali?

Similar to the activities, I was amazed by the choice of food in Bali! The island offers cuisines from all over the world. Italian, Spanish, Mexican, American, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, traditional Indonesian, British, French, Greek, Russian… the choice is unlimited. We personally had a really lovely dinner at this Greek restaurant called Warung Souvlaki in Legian, Kuta. Something very important to mention here is - don’t drink any tap water in Bali and be careful with the fresh fruits and salads in the restaurants in general. Unless you don’t mind spending your holiday on the toilet, I’d advise using mineral water, even when you’re brushing your teeth!

What are the secret spots in Bali?

Here is my list. The description and address of the places are under each photo!

1)      Jl.Pantai Gumicik, Ketewel, Indonesia - stunning black sand beach!

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2)   The Dream Museum (DMZ), Kuta, Indonesia

3) The Stones Hotel, Legian Bali (Psst, the rooftop pool is free entry not only for hotel guests!)

4) Jalan Raya Tegalalang, Gianyar, Coffee Plantation (It's entry free and you get to try a complimentary set of different coffee and tea flavour shots, whilst enjoying a magnificient view!)

5) Gianyar Bali, Indonesia - Rice Plantation

What’s the best thing about Bali?

To me personally, that would have been the energy in the air, the vibe of the local people. There was something so calming and magical about this place that had nothing to do with the environment or the weather… Let me tell you a little story. 

On our second day, we met this Indonesian guy called Roberto. He was working on the street as a promoter. He told us that his biggest dream was to work in a hotel. I have never met such a passionate, honest and warm person as Roberto. The simplicity of his dream was so inspirational! He didn’t want to conquer the world, have a 7-figure income or be well-socially known, approved and admired by everybody. All he wanted was to earn just enough so he can be able to support his family (as he shared with us, he was the oldest brother) and to find a girl that he can make a family with. As simple as that. He seemed so happy! He also seemed more passionate about his dreams than most of the people I am surrounded by, and surely happier than all the successful (and wealthy) people I know. That made me seriously rethink a lot of my values, but that’s a subject for another post.

To summarize, the best thing about Bali for me was indeed the whole experience with a completely different culture and a different code of behavior, and way of living. This energy coming from the people was so pure and relaxing in a way, that it was making you forget about everything you already know and believe, and completely change your mindset about life. That, together with the breathtaking views and places we visited, will surely leave Bali in my heart forever.

Have any questions? Leave a comment below! 

Interview With A Photographer | Randy Haron

Where’s home?

Home is in the beautiful Central Valley of California- Fresno, CA.

What is the favourite place you’ve travelled to?

My favorite place thus far has to be London, England. The people, sights, and food are amazing!

How did you get started as a photographer?

I actually got started as a photographer in London! I was on a business trip and went for a photo walk with some local photographers. The walk opened my eyes to all of the amazing scenery I was overlooking before, and opened my mind to the creativity I was missing out on. I used to travel to various place and hardly notice the beauty that was right in front of me. From then on, I was hooked. I went home, bought a camera, and haven’t stopped taking photos since!

What camera equipment / software / tech do you use?  Any must haves?

Right now, I am using a Canon 5D Mark IV. I edit with Lightroom.

What photographers have influenced you, how you think and shoot?

I am influenced daily by the creativity, passion, and uniqueness of my fellow photographers on Instagram. I am often scrolling through my feed looking for "inspiration". I love learning from my peers in the Instagram community.

Any top tips for Instagram?

My biggest tip has to be to communicate and collaborate. You miss every opportunity you don't take. Never feel afraid to reach-out to Instagrammers when you're in their neck of the woods- some of the best shots I've gotten have been with locals who were kind enough to take me out and show me their favorite places in their cities. Also, when people show you appreciation be grateful- I try to always comment back and reply back to anyone who takes the time to comment on my photos. If I inspired you enough to take time out of your day to like/comment on my page, I can definitely take the time to show some appreciation back.

What are you trying to communicate through your photographs?

Throughout my photographic journey, I am trying to challenge my audience to look for those little moments of beauty that often go overlooked in our day-to-day lives.

What motivates you to continue doing what you’re doing?

I am motivated by those beautiful moments that I am lucky to be able to capture for my audience. I am also motivated by the joy and wonder that I bring to people’s lives through my photography.

Are you a bathroom singer?

I am NOT a bathroom singer— but I am a car singer, and a bathroom dancer ;)

Do you have any advice for young aspiring photographers?

My biggest piece of advice is this. Time is the most valuable thing you will ever have because you can never get it back. If you are lucky enough to have the time and passion for photography, do it! 

What are your goals for the future, regarding your work?

My near-future goals for photography are to complete my website, and continue to inspire my audience to look for those amazing moments in their own lives that would be perfectly captured in a photo.

Landscape Photography Tips: Part 1

I am back with another article. This time we will discuss the top tips for shooting landscapes. I for myself haven't always been a landscape photographer. For me it all started with storm-photography (technically also a form of landscape photography), but over the years I have more and more found landscape photography one of the most rewarding types of photography and if you look at my website or my Instagram it will heavily feature landscapes.  On this occasion, if you haven't read the tutorial about how to capture lightning yet, make sure to follow this LINK. 

WHAT IS LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT? 

Nowadays landscape photography is often confused with adventure photography. In my opinion these are fundamentally different, even though adventure photography heavily features landscapes. Adventure photography is basically showcasing the great time you had including things like the hike you did or the boat you paddled in. One thing all adventure photographs have in common is that it will feature people or anthropogenically created features such as campfires in the image, often making the person the point of interest and only putting the landscape as a second. Here comes the difference. Landscape photography is about telling stories with the landscape itself. It is about creating interest using topographic features such as rivers, mountains, trees etc. and telling a story with it. That is where the first challenge comes in. Finding a composition and giving the photograph a meaning. Learning this will help you to stand out from the million of snapshots being uploaded to Instagram featuring different landscapes.

This article is not about finding the right composition though, it is about the top tips for shooting landscapes. A tutorial purely discussing "How to find your composition" will be released next month.

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A road swirling towards on of many fjords in Iceland.

TIP 1: USE FILTERS

Filters can make a huge difference in advanced landscape photography. The filters I personally use the most are Polarising and Neutral Density Filters. Polarising filters essentially do 3 different things. 

1. They help you to cut out flare. This is especially of use when shooting seascapes or waterfalls. It can also remove the annoying glare from plants or leaves. 

2. It can help you get more saturation in your photographs. This is particular useful if your are shooting in a very bright environment, where saturation is literally washed out. The polariser can help you to get a little more contrast back into the image.

3. The Polariser can help you with the sky in your landscape photography. Polarisers darken the blue sky and brighten up clouds. For most photographers this is the reason why they are using this type of filter, as it can create dramatic skies. 

 Shot taken without a Polarising Filter.

Shot taken without a Polarising Filter.

 Shot with same settings, but with polarising filter on. 

Shot with same settings, but with polarising filter on. 

Neutral Density filters on the other hand have a different task. Essentially they are "sunglasses" for you camera. If you put these on, everything gets darker and your shutter speed can be set much longer (Of course this depends of the ND filters itself, there is soft ones and really strong ones to suit your need). Neutral Density filters can help you create dramatic landscapes even on a rainy day or help you to shoot cool long-exposures by the beach even in bright sunlight.

 Shot on a rainy and boring day. With ND1000 attached to lens. 8 minutes exposure for clouds to move.

Shot on a rainy and boring day. With ND1000 attached to lens. 8 minutes exposure for clouds to move.

 Photo taken during midday and bright sunlight. 4 minute exposure with ND1000

Photo taken during midday and bright sunlight. 4 minute exposure with ND1000

TIP 2: SHOOT IN RAW

Shooting Raw will give you much more opportunities in post-processing. When you shoot JPEG you will most likely not be able to recover shadows or highlights as you would have been able to if you shot RAW. 

 Straight out of Camera shot. RAW!!!

Straight out of Camera shot. RAW!!!

 30 second quick edit in Lightroom. RAW Power. With Jpeg you wouldn't have been able to recover the shadows this well.

30 second quick edit in Lightroom. RAW Power. With Jpeg you wouldn't have been able to recover the shadows this well.

TIP 3: USE THE HISTOGRAM

The histogram is an exceptionally important piece of equipment. Baldly said, the Histogram is a plain graph, which shows your tonal distributions from dark to bright. Especially when shooting a sunset or in bright sunlight, your photo might look really good on the LCD screen, but it is actually over or underexposed. 

Down below you can see what an overexposed and an underexposed shot could look like on the histogram. Basically if you find most of your graph shifted towards the right side, it can be a indication that your photo is overexposed. This also applies the other way around, if the majority of the graph is towards the left, your image could be underexposed.  In some images tonal distributions like these might be working just fine, but for example if your a shooting a sunset and you want to capture that nice colour in the sky and you can see that parts of your sky are very bright to compensate for the lack of lighting in the foreground, check your histogram. If you can see your graph peaking at the right side, the sky will most likely be too bright to recover the highlights in post-processing later on. That's when you should really think about adjusting the exposure, even if your foreground will get darker in the process of doing so. 

 When your Histogram looks like this, your shot is more than likely underexposed

When your Histogram looks like this, your shot is more than likely underexposed

 If it looks like this, it is probably overexposed.

If it looks like this, it is probably overexposed.

If most of your graph is centred, your image is perfectly exposed. 

TIP 4: THINK ABOUT FOREGROUND 

A  good foreground can make your image much more interesting and appealing. Foregrounds can tell a story and complete your composition. As already stated above, a good composition is really important. I see so many photographers who have the newest camera, the best lens and the most expensive filters, but they just haven't put any thought into their image and what story they would like to tell. Foregrounds can also create scale an/or a sense of depth in your image.

TIP 5: CARRY A TRIPOD  

Carrying a tripod can make a huge difference between just taking a snapshot or taking a visual appealing and interesting photograph. Tripods enable you to shoot long-exposures at night or at daytime, so that you can capture the movement of water or clouds. If you're on a tripod during sunset you don't have to bump up the ISO all the way to get sharp photos, you can just set up on your tripod and avoid all that ugly noise. If you want to take an image of the highest possible quality, then a tripod is absolutely essential. 

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Got ideas for Part 2? Leave me a comment down below!

Interview With a Photographer | Connor MacNeil

Where’s home?

I’m currently based between London, England and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

What is the favourite place you’ve travelled to?

This is always a very difficult question to answer. I like so many places for lots of different reasons. Recently I’ve been returning to Japan and always loving it. I’ve travelled from the south of Honshu up to the wintery north of Hokkaido, but still a lot more to see. I love the landscapes, the cityscapes, the culture, the people, almost everything about it!

I was also in Bhutan recently and it was spectacular. The people are the friendliest I’ve encountered, and the temples and fortresses are incredibly majestic.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I didn’t travel much in my younger life, so at the start of my 30s, I decided I wanted to see the world. Instead of trying to coordinate groups of friends, I thought it would be easier to travel solo. Feeling that I might have times where I’d be bored on my own, I bought a cheap DSLR and gave photography a go to document my travels, just for my own amusement. I ended up enjoying the picture-taking and photography changing from being a side-project to the main purpose of my travels. After a few years of doing it as a hobby, I managed to turn travel photography into a job.

What camera equipment / software / tech do you use? Any must haves?

I started off by shooting Canon. My first camera was a 500D, just to get me started. I then upgraded to a 5DII to reap the benefits of full frame. When I started to get more into landscapes and astrophotography, I changed to Nikon. I’m currently shooting with a couple of D810s. These are reasonably heavy, but most gear comes from decent glass and even if I went mirrorless, I’d want to use the same lenses, so I’m happy with my equipment choices now. It’s taken a few years to finally settle down with kit that I like and can stand the beatings I give it.

Here is my gear list:

  • Cameras: D810, another D810, backup D7000
  • Lenses: Nikkor 14-24mm, Nikkor 28-300, Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 85mm 1.8, Irix 15mm Blackstone (for astro), Sigma 150-500mm.
  • Tripod: Currently a “Brian” from 3 Legged Thing, but it’s gotten quite broken over the years, so I’m shopping around to find a tripod sponsor.
  • Filters: Fotodiox Wonderpana circular 10-stop ND and polariser, Formatt Hitech / Lucroit 10-Stop ND.
  • Bag: F-Stop Tilopa. I’ve had this for many, many years, so It’s very battered, but still holding up. I’m hoping that F-Stop Gear will read this interview and offer me a new one ;)
  • Memory Cards: SanDisk. I’ve used these since I started photography 7 years ago and had great reliability.

What photographers have influenced you, how you think and shoot?

I’ve never really been into super famous photographers, perhaps because I’ve never really studied photography as a art subject or gone to many photography galleries. When I started, my two biggest influences were Dave Morrow and Greg Annandale. They are two good friends of mine and really got me into photography. I’ve admired the landscape photographer David Thompson for a while now. Again, we’re friends and he’s a fantastic guy, but he also has a real passion for the art and a beautiful editing style.

When I started to branch out and do a bit more editorial style for clients, my friend Dan Rubin really helped in guiding me about how to shoot for these, as it’s such a different mindset compared to landscape. For nature, I’ll stay on one spot for 3 hours and take 20 photos of the same scene. For editorial, I end up trying to capture all the angles and aspects and think about what a client wants, not just what I think looks good.

Any top tips for Instagram?

I think social media can be a slippery slope for a lot of bona fide photographers. They end up spending more time worrying about likes and how to ‘game the system’ instead of improving their composition or editing styles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get likes online, but as long as you get them for posting work that you are happy with and have given your best to.

What are you trying to communicate through your photographs?

As the photography started as a off-shoot of travelling, all I really want to do is how people the world and inspire them to travel. If they’re unable to travel for whatever reasons. then I like to show them some amazing places they might not otherwise get to see. If my images make even just one person realise how beautiful the planet can be, then I’ve done my job.

What motivates you to continue doing what you’re doing?

It started as a hobby and developed into a passion. Maybe one day this passion will move onto something else, but right now, it’s still with photography. I have a plethora of countries and regions still to discover for myself, and even if I do all those, I have a back-catalogue of thousands of images to edit and release.

Are you a bathroom singer?

I’m more of a car singer. And by singer, I mean I shout a rough approximation of the lyrics as loud as I can.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring photographers?

Don’t try and force yourself. Don’t try and fit into a particular style that’s trending on social media at the moment. Shoot what you enjoy and edit in a way that excites you. All this will change over time as you hone your artistic arsenal, but you’ll end up with results that you love, and people can see that in your work.

What are your goals for the future, regarding your work?

At the minute, getting some work is my only goal, as it’s been a slow start to the year. Thankfully it’s coincided with the same time as I have a broken finger, so it could have been worse! Location-wise, Africa and South America are high on my list.

Top Insta Spots In The Philippines

These are our Top tips for Instagram snaps from our trip around The Philippines!

Manila

Our first stop was the capital city, Manila.  We were not there a very long time, just over 24 hours, but it was just enough time to get a little bit of a flavour from the city.  We enjoyed exploring the city during the day, in particular the Intramuros part of the city and the old buildings there.  However, our top Instagram spot from the city was heading to a rooftop in the Makati district for sunset.  The views over the city are stunning and offer lots of different options for sunset photos.  Happy sunset snapping chaps.

The Carmoan Peninsular

Next up on our trip was the beautiful Carmon peninsular.  It is not the most accessible place we have ever been to - but that merely adds to the experience.  We flew from Manila to Naga, then had a bus transfer and then a boat transfer and then another bus!  But it was worth getting there.  Unfortunately we did not get the best weather when we were at Gotta Village (where the TV show survivor is filmed) but our top recommendation would be kayaking around the white sand beaches or island hoping and getting the drone up.  There is so much potential here for stunning imagery, we hope to return some day and get luckier with the weather.

Cebu & Oslob

Easily accessible, Cebu is a bit of a hub in central Philippines for flights connecting people to other smaller islands in The Philippines.  Our main highlights were the waterfalls, particularly Tumalog Falls and Kawasan Falls.  Tumalog is impressively tall but can get quite busy, so for photography we would suggest getting there as early as possible.  A suggestion for Kawasan falls would be to try the canyoneering that is on offer there too.  We went with a guide and he was happy to carry our 1Dx Mark ii up with us in a waterproof bag, which meant we could take snaps along the way too.  The scenery at canyoneering is almost as stunning as the final waterfall and is not too busy considering.

Bohol

Head to The Chocolate Hills!  For photos and drone shots try be there for sunset or sunrise, obviously, as the light is softer and it is not as busy.  But during the day it is equally fun hiring a couple of ATVs and exploring from a different, faster perspective.

Siargao

The surf hotspot in The Philippines was well worth a visit and we found it one of the best places for drone photography from our trip.  The surf at Cloud 9 is very consistent and is perfectly lit at sunrise.  Moreover the fields of palm trees by the coast also offer some interesting compositions with the drone.  If you have time, we would also suggest heading to the south of the island for some stunning blue waters, lagoons and islands off the coastline.

Camiguin

The White Island on Camiguin is a relatively undiscovered slice of paradise that is easily accessible for the day and surrounded by some of the bluest and warmest water we have ever experienced.  This would be our top snapping spot, enjoy.

Have any questions? Or want to leave some feedback? Drop a comment below ↓

How To Set Your ISO

Especially when new to photography the ISO is the one thing that is really confusing everyone. I remember when I started with photography a few years back, I always struggled to set the ISO correctly and often ended up with pictures that were grainy and not very pleasant to look at. 

In this blog I will give you a short inside on how to set your ISO and what questions you should ask yourself in the process of doing so, 

WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE ISO?

Theoretically the ISO is the best parameter of the so called exposure triangle. which also includes Aperture and Shutter Speed.

Back in the days ISO, which states 'Organisation for Standardisation', was used in film and was an indicator on how light sensitive a film was. Nowadays the ISO is used as a way to determine the light sensitivity of the camera's digital sensor. In most cameras the ISO starts with 100, in some cases also at 50, and extends up to 250.000, depending on the camera. It can be said, that the lower the number, than the less sensitive is your camera to light. This also applies conversely, the higher the ISO number, the more light sensitive the sensor. 

WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ISO

ISO can be extremely useful in all kinds of different situation, especially when there is a lack of  light or in cases where you can't use your flash for the shot, you can just increase the ISO and you'll get the shot you wanted. 

As stated above, theoretically the ISO is the best parameter of the three, as you could always get the exposure you wanted without having to worry about blurred images while i.e. taking a shot handheld, but there is one huge downside. Using high ISO creates noise. Just check out the picture below. 

Comparison .jpg

Looking at the picture, you will quickly find, that the right side doesn't look any good. Generally we can say, that you should always aim to set your ISO as low as possible, unless you want your images to look moody and grainy of course. 

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD YOU ASK YOURSELF BEFORE SETTING THE ISO?

(Content Inspired by Darren Rowse)

There is many question you can ask yourself before setting the ISO of your camera. Down below are some of these, which I am always asking myself before taking a shot. 

  • IS MY OBJECT STILL OR IS IT MOVING?

The fact that an object or a person is is still or moving can make a huge impact on how you set up your ISO. Especially if it is still and you are shooting on a tripod, you can lower your ISO down all the way and rather decrease your shutter speed instead. 

  • SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD OR DEEP DEPTH OF FIELD?

Do you want to have the whole image in focus and sharp or do you want out of focus areas/seperate foreground and background. Especially if you don't need a sharp and in focus image through out, you could really consider lowering your f-stop instead. 

  • CAN I USE A LIGHT SOURCE?

You should always ask yourself, if you can use a light source to light your scene in order to reduce the ISO. When indoors, you could for example just turn on the light or when shooting outside you could take flashlight (I always carry around 3 flashlights for my night-photography)

  • DO YOU WANT TO PRINT YOUR IMAGES BIG? 

If you wish to print your images large, then a noisy image is no good. If your only shooting for instagram or facebook, your images will only be displayed very small and you will most likely even get away with a very noise image. 

  • AM I SHOOTING HANDHELD? 

Last but not least, the most important question you will have to ask yourself! If you are shooing handheld in a bad light situation, there is almost no way around using a high ISO. On the other side, when shooting on a tripod you can happily drop the ISO down all the way. 

HOW POST PROCESSING CAN HELP YOU OUT? 

These days, there is a lot of great software around and almost every photo editing program has the ability to identify and remove noise. 

To showcase this, I have used the same picture as above and just imported it into Lightroom and pushed the Noise Reduction to 100%. Check it out below. Click to enlargefor better detail!!

As you can see, Lightroom did a great job at making the picture a little more pleasant to look at. Even though image quality decreased a little, I personally think this image looks way better now and I wouldn't hesitate a second to post this on my instagram. 

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave me a comment down below!

Interview with a Photographer | James Suter

Where’s home? 

Cape Town, South Africa

 What is the favourite place you’ve travelled to? 

Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique is close to my heart. It is like nowhere I have been before but with that said - there are many places that are high on my list - like Kruger National Park where I lived for 5 years.

How did you get started as a photographer? 

I was a game ranger / field guide working on a private concession for Singita in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. I wanted to document the incredibly wildlife I was seeing on a daily basis. The encounters, the interactions, all the moments that I was sharing with my guests. So I got a camera and did a short online course and just began documenting my journey as a guide.

What camera equipment / software / tech do you use?  Any must haves?

Mainly use Canon products, I also make use of a sony A7S 11.

What photographers have influenced you, how you think and shoot? 

I am a fan of many of the National Geographic photographers like Ami Vitale. I also am inspired by the work of Brent Stirton and David Chancellor. Steve McCurry and Paul Nicklen are incredible photographers whose work has had an impact on me. 

Any top tips for Instagram? 

If I am completely honest although I am a Photographer - I have never seen myself as this first and foremost. I am first a Guide and someone that has a passion for wildlife and conservation - this is what drives me and the photography comes in as a way to share this, to document what I experience and to educate people around the world about the plight of wildlife in Africa and to get people excited about our incredible natural world. I feel like this passion of mine has come through on my social platforms and I have been fortunate to travel to some amazing destinations which helps in terms of creating content. So my ‘top tips’ would be to share and post photographs that mirror your passion and that have meaning to you because this will come through and people will be drawn to it. Also engage - I feel this is important too - to engage with others and connect with the Instagram community especially in your field - so for me this would be wildlife, conservation, nature related accounts. Another tip would be of course sharing only your best photographs - don’t post for the sake of posting if that makes sense.

What are you trying to communicate through your photographs? 

I am trying to share my passion for wildlife and conservation, hoping that through these photographs I will inspire others to get involved in the conversation, to help where they can. I also want to educate people around the world on important issues that relate to endangered species and conservation. I run a company, @blackbeanproductions that through film - documents conservation stories around the continent.

What motivates you to continue doing what you’re doing? 

My love for Africa, the people, the wildlife and wilderness areas. The people I meet on the ground also motivate me - those that are working with communities in Africa, are part of communities and those that are doing amazing work protecting wild places and wild animals.

Are you a bathroom singer? 

Not so much a singer and these days limit the length of my showers due to the water crisis in Cape Town - so not really time to get creative.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring photographers? 

Take photographs of those things in life that are important to you - your passion will shine through your photographs. Whether its something small or something big - photograph what you love rather than what you think people expect or want to see

What are your goals for the future, regarding your work? 

To continue  sharing untold stories from Africa and photographing the journey as I go… I would also like to do a long roadtrip with my family and new son Tom - and really immerse myself in this for a few months maybe a year - who knows!:)

How To Capture Sunbursts!

I am back with a quick tutorial on how to capture stunning sunbursts, as seen in the picture below. 

IMG_0119.jpg

0.3 seconds f/22 ISO100

Having a sunburst feature in an image is a really cool thing to add. In my opinion it can really make a picture stand out and make it far more interesting than it actually is. And really, it is very simple and doesn't require much skill. 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR PHOTOGRAPHING A SUNBURST: 

IMG_2634.jpg

1/50th second f/16 ISO1250

- A DSRL or mirrorless camera, where you have the ability to set manual settings

- A sunny day, the less clouds the better the results will be 

- (optional) A tripod that keeps your camera steady during longer exposures.  

Not much, right, all you need is a camera where you can set aperture, shutter speed and ISO manually and some sun. 

IMG_2399.jpg

1/50th second f/16 ISO1250. Same settings as the image above. In this case there is clouds though and the sun is not as blocked off, resulting in a brighter and less sharp sunburst

HOW TO SET UP YOUR CAMERA

IMG_9850.jpg

1/125th second f/22 ISO100

The first thing you need to set up is the Aperture, as this is the component which will regulate how apparent the sunburst is going to be. For a solid sunburst you will need to set your aperture as small as possible. I would consider starting at something like f/16 and even work your way up to f/22 at times. Everything below f/16 will result in a less visible sunstar.  ISO and Shutter speed will be set accordingly to the scene you are shooting at, but bear in mind that you can't change your aperture. 

IN THE FIELD

Straight into the sun, but a very noisy Foreground. 1/2000th second f/22 ISO100

The easiest way to shoot a sunburst is to partially block the sun with an object. This could be a tree, a rock or even a mountain. Shooting straight into the sun is possible, but usually you would have to reduce your shutter speed that much, that the foreground will be pitch black and almost non recoverable in post-processing. To the right (computer)/ above (mobile) you can see an example of a straight into the sun shot!

CAUTION

Looking straight into the sun can be very harmful to your eyes. People often think that the sun would be less hard on your eyes when looking through the viewfinder of the camera, but that is terribly wrong. Just keep that in mind!

IMG_8765.jpg

1/160th f/16 ISO200

Apart from that, capturing sunbursts is really easy. So go out and have some fun adding this cool feature to your images!

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Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave me a comment down below!