4 Not-so-Secret Tricks to Speed up Your Lightroom Workflow

Lightroom_iconDo you want to speed up your Lightroom workflow? You’re not alone – I get countless requests from people to help them optimize their photo processing workflow. However, because it is so commonly asked, it is also frequently answered and this makes it difficult to add a fresh spin on a topic that hasn’t changed much over the years.

One of the great things about dPS is the diverse nature of its writers and how we each have our own point of view, own skill set, and own way of explaining a topic. This post won’t be a groundbreaking reveal of some hidden secrets that I just uncovered in Lightroom yesterday, but rather an explanation of some commonly overlooked and ignored features of Lightroom that you’ll want to learn in order to speed up your workflow.

Speed up your Lightroom workflow

#1 – Auto Advance rating option

This is something that I would have preferred Adobe set to “ON” as default and then give you the option to turn it off if you choose. How many of you rate your photos by selecting a rating, and then pressing the arrow right key to advance to the next photo?

Do that no longer! Simply turn on Auto Advance either by selecting it from the drop down menu under ‘Photo’ or simple turn on CAPS LOCK. Once activated Lightroom will advance you to the next photo in the queue after every successful rating. It’s amazing how fast you can get through a fresh import with this option turned on.

Lightroom workflow use auto advance

#2 – Start with a YES or NO rating system

I like to think of this as keeping it simple. There are so many different rating options (from flags, to stars, to colors) and while each one serves a purpose, I think it’s best to keep it simple the first time you import a new set of photos. Remember tip #1 above and active Auto Advance, and then use the keys ‘P’ or ‘X’ to rate your photos. ‘P’ tells Lightroom that you want to keep that photo and it is flagged as a “Pick”. ‘X’ tells Lightroom that you want to reject that photo, and it is marked as such. Once you’ve made it all the way through your import, press Command + Delete (control on PC). This will remove all of your rejected photos, never to be seen again. (choose “delete from disk” to not only remove from your LR catalog but delete from your hard drive)

I find that this will help to keep your Library cleaner, and easier to manage. It will also allow you to remove a lot of the ‘maybe-I’ll-use-this-photo-sometime’ photos which in most cases just end up wasting your time.


#3 – Learn and use the magic keyboard shortcuts

I’ve already mentioned a couple of the keyboard shortcuts above, but the master list is only a shortcut away. Press Command / (Control / on PC)  in any panel of Lightroom and the index of everything possible within that window is displayed. It’s one thing to learn the keys, and it’s another to work them into your workflow (I’m still slowly learning to do this myself), but once you get it down you will be flying through the panels without even thinking about it.


Press: Cmd / (Control / on PC) to get this to pop up

#4 – Use Solo Mode on the side panels

Another Lightroom setting that I personally feel should have been set as a default option is the Solo Mode option for the various tool panels of Lightroom. This option allows you to automatically minimize a panel when you open another one. For example, if you’re working in the Basic Tab of the Develop Module and want to switch to work on sharpening your photo, clicking on the Detail Tab, Lightroom will automatically close the Basic Tab for you. I find that this keeps the interface a lot cleaner and easier to navigate, especially for someone who’s just starting to get their feet wet with the program (or using a small screen or laptop)

To turn it on simply right click on any of the sidebar panel names (not the triangle) and select ‘Solo Mode’ from the menu that appears. Once activated you’ll probably never go back.


How do you speed up your Lightroom workflow?

These four tips will certainly help you become faster at working through your photos, but there are countless other ways to speed up the way you work. If you are well experienced with Lightroom, what else can you think of to add to this list?

For more Lightroom reading check out these articles:

The post 4 Not-so-Secret Tricks to Speed up Your Lightroom Workflow by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

[post syndicated from Digital Photography School]

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Home studio setup: 6 things every photographer needs

A home studio setup doesn’t have to be overly complicated. In this cheat sheet we’ll show you six essential items every photographer should have in their home studio setup.

There’s a lot of complicated sounding equipment that comes with studio photography, but don’t get too bogged down with this. Our basic home studio set-up below shows you the essential items that you’ll actually need.

When you’re working with two lights a reflector is still surprisingly useful as it’ll effectively act as a third light. It can be used to bounce one of the existing lights back at the subject. If you’re working outside with natural light a reflector is extremely handy.

Reflectors come in many shapes and sizes, and different colours and surfaces will have different effects on a subject. Just like the studio lights the height, angle and distance at which a reflector is positioned will all have an impact on the end result.

SEE MORE: Studio lighting – 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home

The ideal home studio setup

Home studio setup: 6 things every photographer needs

Click on the cheat sheet to see the larger version, or drag and drop to your desktop to download.

01 Backdrop
Most backdrops come in the form of a roll of paper. They’re available in a variety of sizes and colours. You’ll need support stands and a pole to keep the backdrop in place. If you don’t have one, try a large sheet or piece of fabric. Black velvet is a great choice, it has light-absorbing qualities and gives a nice rich black.

02 Main light
Use this with a diffuser, like a softbox. A softbox softens the light so the shadows are less harsh, and gives window-shaped catchlights in the eyes. The angle, height and distance of the main light are vital to getting the look you want. The power of the flash is controlled using buttons on the flash head.

03 Camera
You’ll need to connect your camera to the studio lights. This can be done through a sync cable (if your SLR has a PC socket) or with wireless triggers. In a controlled environment like a studio you’re best off switching to Manual mode.

04 Hair light
The second light is positioned behind the model with a snoot attached. The snoot concentrates the light, and here we’ve got it pointing at the hair. Not only ?does this light the hair, it creates a separation from the background.

05 Reflector
A reflector is used to bounce light back from the main light into the shaded side of the subject’s face. This ensures the shadow is still there to define the shape of the face but isn’t too dark. See the opposite page for more on reflectors.

06 Model
If you don’t have a friend or family member you want to photograph you can often find willing models ?via networking websites such as ?Model Mayhem and ?Purple Port.

SEE MORE: How to pose for photos – find the most flattering angles for you and your subjects

New models are keen to build their portfolios and increase their experience and so you can usually come to mutually agreeable arrangements – for a small fee or trading their time in exchange for use of your photos.


Master your home photo studio: setup, settings, accessories explained
Best studio flash kits: 6 top models tested and rated
How to set up studio lighting: 3 classic setups for dramatically different effects
6 simple lighting setups for shooting portraits at home: free photography cheat sheet

[syndicated from Digital Camera World]

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Types of Vignetting in Photography

Vignetting is a decrease in brightness of a photograph around its edges which are furthest from the centre of your photograph — Not only is the brightness of the photograph comprised in this darkened region but vignetting can have a negative effect on the accurate saturation of your timeless artistic work as well.

vignetting photography

“Journey” captured by Edson Reece (Click Image to See More From Edson Reece)

Interestingly the term vignetting is commonly used by book publishers when describing a decorative design placed at the border of a book page, to emphasize the beginning of a chapter for example. But in photography, Vignetting does not usually have positive connotations associated to it, unless it is your specific endeavour to use this darkened outcome as a special or unusual effect around the edge of a particularly creative composition.

There are four ways in which vignetting can occur and to understand all of them, correctly, is complicated. A synopsis, of the types of vignetting that you are likely to experience at some stage of your photography career, follows.

The first type of vignetting can be purposefully achieved, using post processing tools, in a broad range of image manipulation software offerings such as Photoshop or CorelDraw. Of course the post processing vignetting result is chosen by the photographer, and definitely adds some degree of creativity to photographs, in particular to portrait photographs, but can make photographs look somewhat old fashioned. If this is not your intention steer well clear of these vignetting tools.

purposeful vignette

“when we’re free…” captured by Shery Han (Click Image to See More From Shery Han)

The second type of vignetting is natural vignetting, which occurs as a result of the angle at which the light coming into your camera, through the lens, impinges on your image sensor. This form of vignetting is particularly evident in low-end compact digital cameras. It should be known that some of the software which drives these cameras is coded in such a way as to reduce the effects of light falling off at the peripherals of your photograph. Zoom lenses which are above a certain focal length are far less prone to natural vignetting, but wide angle lenses suffer allot from accentuated vignetting.

natural vignette

“evening light shower” captured by Aiman (Click Image to See More From Aiman)

The third type of vignetting occurs when there is a physical obstruction between the light rays trying to enter your camera and these bundles of light eventually striking your image sensor. This is most often caused through incorrect lens hoods, a cocktail of lens filters stacking up higher than a burger from Burger King, or some kinds of secondary lens such as extension tubes. In this case, it stands to reason that the smaller the aperture setting on the camera, the worse this mechanical vignetting will become. Stepping the aperture down will help to rid your photos of this very undesirable effect.

obstruction vignette

“stand up and face the sunlight” captured by Aiman (Click Image to See More From Aiman)

The fourth type of vignetting is often a result of the actual size of a modern day lens. Expensive lenses often have 20 individual elements or more! By the time the light has fought its way through the elements, it has lost some of its intensity, as the rear elements are slightly shielded from the incoming light by the lenses in front of them. This is where modern lenses with aperture values of 2.8 or less literally shine, as when stepping down to these wide open aperture values you can usually completely eliminate vignetting.

lens vignette

“Blooming” captured by Richard Maluyo (Click Image to See More From Richard Maluyo)

About the Author
Conrad Strehlau at (wedding4africa.co.za) is a photographer who creatively photographs for the very real reason that fewer things in this world are more pure than picking up a Camera, and capturing a moment of time for eternity.

Go to full article: Types of Vignetting in Photography

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

[this post syndicated from Picture Correct]

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10 camera techniques to master in 2014: get white balance accurate every time

As our Shoot Like A Pro series on mastering some of the basic camera techniques continues, we look at your camera’s white balance settings and how you can get the most accurate colours possible.

10 camera techniques to master in 2014: master white balance settings for accurate colours

You might forget all about setting the right white balance – especially if you shoot in raw, as then you can change it when you process your images later.

However, you’ll need to get the right white balance in-camera to be able to assess the exposure and colours of your shots and achieve the best results.

Strong colours
Your camera’s Automatic White Balance setting generally does a pretty good job of capturing colours correctly in most lighting conditions, but it’s not infallible.

The main situation in which you’ll get better results by using one of the manual preset values is when your subject is dominated by a single colour or tone, such as a blue sky, orange sunset or even a large expanse of green grass.

In these situations Automatic White Balance can set a value to counteract this strong colour, so you will get better results by selecting a white balance setting that suits the lighting conditions, such as Sunlight or Shade.

The actual white balance of the light at sunrise or sunset is close to the Tungsten or Artificial Light setting (3,200K). But if you set this preset you will lose much of the warmth that you want to capture in your shot.

Instead, try setting the white balance to Daylight, or even Cloudy, to capture the orange glow in all its beauty.

SEE MORE: How to set up a camera for the first time – 11 things you need to do first

Set a custom white balance… in-camera or on the computer

For precise colours, you’ll need to take control and create a ‘custom’ white balance setting for the light you’re shooting in. There are a number of white balance aids available to help you do this – such as the JJC White Balance Lens Cap (£11) – but all you really need is a piece of white or grey card or a sheet white paper!

Once you’ve got that, try these two simple techniques for creating custom settings either in-camera, or when you process your pictures in software.

SEE MORE: What camera should I buy? Pros and cons of each camera type

In software…

Shoot Raw files, and you can adjust the white balance at your leisure in Raw processing software, such as the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in that comes with Photoshop Elements – the options are similar to those on your camera.

You can use sliders to refine the colour balance, and there’s also a White Balance tool; click on a neutral tone in an image with this to set the white balance.

But what if a scene doesn’t contain any neutral tones? The answer is to place a piece of white or grey card in the scene at the shooting stage. It only needs to be in place for one frame, as you can use this to adjust the white balance across all images taken in the same light.

1. Set up a reference card

Place the white or grey card in the same light as the focal point of your picture. Choose a white balance preset on your camera, such as Daylight, and make sure you’re shooting Raw quality files.

2. Open the reference shot

Take a shot with the card in the frame, then remove it and carry on shooting. Later, in Elements, open the card image and click on the card with the White Balance tool. Note the values for Temperature and Tint, then manually enter these for your other Raw files taken under the same light.

3. Camera Raw in CS

The Photoshop CS version of Adobe Camera Raw features Select All and Synchronise buttons. These enable you to set the white balance for a series of images.

4. Select and synchronise

Select all the shots taken in the same light as the ‘card’ shot, then click on the white card and watch the magic happen! Alternatively, you can click Synchronise to synchronise WB and other selected settings.

SEE MORE: Alternative whites – 5 ways to get accurate colours when you don’t have a grey card

How to set a custom white balance in camera…

Setting a custom white balance in-camera will save you time at the processing stage. Again, start with a white or grey card in the same light as your scene or main subject. We used a Canon camera for the purposes of this tutorial, but the process is similar with other cameras.

1.    Take a shot of the card – it needs to fill the central area of the frame. Use any WB setting.

2. Select the Custom WB option in your camera’s shooting menu, and press SET.

3. Scroll through your images until you find the shot of the white card. Press SET, then OK.

4. Open the white balance menu and choose the Custom symbol to use the new white balance setting.


White balance: Photoshop fixes and in-camera solutions for any situation
Get correct white balance every time: a simple technique for amazingly accurate colour
What is color temperature: free photography cheat sheet
Color theory: the best color combinations for photography and how to take it further

[syndicated from Digital Camera World]

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Auto ISO: how to get the best sharpness with the least amount of noise

Don’t waste time juggling the ISO between shots! In this tutorial we show you why Auto ISO can work in your favour when light levels are low and unpredictable.

Auto ISO: how to get the best sharpness with the least amount of noise

Normally you need to treat automatic modes on digital SLRs with caution. You’re trusting a machine to make better decisions than you would, and there will be lots of situations where the only way to get great shots is to take control yourself.

However, there is one automated option where the camera really can do the work for you. Auto ISO is designed for conditions where the light levels are low and unpredictable. You want to be able to shoot at the minimum ISO possible but without using dangerously slow shutter speeds.

These settings are just a simple bit of arithmetic. You’re not asking your camera to use its own judgement, which is where most automatic modes cause problems. It does what you would have done anyway, as you’ll see…

LEARN MORE: What is ISO – when to increase sensitivity, different types of noise and more

How to use Auto ISO effectively

How to use Auto ISO effectively: step 1

01 Know your limits
Start by opening the Shooting menu and then the ISO sensitivity settings. On this screen, set the Auto ISO sensitivity control to On, then set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed you want the camera to use – you can judge these according to the situation you’re in.


How to use Auto ISO effectively: step 2

02 Get shooting
Now see what happens when you shoot. We’re shooting in the Guildhall Market in Bath, which is under cover. Our camera has selected the lowest ISO it can (ISO640 for this particular shot) in order to achieve our minimum acceptable shutter speed of 1/60 sec.


How to use Auto ISO effectively: step 3

03 Give your camera a hand
The lower your minimum shutter speed, the more leeway you’ll give the camera with the ISO setting. If you are shooting at 1/60 sec, switch on the lens’s image stabilization, if available, and brace the camera against walls, tables or doorways where possible to reduce blurring.


How to set up a camera for the first time: 11 things you need to do first
What camera should I buy? Pros and cons of each camera type
ISO settings in low light: when, and how, to increase your camera’s sensitivity
What’s the highest ISO I should use? Find the answer here

[syndicated from Digital Camera World]

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Perspective in Photography – Don’t just stand there move your feet!

Photographers often fall into the bad habit of shooting everything we see from eye-level. We are walking around, something catches our eye, and we take a picture right from where we are standing. If you want to make an immediate impact in your photography, you need to get out of your eye-level (or tripod-level) rut. You need a change in perspective.

McEnaney road

Sure, you can change your composition by zooming in or out with your lens, but if you want to change your perspective, you are going to need to move. Don’t let your feet, or your tripod, root you to the spot: get ready for some bending, turning, walking, and climbing. Start working with perspective in photography, your images will thank you for it.

Get Low

Get your camera down towards ground level, and see how it impacts your perspective. Getting down low allows you to feature the foreground of your composition, and gives your viewer context for the rest of the photograph. Use a wide angle lens to feature the foreground, while pulling the viewer into the image, as below.

McEnaney wide angle leaves

Getting down low can change the way your viewer feels or reacts to your subject. Getting low can make your subject appear taller or more imposing. Subjects viewed from below can look commanding and powerful. Even a simple sunflower can be seen to tower above its surroundings.

McEnaney sunflower

Getting low can also completely disorient your viewer. This near water-level view becomes a study in colour and texture, as the water and the fallen autumn leaves interact with each other. From eye level, this would simply have been a photograph looking down into a storm gutter. Getting low simplifies the composition and puts the viewer into a different, and unique perspective than their everyday viewpoint.

McEnaney gutter

Get Up High or Look Up High

You can get low and look at subjects from their level, but you can also get up high and take in your subject from above. Getting well above your normal line-of-sight will certainly give you a new perspective. In the photograph below, the other tourists on the decks below give context to the passing iceberg, as seen from the cruise ship. This higher-up view also provides a sense of scale for the large size of the ice berg and hints at the size of the ship.

McEnaney iceberg

If you do not want to physically get up high, standing and shooting does not mean you only have to shoot straight ahead. Spend some time looking up, and you will find plenty to improve your compositions and your perspective. With very tall subjects, looking up from below will accentuate their height and size. The power and immensity of these redwood trees are best emphasized by looking up, from directly below.

McEnaney redwood

Go for the Lateral

Finally, do not forget to think laterally. Beyond just changing your stance or your direction of shooting, you also need to remember to move yourself. Talk the time to walk around your subject, to consider the background and foreground. Think about how all the pieces of your final composition fit together. Your first view and your first angle are often not the best available, but you cannot be sure until you have taken the time to investigate others. Walking all the way around Buckingham Fountain allowed me to choose this final composition and perspective featuring the downtown Chicago skyline. I also made the choice to position the spray from the fountain directly in front of a building to make it more visible.

McEnaney fountain 600

Moving your feet can change the way that different objects in your photograph interact with each other. While the top photograph of the Wisconsin Capitol in lights was an adequate shot, moving just a few feet to the right and squatting down allowed me to feature the lit outline in the foreground with the actual Capitol building in the background. This juxtaposition of elements improves the story-telling ability of the photograph.

McEnaney lit capitol

McEnaney double capitol


Do not fall into the trap of shooting everything you see at eye-level, just as you see it. Take the time to explore your subject, and considering changing your perspective. Get low and see what changes, get up high and explore a new view, or move laterally and watch different interactions occur and disappear between objects.

McEnaney chairs from above

McEnaney chairs get low

You may have a hard time choosing a favourite view: from above to emphasize the view of the foreground lake, or get low to show the expanded context and the threatening winter sky? Share your thoughts or your own perspective images in the comments below!

The post Perspective in Photography – Don’t just stand there move your feet! by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

[post syndicated from Digital Photography School]

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How To Create a Colorful Fluoro Duotone Photo Effect

In today’s Photoshop tutorial we’re heading straight back to the 80s to play with vibrant fluoro colours. It has become a popular trend to convert the colours of modern day photographs into oversaturated fluorescent style hues to create intense sensual images. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to quickly recreate this duotone effect, then we’ll take the design to the next level with some additional tweaks to give it a modern pop art twist.

Fluoro style pop art

The artwork we’ll be creating is inspired by a popular duotone photo effect trend that involves manipulating images with super saturated colours. We’ll use Photoshop’s Gradient Map tool to replace a photograph’s original colours with some vibrant full saturation hues, then add various textures to provide subtle details and give the design a retro appearance.

Vibrant sensual images from Kaleidxscope

The inspiration for this artwork is thanks to a suggestion sent over by one of my readers named James. He got in touch with links to some awesome Tumblr sites that were full of 80s inspired art & photo effects. He wondered if I could help explain how the effect was done. Some of the images immediately caught my attention (because of the bright colours of course…) The unusual colour schemes give the photographs a sensual 80s vibe as if they’re lit by neon lights. Credit for these particular example goes to the artist Maddi who edits these images and shares her work at kaleidxscope.tumblr.com (Warning: May contain boobies).

Find yourself a sensual image as a base for your fluoro pop art design. I’m keeping things work safe with this Woman with red lips photograph from Shutterstock. Make any necessary photo enhancements such as Levels adjustments.

Click the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and select the Gradient Map option. This feature replaces all the colours within a photograph with replacements that you specify, while retaining the contrast and original tone.

Choose completely contrasting colours for each end of the gradient scale by clicking the little handle and adjusting the colour picker. Here I’ve gone with a light Magenta (#da48dc) through to solid yellow (#ffff00), but experiment with different combinations of saturated colours with inspiration from the examples above.

The basic photo effect is complete at this stage, but I figured that would be a pretty basic tutorial. Let’s continue working on our design to add some cool texturing to give the design a pop art theme. Download and install my free halftone patterns then create a new layer then select the Fill tool. Change the drop down menu in the header to Pattern then select the B.SG Halftone Dark L option.

Change the blending mode of the pattern fill layer to Color Burn to allow the pattern to interact with the colours of the design. Reduce the Fill slider at the top of the layers palette to around 80% to tone down the effect.

Download and place a bokeh photograph into your document. Scale it to size so the blurry elements evenly span across the entire canvas.

Change the blending mode of the bokeh layer to Screen to render the black background transparent, then alter the Fill to around 70% to create subtle blurry highlights across the design.

Download and install this set of dirty spray brushes then alter your foreground colour to yellow (#ffff00). Dab the brush on a new layer so that the fine sprays just creep into the edge of the design. Add small splatters in key places around the design, contrasting yellow against the pink background.

Repeat the process on another new layer, but this time use a pink fill colour and place subtle splatters over large areas of yellow.

Add a quick Sharpen effect under the Filter menu to give these splatters a crisp appearance. Remember to apply the Sharpen filter to both layers.

The beauty of adjustment layers is that the effect can be non-destructively altered at any time, so now is the perfect time to experiment with other colour combinations.

Fluoro style pop art

The basic fluoro photo effect alone looks great by using those 80s neon inspired colour combinations to create eye catching imagery. Those continued additions of halftone textures and paint splatters really helped mix in the characteristics of pop art to compliment those saturated colours and create some really awesome artwork.

Download the source file

[post syndicated from SpoonoGraphics]

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Twelve Ways to Improve Your Digital Landscapes

Quick Reminder: Only a few days left in the popular deal on these: Landscape Lightroom Presets

Number One: If you have read any of my previous photography guides then you probably know that I strongly recommend shooting in RAW format. Why is this so important? The answer simply boils down to control.

Shoot in Camera RAW Format


When you set your digital camera to automatically convert your images to JPEGs, you give up a great deal of processing control. Most digital cameras automatically apply sharpening, saturation, and tonal adjustments during the conversion process. The image is also compressed into an 8-bit file removing a great deal of the exposure latitude that you had with the original photograph (up to 16-bits for many cameras).

Essentially the camera automatically applies a standard set of processing routines to the image and then throws out roughly one third or more of the data during the compression process. The JPEG file format is destructible in that it compresses and recompresses the image (and thereby removing file information) each time it is saved. If you do shoot in JPEG format, be sure to save your processed files as PSDs or TIFFs to avoid additional compression and to retain all of your Photoshop layers.

Always be on the Lookout for New Locations

Number Two: It goes without saying that traveling to exotic locations around the world is an exciting part of landscape photography; however you can find just as many wonderful places to photograph in your own area. Success as a landscape photographer has a lot to do with preplanning and scouting out potentially new locations. Scenes that you photographed during the summer have a whole different look and feel during the fall. Whether you are out photographing a specific location or just driving through a new area on unrelated business, always be on the look out for hidden gems. This might be a little known area where eagles are feeding or an abandoned farm concealed by years of overgrown weeds and brambles. Even while I am out and about hanging out with my family and friends, I always have my eyes open for new places to work.

Shoot During Hours of Dawn and Dusk

Number Three: Many of my favorite images were taken during the golden hours of dawn and dusk. A successful landscape photographer is usually willing to get out of bed well before dawn or to stay out late into the evening to capture the beautiful light of the setting sun.

improve-landscape-photos2I have a good friend who is an exceptional landscape photographer. He recently paid a good deal of money to travel to exotic areas of South America with a small group of photographers. He told me that when they arrived at each location he was surprised to find many of the photographers in his group unwilling to get up early with him to work during the early hours of dawn. Imagine paying thousands of dollars to travel to exclusive parts of another country to photograph landscapes just to sleep in! Having this kind of discipline must extend beyond fancy trips to other countries. A good landscape photographer knows that dawn and dusk are two of the best periods of time during the day to capture exceptional landscapes. Take advantage of this as much as your schedule allows and try to establish a routine of going out early and/or staying out late. Whether you come back with beautiful images or not, you will always be rewarded with the wonderful solace that comes with watching the sunrise and sunset.

Arrive Early and be Ready

Number Four: Consider getting to your pre-selected location well in advance of the time you actually expect to shoot. Photography is a creative endeavor and should not be rushed. If you find yourself chasing the sunset or rushing to capture the sunrise at the last minute, you are missing the point! High quality landscape photography usually requires that you take a slow, methodical approach. I think that a lot of us fall into the trap of shooting off the hip and hoping that one of our shots will stand out.

Landscape photography should be creative and not mechanical. This is a little bit like going to an important business meeting where you have been selected as group’s main presenter. If you leave for the meeting late and rush into the conference room just as things are getting started, you are much more likely to give a dismal performance. In contrast, if you make an effort to arrive early, get your equipment setup, and take a few moments to collect your thoughts; you are much more likely to give a more impressionable and meaningful presentation. The same approach is true of landscape photography. Arrive early and give yourself plenty of time to transition into a creative mode.

Bracket Your Exposures

Number Five: When I worked with 35mm cameras, I was always conscious of how much film I was using. Between purchasing the high quality film I needed and then processing it later, it was always extremely expensive! Today with high-resolution digital single lens reflex cameras we have less to worry about when it comes to the cost per image (of course today’s DSLRs are generally more expensive that traditional SLRs were). Now there are fewer reasons to avoid bracketing your exposures.

improve-landscape-photos3In photography there is nothing more disappointing than to capture what you think was the perfect shot just to later find that it was improperly exposed or even out of focus. When you can, take the time to bracket your images. Bracketing also gives you a bit more creative latitude in processing by allowing you to use Photoshop CS2′s HDR feature to combine shots to increase an image’s total dynamic range. Even better than HDR is manually combining images that have been exposed for different areas of a scene and using layer masks to create a single photograph with additional dynamic range. For example, the image above is a composite of two shots: one exposed for the sky and the other exposed for the foreground. This could have only been accomplished by taking multiple photographs at different exposures; the total dynamic range was just too great in any single exposure.

Use a Tripod

Number Six: The reason for using a tripod might seem obvious on the surface. For me using a tripod goes beyond reducing camera shake and taking photographs at slower shutter speeds. I have found putting my camera on a tripod forces me to slow down and really examine my composition. It is so easy to just fire off a bunch of hand held shots without really thoughtfully looking at the composition. Intuitively most of us know what we are trying to achieve in a particular shot; however taking the extra time to setup your camera on a tripod can help you slow down and pay extra attention to composition. Remember that having a creative mindset is central to capturing high quality landscape images.

Keep in Mind the Rule of Thirds

Number Seven: Sure, rules are meant to be broken. This is especially true of rules that involve such a creative process as photography; however the Rule of Thirds is a pretty good standard to keep in mind. Push yourself to try out different ideas and compositions that may be outside your comfort zone or usual style. I estimate that 20% or fewer of my landscape images rise to a level of quality where I feel comfortable presenting them to others! With digital cameras and massive amounts of storage, you can have fun with your work and try out new ideas. You never know, you may like what you see!

Do Not Forget to Look Around

Number Eight: I have to constantly remind myself to look around my environment and to refrain from getting locked into a single perspective. What do I mean by this? How many times have you been photographing a spectacular scene just to look over and see an even better possibility? If you get too focused on one particular composition, you may miss opportunities for other equally or better photographs that are within walking distance of where you are shooting.

improve-landscape-photos4The classic example of when this seems to happen to me the most is when I am shooting directly into the rising sun (which can be wonderful for silhouette and high dynamic range landscapes). Occasionally I get so wrapped up in what I am seeing that I forget to look behind where I am standing (opposite the sunrise). Even after I setup my camera on a tripod and finalize a composition for the scene I am photographing; I still try to remember to move around and look for additional perspectives. I typically make a point to walk approximately 20-feet in all directions staying alert for additional ideas. My main point here is to suggest the importance of remaining open minded about the other possibilities that might exist and to avoid getting overly committed to just one perspective.

Shoot Often

Number Nine: This should be a no-brainer, but remember that you increase your odds of capturing outstanding landscape photographs if you go out in the field often and on a regular basis. If you are like me and have a real job during the day, you may only be able to get out a couple times a week. It is so easy to put off going out (especially early in the morning!) when you get busy with other aspects of life. Again, much of this boils down to discipline and creating good habits for shooting regularly. Even if you are facing poor weather conditions (e.g. gray sky, clouds, rain, etc.), push yourself to go out and shoot anyway. You never know, you might just come back with wonderful black and white images or beautiful photographs of a dramatic lightning storm.

Keep a Photo Diary

Number Ten: Keeping notes about your work in a small notebook or diary can be a useful way of remembering important details about a location or a series of photographs. This can include the direction you were looking while taking a particular shot, weather conditions, temperature, how you accessed a specific area, and any other unique information that you want to recall later on. It does not take very long before I forget unique little details about a series of images. Fortunately with EXIF data we do not have to worry about keeping track of exposure information, resolution, color space, and the time and date an image was taken; however taking note of some of the other details mentioned above can oftentimes be useful later on. These details can be added later to the EXIF file so that the information always stays with the image. Consider placing a small notebook and pen in your camera bag so that you are ready.

Recognize that You May Come Back Empty Handed

Number Eleven: This really does not qualify as tip as much as it is a state of mind. I used to get so frustrated going out to shoot landscapes just to come back with nothing (or only a couple of decent shots). I remember driving five hours to a hiking trail that I was sure would have a great deal of wildlife and landscape opportunities to photograph (from previous experience). When I arrived I spent two hours climbing to the top of a large peak that had a commanding view of the entire valley. After all the work and effort to get to the top, it started sprinkling and then eventually the conditions worsened to lighting and heavy rain (I was in shorts too!).

The deteriorating weather conditions forced me to hike back down and eventually drive home. I was so frustrated because in the end I was only able to capture a couple of decent shots. All of the wildlife had literally disappeared and the extremely poor weather conditions made for mediocre landscape photography at best. As I drove home I was struck by how I was trying so hard to force things to work that I had not truly enjoyed the experience. After considering it for a while (on my five hour ride back home) I came away with the realization that it was ok for me to come back empty handed once in a while.

Most of the time my hard work and discipline are rewarded and I capture wonderful landscape images, but sometimes I end up returning with nothing but another experience. I think as a landscape photographer you have to be ok with that and remember that sometimes you will strike out despite all your best efforts. Planning your outings, having some experience in photography, and taking the proper equipment are important factors, but the weather and conditions are-what-they-are when you arrive. You cannot control everything. Remember this and try to have fun!

Learn How to Use Photoshop or Lightroom

Number Twelve: As a film photographer, I worked very hard to make sure all of my shots were spot on. I was careful to use the appropriate film for the lighting conditions, to adjust my exposure and shutter speeds appropriately, and to take my negatives to well known and respected businesses for processing (if I was not doing it myself). After switching to a digital camera, it took me a while to grasp the significance Photoshop plays in this new era of photography. Going digital means that you (the photographer) are now in complete control of the processing. We have so much more power and latitude in Photoshop with digital images that we do not have while working with film in a traditional way. On average, I estimate that I spend 30-40% of my time composing and taking photographs in the field and 60-70% of my time later processing them in Photoshop. This means that a great deal more of my time is now spent in front of my computer than in the field. Having a basic understanding of how to use Photoshop can be the difference between simply a good image and a jaw-dropping, incredible one.

Please do not hear me suggest that you can stop worrying about exposure, shutter speed, and composition just because you can “Photoshop” away problems later on in processing. All of the basic principles of photography still apply. It is still important to work hard to get your shots “right” out of the camera, but we are now able to do so much more with the digital photographs in processing (especially if you shoot RAW images) than would have ever been possible just a few years ago. Even if you do not consider yourself technologically proficient or the complexity of Photoshop scares you, take the time to learn how to use a few of Photoshop’s basic processing tools and develop a consistent digital workflow. This means gaining familiarity with using adjustment layers for levels, curves, saturation, channel mixer, and others. Layer masks also provide an incredible amount of control in processing selective areas of a photograph.

improve-landscape-photos5There are so many free resources available on the Internet to learn from that there are really no excuses for not becoming familiar with Photoshop. If you are a visual learner, look for free video tutorials; if you like to take a slower approach, look for written guides like this one. You might also consider purchasing a book or two on using some of the basic photo processing tools offered in Photoshop from a local bookstore (can you say Half Price Books!).

About the Author
Steve Paxton currently lives with his wife and two children in the Seattle area. Steve has been a photographer for over ten years and has spent most of that time shooting with a variety of Canon 35mm cameras. His experience ranges from wedding and portrait work to crime scene photography; although he particularly enjoys the solitude of shooting landscapes. Check out the PDF version of this article.

Steve always welcomes comments and feedback on his work. You can leave a comment on his website at www.paxtonprints.com.

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Go to full article: Twelve Ways to Improve Your Digital Landscapes

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

[this post syndicated from Picture Correct]

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