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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!

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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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Tips on Instagram's Algorithm Changes

Here is something a little bit different from me today. Usually I am the guy, who writes blogs about photography. This time I'm going to change it up a bit.

Instagram have changed their algorithm again. I am writing this blog, because I think this is the biggest change to Instagram since they have removed chronological feeds in 2016. The new algorithm was introduced at the beginning of this year and a lot of people would've noticed that by significantly dropping engagement over the last month or so.

As a content creators it is important to stay ahead of the algorithm, so that we can make the best choices when it comes to posting photos and engaging with our followers. The blog is going to specifically outline what changed and how you can beat these new features.

10 percent

Ever since Instagram changed the chronological feed order, their mission was to show relevant content first. With the new updates Instagram wants to support this action. So from now on, only 1/10 of your following might potentially see your post. If your post does really well right from the beginning, Instagram will release the post to the other 9/10 of your following. So, if your post only has very little engagement right on from the start, it might only be seen by 10% of your followers.

Comment Pods 

A lot of people on Instagram have been using comment pods to increase their engagement. With the new algorithm they have been punishing people using these pods. They are a lot of reports of people being shadowbanned by Instagram. So try to avoid these comment pods. 

Shadowban, also called Ghosting, is the act of blocking a user or their content from an online community such that the user does not realise that they have been banned.

Respond to comments 

Another interesting feature is, that Instagram is limiting or restricting your potential reach if you aren't replying quick enough to comments on your photos. The time frame to reply, set by Instagram, is 60 minutes.

The more engagement, the more clicks/views on your image.

Comments with less than 3 words

In an attempt to reduce the impact of botting on engagement on Instagram, comments with less than three words will no longer count as active engagement on your post. So, if you're only getting comments with less than three words, there is a big chance that your post will only be seen by 10% of your audience after all.

Hashtags 

30 hashtags: Using 30 hashtags is now considered as being spammy and there is quite a few reports of people getting shadowbanned because they were using all 30 hashtags. It is now recommended to only post around 5-10 hashtags, which are really fitting to your image. It is reported, that this results in much higher engagement, as well.

Never post the same: A lot of people always use the same hashtags on every post. Don't do that. This is also considered as being spammy now and will result in you getting shadowbanned by Instagram.

Hashtags in comments: Always post your hashtags in the description now. Hashtags posted into the comments aren't recognised by Instagram anymore. 

Don't edit your post

People have now found out, that if you edit your description or if you try to tweak your hashtags, Instagram is going to drop the posts visibility. So the best thing you can do, is to post your photo with hashtags and everything included and if you mess up the best thing is to delete and repost it right away.

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These are the most important changes, that can really affect your engagement. Before writing this blog, I have tried to avoid some of the action I had previously taken and the engagement has really increased again. With these changes Instagram is really planning on turning the game around. We already saw this last year, when most botting services, such as Instagress were shut down by Instagram. They are really aiming to get rid of spamming to build a highly active community with real users. 

The above stated is based on what I was able to gather during informing myself about the new algorithm. If you look closely at your account or at the ones of others, you will quickly notice, that most of these changes are obvious and easy to be identified. That being said, Instagram obviously hasn't put out a offical statement about these changes and only they know what really changed.

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How to Find Your Composition

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Finding your composition can be mind boggling. But I can tell you now, that a well thought through composition is what will eventually make you stand out from the rest. Composition is what creates interests and meaning. Composition makes you tell a story with the image you have captured. I know a lot of photographers who have the best camera on the market, the most expensive lens and almost every filter there is, but all this gear doesn't make you take a great photograph. I would take it even so far, that you could take better and more meaningful photos with a cell phone, than some of the photographers with thousands of dollars worth of gear do. 

I, by any means, am not the best photographer there is. I for myself are still learning about photography everyday, but I really want to let you all know the things I think are most important in finding a composition that can make your photography stand out amongst others. 

First I would like to start with some basic compositional rules, and later on I will mention some of the rules which are rarely talked about. All the rules will be discussed with landscape photography, but most of these also work on other photography styles such as portrait, architecture etc. 

1) RULE OF THIRDS

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Notice how the church and the horizon are both aligned within the rule of thirds. 

The Rule of thirds is the most basic rule there is. It is here for you to frame up along the lines and fill the frame. Using this rule will create a balanced image. Balanced means that neither of the right or left, nor the upper or lower part of the image will be filled with too much meaning making the viewer forget about the other parts of the image. You can set the lines in your camera but also on your smartphone to help you frame up your next photos

2) LEADING LINES

In my opinion a nice leading line is one of the most essential rule there is in landscape photography. Using rivers, roads, mountains and valleys can create a perfect line towards the main part of the image (in some case the leading line is the main part of the image). Leading lines will make the viewer follow along most of the image. They can really make the image interesting. 

3) SYMMETRY

Symmetry has always played a huge factor in my photography. I love it when everything is balanced. Symmetry is also very eye-catching.

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Symmetry of the pier, also a leading line in this case!

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Reflections can create the symmetric effect 

4) PATTERNS AND TEXTURES

Patterns and textures are not only very pleasing for the eye, they will also fix the viewers to the image. Humans are know to have certain need of figuring out whats happening once they see things (patterns, textures but also objects) twice or even more often. 

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Crack Patterns 

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Sand Ripples

5) MINIMALISM

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Very minimalistic photograph. Still very pleasing and interesting to look at. 

Minimalism can really turn a quite boring frame into an interesting and captivating photograph. I have found minimalism to get really really good responses from the viewers. I will definitely try to incorporate this technique a lot more into my photography. 

6) FOREGROUND INTEREST

Foreground interest can be vital to tell a story. This technique works best with wide angle photography. Foregrounds also incorporate a sense of depth into your photography.

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A leaf as a point of interest in the foreground 

7) CHANGE THE ANGLE

I love to change the angle. Get down as low as possible or as high as possible. Especially since drones have entered the world of photography this technique has gained a whole lot more attention. 

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High up in the air 

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Down very low (sometimes you just got to get wet for the shot) 

8) CREATE CONTRAST

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You instantly know where to look at.

You are probably thinking why I listed contrast here, but contrast can really isolate objects and make them stand out. With contrast you can clearly define your point of interest and support the story you are telling. 

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The point with the most contrast is the top of the glacier. You will always look at that area first. 

9) CONTENT AWARENESS / CROPPING / CLONING

Be mindful about your composition. Especially in landscape photography it is important to leave out things which might be distracting to the viewer. In case you can't remove the distracting object on scene by zooming or moving the camera you can also crop or clone in post-processing. 

I found the tree in the background to be distracting my minimalistic composition....

... so I removed it. 

10) DEPTH

Depth can really create a cool composition. Two forms of depth can be integrated into your composition. A shallow depth of field, as seen in the picture with the ice block in the foreground or a deep depth, where everything is sharp and in focus (picture with the crack).

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Deep depth of Field

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Shallow depth of Field

11) COMBINE MULTIPLE TECHNIQUES.

Of course you can combine multiple techniques, but beware that you don't overload your image with content and meaning and confuse the viewer. 

EXAMPLE: Leading line and Contrast 

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The contrast between the clouds, sky and mountain and the road will ultimately lead you towards the fjord.

Final thoughts: Obviously all these techniques aren't for every location you shoot. Sometimes they work really well and in some scenes they just don't. If you think a composition looks way better than what the rules stated, you might as well just shoot it like that. Always consider all your options! Taking a risk and experimenting can sometimes really be worthwhile. 

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How To Capture Lightning Strikes

A quick tutorial on how to capture lightning strikes

I have been asked multiple times in the last few weeks how I manage to capture lightning and if I could provide some useful tips. That's why I decided to add a blog, where I will from now on release tutorials and useful tips about capturing, editing or even designing content!

A lot of people always tell me how hard they think it is to capture lightning, as you never know when a lightning strikes. I often hear comments like "Wow, you have timed thats shot perfectly" or "You've got so much luck when it comes to capturing lightning strikes". But I'm telling you now, after this tutorial, you will look differently at the matter. When you know what you are doing and how to set up your camera, the task of capturing the electric surges will be as easy as anything! 

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(1) Storm over the Baltic Sea, 25 sec f/9 ISO400

What you need to photograph lightning

- A camera, preferably a DSLR or mirrorless camera where you can set manual exposures 

- A tripod, to keep your camera steady and shake-free during long exposures, especially since it might get really windy in a storm

- A remote trigger, if your camera doesn't have a built in one. This is useful if you don't want to press the shutter every time or want to seek shelter in the car/house. The remote tigger is optional.

- You will need a storm with some decent lightning!

As you can see, you won't need too much equipment for shooting lightning. Maybe some of you reading this might wonder, why I didn't include any lightning sensitive devices, such as lightning triggers (they automatically release your shutter when there is a lightning strike). That's because, especially for beginners, they will be way too complicated and not really necessary in my eyes. If you aim to shoot pictures at daytime you might need to look into them, as you can't really expose the sky for very long. Since I don't really like to shoot lightning storms at daytime, as the pictures will look flat and boring in most times and rather shoot at night, they really won't be of any need! 

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(2) Storm over the Baltic Sea, 20sec f/10 ISO400

GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR LIGHTNING PHOTOGRAPHY

You will usually begin by setting up your gear. You will have to make sure that your tripod is stable. In case there is strong winds from the thunderstorm, you really don't want your tripod to tip over and your camera to break. You should also be fairly distant to the thunderstorm, I usually recommend to set up your gear when the storm is about 15-20 km away from your position. (Thunderstorms are dangerous and lightning can strike as far as 10km away from the storm itself!

After you have set up your gear, you will have to change the settings of the camera accordingly to the thunderstorm. This can be tricky if it is your first time shooting a thunderstorm, or if you have never really used long exposures. I will now give an insighton how you should set your shutter speed, aperture and ISO in different situations.

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(3) A storm over Melbourne, There was lightning strike about every 2 minutes. 30 sec f/11 ISO 500

SHUTTER SPEED (EXPOSURE TIME)

It is actually a really easy task to determine how to set your shutter speed. It all depends on how much lightning the thunderstorm produces. If the lightning rate is very high and there is constant lightning, I wouldn't set the shutter speed very high. If lightning flashes multiple times during one exposure you will start to get unsharp structures and ghosting. If you look back at Image (2) above you can see that some clouds appear twice in the image. That's something you don't really want, as it somehow looks fake and unrealistic. So if you are facing a storm with a high frequency of lightning, keep your shutter speed lower. If the lightning isn't very frequent or even rare, you can easily expose your photo to 30 seconds or higher!

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(4) Storm in Germany, 30 sec f/9 ISO 400. The settings for this image weren't perfect! FIND OUT what went wrong below.

APERTURE

The way you should set up your aperture very much depends on how bright your lightning strike is. Basically, the closer the bolt strikes, the lighter it will be. So for close lightning strikes you will have to choose a high f- stop number/small aperture. I would usually recommend to have it set somewhere between f/8-f/16.  If the storm is far away (usually more than 20km) you can slowly increase your aperture.I have personally shot storms on an aperture up to f/1.4, but the storm was also more than 60km away.  So if you look back at picture (4), what do you think was wrong with the settings? Yes, you are right, my aperture was too high. It should have been around f/14 or smaller! 

If you shoot at small apertures, you will often get a lot of dark frames in between, but I'm telling you that's perfectly fine, because when the big bolt strikes, your whole picture will be illuminated. If you didn't change your settings, because you thought everything is underexposed, the lightning won't be blown out like it is in my picture. 

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(5) Storm in northern Germany. 30 seconds f/4 ISO 200

ISO

Last but not least we will have to talk about the ISO. As you probably know, ISO represents the light sensitivity of the sensor of the camera. I usually try to keep my ISO low, especially when the lightning strikes are close, as they will illuminate the surrounding landscape. Similar to the aperture, with a high ISO you tend to overexpose lightning eventually. If you've got thunderstorms far away, you can increase your ISO accordingly, which will get you some nice detail of the landscape. But be aware how your camera handles noise and check your ISO limits beforehand!

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(6) Lightning storm in Queensland. The storm was about 50km south of my position. 30 sec f/4 ISO3200

FOCUSING 

Especially when shooting at night, focusing can be tough! Here is how I handle focusing during night time.

- Find a bright object along the horizon, it could be a lantern or a distant house. 

- Put your camera into manual focusing. 

- Open Live-View on your camera and use digital zoom. 

Focus on the object till it looks sharp 

If your camera doesn't support Live-View, here is another option. It is called Infinity Focusing. Go and have a look at your lens now. Almost all lenses have an infinity mark on their focus ring [Pictures (7) and (8)]. Just set the camera to infinity. With some lenses the infinity mark is not absolutely correct (i.e. Samyang/Rokinon lenses). What I suggest is to take a shot, see if you are happy with the sharpness, and if not, slightly adjust the focus ring and check again. If you found the sweet spot, I would use a little bit of tape to mark the spot, that you find it easier for the next time. You can also do this at daylight of course, so that you don't have to worry about this at night. 

(7) Infinity mark on a Samyang lens 

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(8) Infinity mark on a Canon lens 

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PATIENCE

You will definitely need to be patient. It can take a while to get a shot. If you are not a patient person, then lightning photography probably isn't a thing for you. For example, Picture (1) was probably one of the hardest for me. The storm I was looking at only had a lightning rate of around 1 strike every 15min. Most of the lightning strikes were in the clouds. I waited around 1 1/2 h for this lightning strike to happen. Of 900 photos taken that night, this was the only one with a bolt. But I tell you, being patient can be so rewarding in the end!

Sometimes though, you will also come back empty handed! Don't be discouraged by that, there will always be another chance!

SAFETY 

As already stated, lightning is very dangerous and a lot of people die every year. DON'T risk your life for a photo! I am talking from personal experiences. I have already almost been killed by lightning twice. Once in Germany and once in Australia, where lightning has struck closer than 50m to me. One time even closer than 20m. When I was younger and inexperienced I was really reckless in terms of thunderstorms. Nowadays I am very careful and all I'm telling you is to have the same attitude! So use common sense and stay close to a shelter, like a car etc. 

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Close lightning strike in Germany. 20 sec f/13 ISO500

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Lightning photography is fun. I often see myself jumping and screaming when I managed to capture a lightning strike, but sometimes it can also be extremely frustrating when come home empty handed. Over all, you don't have to be that lucky to capture a shot, especially at night when you use long exposure, you're almost ganrantueed a lightning strike during an active thunderstorm. The rumor that you have to be quick really only applies to daytime shots. With what you have learned in the tutorial, you should be able get some fantastic shots.  

 SO HAVE FUN, GET SOME AWESOME SHOTS, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY BE SAFE!

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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 Capture The Milky Way.

A Quick Tutorial on How to Capture The Milky Way 

I get asked how I capture my Milky way photographs almost every day, so I decided to add a little tutorial to my website about this matter. In this tutorial, I will outline how to shoot the Milky way, this will include settings of the camera, how to find the Milky way and then talk about limits of shutter speed and ISO you should keep in mind. 

For me Astrophotography, particularly wide angle astrophotography is one of my favourite aspects of landscape photography. It has such calming aspect to it and I will happily stay up all night for it. Milkyway photography is challenging, especially when you have the know-how of how to capture it, that alone doesn't make up for a good photo. The real challenge for me comes in, when I am trying to find a location that firstly, is dark enough and secondly makes up for a composition that is interesting enough to keep the viewer entertained. Nowadays a lot of people photograph the nightsky, but a lot of these images seem boring. 

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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 long exposures.  

- A lens that has a high aperture of at least f/4, better would be f/2.8 or even f/1.4

 - For beginners, I would suggest a lens with 35mm or wider on Full frame, On APS-C (cropped  sensor cameras) 20mm or wider

CAMERA

Photographing the night sky is definitely not one of the hardest tasks, but is also a section of landscape photography where the equipment can make all the difference! Over the last few years the sensor technology has continued to improve and native ISO limits are increasing year by year. Generally it has to be said though, that Full Frame Cameras have an advantage compared to APS-C cameras, as the they have the ability to let in more light due to larger pixels. 

My very first attempt at capturing the Milkyway! 25sec f/4 ISO4000 24mm Full Frame

My very first attempt at capturing the Milkyway! 25sec f/4 ISO4000 24mm Full Frame

LENS

Over all can be said, that the smaller the focal length and the wider aperture is, the better your images will turn out. As mentioned above, I recommend a wide aperture of at least f/4, everything smaller will be hard. (In my beginner years I tired to shoot at f/5.6, and it was a pain). If you don't have anything wider than that you can give it a try, you will definitely see the Milkyway in your photos, but you won't have to many options in post processing without creating too much noise.  If you're looking at purchasing a new lens soon, also in regards of astrophotography.

Planning

Planning is an essential part when it comes to shooting the Milky way. There are many things to consider!

Moon: You will definitely need to check the moon phases. You either want to be shooting when the moon is not up or even better when it is new moon.

Weather: The weather plays a big part. If it is cloudy, no Milky way will be visible, so make sure to check forecasts beforehand!

Twilight: You definitely want to be shooting in complete darkness. Most photographers are familiar with the phrases “golden hour” and “blue hour”. You can shoot the Milky way during blue hour, but usually you get more stars and better results when you shoot during astronomical twilight or complete nighttime.

Seasons: It might sound funny, but there are actually different seasons. There is better and worse times to photograph the Milky way.. For example, in Europe, summer is the better time with the Milky way’s galactic core being much higher in the sky than in winter.

To help with the planning there is some very useful apps for iPhone and Android that can help you with finding out the moon phase, finding where the Milky way is located.

Shooting the Milky way

While shooting the Milky way, there is a few things to take into account! I will know explain how you should set up your camera in aspect of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.

APERTURE

Your aperture should be as wide open as possible. Some prime lenses with i.e. f/1.4 are often sharper and have less coma when stopped down a bit! Usually, as already stated, I wouldn't go anything smaller than f/4.

ISO

Usually I would recommend setting the ISO between 3200 and 6400. Usually you always try to use ISO's as low as possible, but Milkyway photography is different. If you were to use low ISO, you wouldn't be able to capture much detail of the dust fields of the Milkyway! I always recommend to try out different ISO settings and see what works best for your location. 

SHUTTER SPEED

Shutter Speed is definitely the most difficult setting, as your exposure time changes with different focal lengths! I.e you can expose on 20mm full frame for about 30 seconds, if you were to expose the same time on 35mm you will start to see star trailing as the earth rotates. When shooting the Milky way you always want nice sharp stars! Another thing that has to be considered is that full frame and cropped sensor have different exposure times, as 20mm on full frame won't be the equivalent on APS-C . A good rule to find out how long you can expose your shot for, is to divide 500 by your focal length, if you're using full frame. If you are using an APS-C camera you will have to dived the 500 on top of the focal length by the crop factor.

Examples: 

· 500 ÷ 14mm on a full frame sensor = 35 seconds

· 500 ÷ 24mm = 20 seconds

· 500 ÷ 18mm ÷ 1.6 for a Canon crop sensor = 17 seconds

· 500 ÷ 50mm ÷ 2 for a mirrorless sensor = 5 seconds

I often subtract another 3-5 seconds from these calculations to ensure sharp stars when shooting along the horizon, especially when printing large like 85cm x 60cm from a high-resolution sensor. For time-lapses and star trails a small amount of streaking won’t matter.

FOCUSING

Especially when shooting at night, focusing can be tough! Here is how I handle focusing during night time.

- Find a bright star, position it in the corner of the frame, as they tend to be a little less sharper

- Put your camera into manual focusing. 

- Open Live-View on your camera and use digital zoom. 

Focus on the star till it looks sharp

NOW GO OUT THERE AND SHOOT THE MILKYWAY, A LOT OF FUN IS GANRANTUEED!!

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