Beach photography: how to add creative effects in-camera and on the computer

In the final instalment of our Shoot Like A Pro series on improving your beach photography we suggest some quick and easy creative effects you can achieve both in-camera and on the computer to enhance your coastal portfolio.

Beach photography: tips for adding creative effects in-camera and on the computer

Image by Chris Rutter

If the range of subjects at the beach isn’t enough to get your creativity flowing there are plenty of special effects you can use to get interesting and arresting coastal shots.

Some, such as using long shutter speeds, are impossible to recreate after you’ve shot them, but even with the ones that rely on software manipulation it pays to think about the effect you want before you fire the shutter.

While you can apply some effects to photos that you’ve already taken, it’s often an integral part of the whole creative process rather than a quick fix for poor images, so take a look at these techniques, think about which will suit the type of images that you’re going to shoot, and give them a try.

Tips for adding creative effects to your beach photography

Slow shutter speeds
From huge waves crashing on rocky shores to the gentle swell lapping onto a sandy beach, the action of the sea is perfect for experimenting with shutter speeds for visual effect.

One of the classic effects is to use a slow shutter speed to record the moving water as a dreamy blur, such as in our featured photo at the top of this page.

The shutter speed required for a ‘milky water’ effect will depend on the amount of movement of the water, but as a general rule you’ll be looking at an exposure of at least a second.

For the really ethereal look where the water is reduced to a silky smooth texture you’ll need a shutter speed of 15 seconds or more.

This is easy if you shoot after the sun has set or before dawn, but you can also use a strong neutral density filter such as the Lee BIG Stopper or Hoya NDx400 to allow you to get these shutter speeds in brighter conditions.

Mastering HDR
It can be tricky to capture the huge range of brightness from the sky, sand and water of a typical beach scene.

But there’s a technique known as high dynamic range photography that enables you to get detail in the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows in a single image.

To use this technique you need to shoot at least three images with different exposure settings, so you need to have the camera on a steady tripod to ensure that the images are perfectly aligned.

These images are then combined using the ‘Merge to HDR’ function in Photoshop or by using specialist HDR software such as Photomatix from HDRsoft.

It’s easy to overdo the effect, though, so take your time using the settings in the software to avoid an over-processed look in your final image.

This is easily identified by strong haloes around the details in the image, especially where there’s a large change from highlights to shadows.


Tips for adding creative effects to your beach photography

Image by Chris Rutter

Black and white
The graphic nature of many coastal landscapes is ideal for black-and-white images.

When shooting, look for strong composition elements such as rocky headlands or lead-in lines and interesting textures in the sand, sea and rocks.

Abstract concepts
The textures and shapes you can find in the sand, rocks and shells on almost any shore make perfect subjects for abstract images.

Another option is to shoot just the sea or sky, omitting any other detail or subject to create an image that relies simply on colour for its impact.


Tips for adding creative effects to your beach photography: silhouettes

Image by Antonio Arcos / Getty

Silhouettes and contre-jour
The clear, open skies of the coastal landscape are ideal for silhouettes and contre-jour shooting.

It’s pretty easy to achieve silhouettes – all you need to do is position the subject between you and the light, then expose for the background.

Modern multi-segment metering systems will often try to compensate for this, so set centre-weighted metering on your DSLR and use a stop or two of negative exposure compensation to make sure the subject stays completely dark.

Graduated neutral density filters
Unless you’re a Photoshop wizard, graduated neutral density filters, or ND grad filters, are essential for ensuring balanced exposures when the sky is much brighter than the landscape (which is inevitable when shooting sunrises or sunsets).

Graduated neutral density filters basically comprise a sheet of glass or resin that’s clear at the bottom and shaded at the top – this enables you to expose for the foreground as normal through the clear part of the filter and position the shaded top half so that it sits just above the horizon.

The shaded part will darken the bright sky by a set number of stops to give you a more balanced exposure.

PAGE 1: How to add creative effects to your beach photography
PAGE 2: How to use a tripod at the beach


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Create This Gorgeous Moonlight Poster of a Girl Walking on a Railway

Preview of Final Results


Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new document with a trasparent background.


  • Width 1500px
  • Height: 2000px


Step 2

Go to File > Place and open the ‘Railway’ Stock.


Step 3

Go to Edit > Free Transform and choose ‘Rotate’. Rotate a bit the image to through right to fix the Railway prospective.  Then choose ‘Scale’ to fit the canvas size. Rename the layer to ‘Railway’.


Step 4

We are going to select the sky so we can replace it with another one. Go to Channel and select the channel that has more contrast. In this case the Blue one. The image will turn to Black & White but don’t worry, everything it’s normal. If you don’t see the Channels then go to Window and select Channel.


Step 5

Now right click on the Blue channel and choose ‘Duplicate channel’. Deselect the Blue Channel and select the Blue copy.


Step 6

To make a selection of the sky we have to paint with black on the copy of the Blue channel. Before painting we can help ourselves running a Level adjustment on it. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. We have to give more contrast. Put the settings I set below and you will see that the sky will be white.



Step 7

Now we paint with black over the parts we don’t want. Brush has to be 100% Opacity.


Step 8

Now we are ready for our selection. Place the mouse on the Blue copy channel. Keep pressed CTRL and press left click on the mouse. The white part will be selected.


Step 9

We want to keep the part below so we have to invert the selection. Go to Select > Inverse. The selection is now inverted.


Step 10

Delete the Blue copy channel and go back to the Layers panel. As you can see the image isn’t black & white anymore and the lower part is selected. Now just click the Layer Mask and the sky will disappear.



Step 11

Go to File > Place and open the ‘Sky 1′ Stock. Name the layer ‘Sky 1′. Put this layer below the ‘Railway’ layer.


Step 12

Go to File > Place and open the ‘Sky 2′ stock. Put it above the ‘Sky 1′ layer and name it ‘Sky 2′. Then set it to Hard Light.



Step 13

Go to File > Place and open the ‘Moon’ stock. Name the layer ‘Moon’ and place it above the ‘Sky 2′ Layer.


Step 14

Set the ‘Moon’ layer to Screen.


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7 Tips for Photographing Kids


Notice something about the title of the article? It doesn’t say how to take “portraits” of kids! Kids, especially those five and under, pretty much dictate how the photography session is going to unfold, and it usually involves moving. Fast! Over the years my style has evolved from format portraiture with medium format film camera (which is NOT conducive to movement) to 35mm, and finally to digital. Digital allows much more freedom of motion and with a few tips you should be on your way to some great photos of kids. 


  • have patience
  • be ready
  • get down to their level
  • using natural light or flash
  • choose your focus mode carefully
  • be a goofball
  • let them run the session, don’t try and control it


When photographing kids sometimes you get a whole lot of nothing for a while, or they may be shy to start, or play coy. Even kids that know you may decide they don’t want you to take their picture and say so. My three year old niece did just that when I spent the day photographing her. “Don’t take my picture Auntie!” she said as soon as I pointed the camera at her. She’s a regular ham for the camera usually and I knew she’d warm up. Eventually she was giving me “the wave” that you see below which sort of means “don’t take my picture but I’m going to act like I’m the star anyway just in case you do”.

So if you get this kind of behaviour don’t rush or force it. Just keep hanging out with them, play and interact and eventually they’ll come around. A couple hours later she was telling me to take her photo.  kids-photography-tips-dps-14


This is almost a given, but be ready for anything with kids! Expect the unexpected and be ready to shoot it. One of the things I say to my students is that photography is about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right lens on – there’s a lot of truth to that! So learn to anticipate what might happen, and where you need to be to capture it. Have the right lens on and make sure your settings are all good. Be ready technically, and in all other aspects. Be ready to move fast if this happens:

Oh yes she did!

Oh yes she did!

I fired off two shots and then she fired right at me with the water gun and I had to turn to protect the camera. I however, took a direct hit in the backside. Luckily it was a nice warm day and it was refreshing. I got the shot, saved the camera from drowning and had a lot of fun with her.

Here’s another of my nephew at the same age. My sister was watering the flowers, nobody knew he was going to do this. Be ready!


Part of being ready also means to stop looking at the images on the back of your camera! If you are looking there you are missing something happening live. You can review them later, so stop chimping! 

We set her up with the streamers but being ready meant making sure I get it all in the frame and capture it when she throws it in the air.

We set her up with the streamers. So being ready here meant making sure I got it all in the frame and captured it when she threw it up in the air.


When you photograph little ones doing so from an adult perspective makes them look even smaller. Getting down to their level puts you more on equal ground. Get in the mud or sandbox with them, don’t stand over top looking down. Crawl around on the floor and play trucks.

Get down to their level literally, and figuratively. You nee also to get skilled at holding your camera and playing, coloring, or any number of other interactive things with the child.


We tied the dinosaurs together, I had to hold them sometimes while I was shooting.


“When should I use flash?” is a common question I get in my photography classes. My answer to that is two part:

  1. if there isn’t enough light, add flash
  2. if the light isn’t “good”

Part one, not enough light, is fairly obvious. It’s too dark if you have the aperture on the lens as wide open as it goes, and you are still getting a shutter speed that’s slower than your lens focal length (see Tips for getting Sharper images for more info on that). It helps to use a lens with a large aperture either an f/2.8 zoom lens (but they’re pricey) or even better an f/1.8 prime lens like the handy little 50mm f/1.8 or 85mm f/1.8.

But what about part two, what is “good light”? How do you know if you have bad light? 

That part is a bit subjective but tough lighting situations like backlighting, or strong overhead light would be some times where you might want to add flash to balance out the light or overpower the natural light entirely. I tend to use flash to supplement natural light whenever possible, and to try and correct the lighting where necessary. Notice the image above – there is NO flash used for that image. The light coming from the windows in the living room on the right provided a nice soft directional light on his face. Selecting a large aperture allowed me to use that light.

Now look at the image below. Can you tell if there was flash used or not?


Flash was used here, bounced off the ceiling but aimed slightly back.

Flash was used for the image above because the windows behind him were leaving his face in deep shadow. So I used a flash bounced off the ceiling, angled slightly behind me. Avoid direct flash whenever possible as it flattens out the subject and produces harsh shadows. Bouncing off walls and ceilings is ideal if you can do so. In this case I aim my flash backwards slightly as well so the result isn’t light coming straight down on him and making dark eyes. I use this technique a lot at events, even with 15-20′ high ceilings.


Capturing moving subjects of any kind requires the right camera settings, practice and trial and error. Most cameras have different Focus Modes – read your manual to find out more. Select the one for continuous or tracking focus. What that means is the camera does not lock focus when you push the shutter button halfway down. Instead it “tracks” any moving objects as they come nearer and farther away from you. If you hold the shutter button down the camera continues to look for focus and if the object is moving towards you some cameras actually anticipate their speed and prefocus in front of them so when you press the shutter fully your image is sharp. There are too many camera brands and models and each are different and offer different choices, so I can’t tell you what to choose. Just know that when shooting moving objects you want the tracking option.

You may also want to shoot in burst or high speed shooting mode. That’s when you press the shutter all the way down and hold it, the camera takes multiple images until you let go or the camera can’t hold any more information. Most SLRs have this feature but vary in the frames per second rate they are capable of shooting. Even three frames per second will give you more options than just shooting a single frame at a time.

This was shot using the tracking focus mode - on my Canon that's called Servo

This was shot using the tracking focus mode – on my Canon that’s called Servo

Another example using focus tracking. I keep the camera pointed at him and the button partly pressed and it follows him with focus.

Another example using focus tracking. I keep the camera pointed at him and the button partly pressed and it follows him with focus. Make sure to get out of the way of errand water sprays during water fights!


I’ve often been told that I’m good with kids during sessions because I get silly with them. I make fart noises and silly faces. I play with puppets with them. I get down in the sand and play. Too often we adults worry about our dignity and how we “look” – throw all that out the window and get over yourself and let go a little, Give yourself permission to be a GOOFBALL for a little while. Who knows you might actually have some fun!

The image below happened because we were blowing raspberries at each other and having a face making competition of sorts. He won, but I got the shot! He was also soaking wet from running through the hose several times and the read dye in his hair was running down his forehead, which just adds to the image!



Really, you will never be in control anyway so why not relinquish it right from the start and call a spade a spade. The child is in charge and will run the session, so the sooner you accept that the more fun you’ll both have. Here’s a few DOs and DON’Ts.

  • DON’T try and make them do anything
  • DON’T get upset with them if they don’t follow your plan
  • DON’T, for heaven’s sake yell at them, especially if they are your kids or family. That will only serve to make them hate getting photos done and they will make it even harder next time. That only leaves the child feeling like they’ve been bad and you frustrated.
  • DO go with the flow. Take whatever happens and go with it.
  • DO be ready. See #2 above!
  • DO approach it from a perspective of having fun, not one of getting the best photos. The second is a product of the first.

You must test the chalk to make sure it writes don’t you know! So serious.

I was literally putting my bag in my car to leave, camera all packed away when the sidewalk art began and the light was so perfect. So out came the camera again! This image follows pretty much all the points above: be ready, get down on their level, use the natural light when it’s good, play with them.

I just can’t resist good light! I have a slight case of Photography Compulsion Syndrome, perhaps you suffer from it too?


If you photograph kids or have some of your own, go out and practice using these tips and tell me how you did. Do you have any additional tips you’d like to add, please share in the comments below.

Now get out there and go do some photography! Happy shooting.

Cheers, Darlene

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

7 Tips for Photographing Kids

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How to Take Amazing Macro Flower Photos

Flowers are one of my favorite photography subjects. They can’t complain if the photo doesn’t come out right. Flowers also look very different when shot from different angles and zoom levels. Explore the flower from these different angles to get completely new photos. While taking photos indoors, the two most important things to keep in mind are lighting and background.

red flower macro photography

“I’m Coming Out” captured by Anthony Zeder (Click image to see more from Zeder)

1) Choose a diffused light source, like a large window or multiple lamps to throw light on the flowers. Harsh lighting sources can cause the photograph to look washed out. 2) Pick an uncluttered background, such as a plain wall. You can even hang a cloth at a distance behind the flowers to get a plain, solid colored background. Make sure that the background is far away from the subject. This ensures that it’s out of focus and also makes sure that no shadows fall on the background. 3) Chose a narrow depth of field. Keeping the depth of field shallow will reduce the background clutter and draw attention to the flower. Shallow depth of field is achieved by opening up the lens wide.

orchid flower

“Orchid” captured by Eric R. (Click image to see more from Eric)

Outdoors, it’s Tougher to Control the Background

4) Moving around to change the angle of the shot can dramatically change the background. Choose an angle from which the background is far away from the flower itself. Many photographers carry a few plain cloth sheets with them to use as backgrounds. 5) Carry a macro lens or extension tubes. Macro lenses allow you to get closer to the subject and still focus on them. Extension tubes allow you to reuse your lenses and reduce the minimum focusing distance. Since they don’t have any optical components, they don’t harm the image quality in any way. 6) Add an insect to the photograph to make it more interesting. The best time to photograph is during early morning since the insects are still inactive due to the night’s cold and dew.

fly on yellow flower

“Bluebottle” captured by Kevin Lovibond (Click image to see more from Lovibond)

7) Rain and dew make flower shots more interesting. Look for flowers with dew drops on them, or just spray some water on them yourself.

pink flower with water drops

“Flower Droplets” captured by Tim Caldbeck (Click image to see more from Caldbeck)

Post Processing of Flower Photos

8) You can always post process the photo to enhance it. Some of the common post processing techniques used in flower photos are cropping the photograph, increasing saturation to give richer colors, increasing contrast and brightness, and adding vignetting effects. Vignetting is the dark shadows on the corners of a photograph’s frame, often caused by the lens. Adding vignetting moves the eye to the center of the photograph.

About the Author:
This articles was written by Tushit Jain from TwistedTripod. A place for learning photography and sharing your best photographs, travel stories, destinations and occasionally stuff from another life.

Go to full article: How to Take Amazing Macro Flower Photos

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

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How to Photograph Flowers

I know what you’re thinking.  “Flowers?  Really?  Didn’t he just write about shooting football?”  As a matter of fact, I did.  I shoot lots of different things– a statement which frustrates the hell out of business mentors and advisers who like to talk about branding, creating your niche, and attracting the right kind of client.  And they’re right.  After all, clients want to know that you do precisely what they need you to do seven days a week and twice on Sunday.  Makes sense.  But I was a lawyer for fourteen years.  Photography was my hobby for a long time before I ever even thought of trading in my briefcase for a camera bag ten years ago.  So, yes.  We’re going to talk about photographing flowers– in many ways the ideal subject.  Flowers are pretty, but they don’t require a hair and makeup team on set.  They are neither moody nor volatile, and never cop an attitude.  They don’t require a specific brand of expensive water secretly bottled straight from a hidden stream in Madagascar, and they are never late for a shoot.  Never.

But seriously.  I love shooting flowers.  My wife is actually convinced that I buy them for myself and not her anymore.  She’s (mostly) wrong, but I do take advantage of them while I can.  As with so much of what we do in photography, there are at least two ways of going about this–  ridiculously expensive or affordable.   Guess which way we’re going.

dPS Flowers-001


“How can it not be as easy as it looks?” you’re asking.  They just stand there perfectly still.  Get them near the light, push the button, we’re done, right?  Not so fast.  I was at a seminar one time where  Joe McNally said,  “If you want to take more interesting pictures, you need to stand in front of more interesting stuff.”  While I would never (EVER) presume to improve upon his wisdom, my own personal addendum to this guideline is, “But if you’re not going to stand in front of more interesting stuff, at least pick a more interesting angle.”  Six of us can stand around in a circle over the same flower, shoot straight down at it, and end up with six almost identical photos.  Boring, right?  Of course it is.  If you are going to stand an average distance from something, shooting it at an average angle with average camera settings, you are going to get average photos.  Personally, I’d rather not settle for average.  So get down low.  Shoot across it.  Shoot under it.  I actually really like photographing flowers from behind.  It’s not a mortal sin if you take that straight-down-the-middle shot.  No long arm of a photography god is going to descend from the heavens and snatch your camera away.  But promise me that once you take that straight-down-the-middle shot and get it out of your system, you’ll get down on your knees, or into a chair, or on your back, or anywhere else you need to be in order to achieve that interesting angle.

dPS Flowers-005


You’ll see some macro photographers really go all out on these images.   While a really good macro lens or a tripod with an inverted center column can help create some truly stunning images, they aren’t always necessary.  Regular zooms can serve you just as well.  Every photo in this article was taken hand-held with one of three lenses: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 (GASP! A kit lens!), or my iPhone.  Never underestimate the value of a tripod for this kind of work.  I don’t often use one because I tend to have pretty steady hands, but having a tripod on hand is never a bad thing.  Nature tends to provide some pretty great backgrounds, but isolating a single flower on a black or white background can often make for some very compelling images.  A yard or two of black velvet from a fabric store or a poster-size piece of white foam core from an office supply store are simple, effective, and very budget-friendly options for getting that high-contrast look, indoors or out.  You could waste a lot of time creating these backgrounds in Photoshop, by why would you when the in-camera solution is so much easier?  The last piece of gear you’ll find useful is very high-tech.  A spray bottle with water will let you fake that just-rained-on look.  Just make sure it’s set to a fine mist, rather than a full spray.

dPS Flowers-002


As with any photo, finding the right angle only gets you halfway there.  Don’t forget everything you know about composition.  The usual considerations– Rule of Thirds, negative space, balance, etc.– all still come into play.  One of the advantages of a regular zoom lens over a macro is that by filling the frame with your flower subject, it becomes that much easier to blur out your background.  Start by focusing on one particular flower or a small cluster of flowers in the arrangement.  As you lock focus you will see the depth-of-field effect in your viewfinder.  Make sure that you don’t overdo it on the DOF.  Depending on your composition and camera settings, you could easily blur out your foreground.  Start with your widest aperture. but make sure you try several different combinations of aperture and shutter speed.  Your model is not going to get bored and give you a hard time.  Take advantage of this chance to achieve the look you want.  Remember that sometimes the whole is not always as interesting as its individual parts.  Focus in on details and textures.  Make it interesting.

dPS Flowers-003


Ultimately, diffused natural light is always at the top of my wish list.  Direct sunlight is going to blow out the subtleties and textures you’re trying so hard to capture.  As with all indoor lighting, time is less of an obstacle than when you shoot outside.  Outdoor light doesn’t care if you are photographing flowers, portraits, or a football game.  Light is light and its properties don’t change.  Just like we get the best portrait and landscape light right after the sun comes up and just before it goes down, the same goes for flowers.  We really want that soft, beautiful light to enhance these images, not overpower them.  For that, nothing beats an overcast or cloudy day– Mother Nature’s very own soft box.  For inside, use the biggest window you can find.  The side-lighting it provides will add more dimension than flat lighting from above the flower.  Whatever you do, experiment with your light.  Pay attention to where it falls and the shadows it creates.  You can also be sure that patience and time spent here will dramatically benefit your portrait work as well.

DCF 1.0


As much as I try to never take my camera out of Manual mode, an argument can be made that exposure modes are there for a reason.  This would be one of those.  When shooting outside, even the slightest breeze can give you fits.  Try switching you camera into shutter priority mode and dial in a shutter speed of 1/250 or faster.  The fast shutter speed should negate the effects of the breeze.  I’m not a huge fan of exposure modes and relinquishing control of my settings (one reason why we’re not talking about your camera’s macro setting in this article), but this is a simple and effective way to remove one of the obstacles in your path.

dPS Flowers-007


My philosophy on editing these images is the same as my approach to portraits.  If you read my post on Basic Skin Smoothing in Photoshop, you know that when people look at my photos I want them to say, “That’s a beautiful ______,” not “Wow, nice editing.”  A slight levels adjustment and contrast bump should really be all they need.  Anything much stronger than that is going to come dangerously close to wiping out the texture and any of the natural feel to the overall image.

dPS Flowers-004

Now go buy some flowers and let me know how it goes.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Photograph Flowers

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How to do Bokeh

Creative photography often involves using a variety of techniques to add dramatic effects to a photograph. One such technique is referred to as bokeh (pronounced like “broke” without the letter “r”). Bokeh is the technique of adding intentional “fuzzy” areas within a photograph. This technique should not be confused with photographs that are out of […] Read more →

10 Stupid Photography Fads You Have Not Tried Yet

You have probably noticed that the majority of entertaining media spreading thoughout internet can hardly be called intelligent. The more silly something looks the more refined rapture it arouses in the biomass of internet users. Visual art, the most strong way of conveying life situations and emotions, which some time ago looked like this: now looks more like this: No Continue Reading

The post 10 Stupid Photography Fads You Have Not Tried Yet appeared first on Photodoto.

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Popular Casual Poses When Photographing People

People make for one of the most popular subjects, if not the most popular subject, photographed. But, obviously they’re quite different to photograph than a mountain or a waterfall. There’s a reason why there’s an art to portrait photography… you can’t just put someone in front of the camera and expect to get great results. […] [Syndicated from Digital Photo Secrets] Read more →