Tutorial: How to Remove the Staccato Effect from Timelapse Photography

Any photographer who’s ever taken on the challenge of creating a timelapse video is all too familiar with the flickering, staggered staccato effect. Caused by shutter speeds that are too quick to properly capture the motion in between frames, the illusion of jumping or skipping can take the realism out of even the most extraordinary scenes.

Of course, the easiest way of avoiding this issue would be to slow down the shutter speed. This could be done by applying a neutral density filter to a lens or by closing down the camera’s aperture. However, there will always be situations where these precautions either aren’t possible or aren’t enough to cut down on staccato.

Luckily, you don’t have to abandon footage that’s less than perfect. Using both Adobe Premiere and After Effects, Preston Kanak reveals several different techniques sure to smooth things over:

Sometimes, the solution is as simple as applying a corrective filter or making a few minor tweaks to setting sliders. Other times, carefully stacking layers and artificially creating movement is a more effective approach. In truth, there is no fix-all solution that can be guaranteed mend any problematic clip. Certain strategies produce certain outcomes, and some of the techniques Kanak shares may work better than others depending on the scenario. In the tutorial, he does a thorough job of highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of working with each smoothing technique, going into detail about the time commitment and adjustments necessary to produce the best final outcome.

timelapse with and without staccato

Determining which course of action is correct is simply a matter of weighing out factors. A bit of experimentation is a necessary evil when striving for the best footage possible. Often times, the realism in movement that burgeoning cinematographers seek comes from combining different strategies in a single composition.

Regardless of what strategy produces the best result for you and your work, the information Kanak provides is sure to have you testing new techniques that will bring you one step closer to mastering the art of timelapse.

“Finding ways to improve the way in which I work with my timelapse footage as well as ways to create unique looks is a huge passion of mine. Whether through refining the look and feel or total experimentation, this desire definitely keeps me on my toes.”

For Further Training on Timelapse Photography:

There is a complete guide (146 pages) to shooting, processing and rendering time-lapses using a dslr camera. Found here: The Timelapse Photography Guide

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How to Gain Your Client’s Trust as a Photographer

There are a lot of things that make for a great photographer. Understanding composition, light, and the technique required to make a great picture are only part of the puzzle. One of the most important aspects of being a really great photographer is being able to make your clients feel comfortable in front of the camera. Some people have a natural gift for this, but some don’t come by this gift so easily. Here are just a few things you can do to help your clients feel at ease in front of your lens.

trust from portrait clients

photo by Dragan

Relax

If you, yourself, are tense… odds are your clients are going to feel that. The easiest way to help others to relax is to relax yourself. Stand up straight when you talk with them; it portrays confidence. If you portray yourself as confident in your craft, this will also help your clients feel comfortable.

Choose Your Words Wisely

The way you speak can have an impact on how your clients perceive you. Saying “um,” “like,” and “uh” can give the impression you don’t really know what you’re doing. You also never want to say “whoops,” “uh oh,” or “that doesn’t look good.” You will never imbue confidence into your clients if they catch you muttering dissatisfaction to the LCD screen on your camera.

Give Guidance

Most people are not comfortable in front of the camera. They don’t know how to pose themselves or what to do with their hands. You are the expert. You are the professional. Take control and help guide them into poses that are going to be flattering. The more you take control and help them, the more relaxed and natural they will feel.

directing photography clients

photo by Salva Barbera

Be Yourself

People are more likely to be comfortable and act natural in front of your camera if you are yourself. Don’t try to be anything you’re not. Be yourself. If someone hires you, it’s because they like you and your work. So be yourself, so your clients can be themselves.

Be Ready to Shoot

The least professional thing you can do is show up to your shoot without the equipment you need–batteries not charged, memory cards full. The best way to approach a shoot is to have already talked to your clients about their expectations, know the location, and be prepped and ready to go. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a tardy photographer who is not ready to go.

photographing families building trust

photo by Phalinn Ooi

Be Aware of Boundaries

Not everyone is comfortable being touched. Always ask permission before touching a client, even if it’s something small like brushing their hair out of their face or adjusting their hand. You never know what a person might be uncomfortable with, so avoid this by asking permission first.

Show Them A Few of the Pictures

Not everyone agrees with this advice. But I often find that if my client is nervous or doesn’t think they look good, showing them a few of the pictures we just took gives them an immediate confidence boost. Just make sure the pictures you show them are good pictures and ones you’ll be presenting them in the finished product.

build confidence with photography clients

photo by Parekh Cards

So whether you have a natural gift for making a person feel at ease or if you struggle with it, you can see how these simple tips can help your clients feel more comfortable. Remember to be relaxed and confident and to always be yourself. Don’t forget to give your clients guidance and encouragement along the way and you are bound to see your clients relax and feel at ease in front of your lens.

About the Author
Stephanie lives in Central, Illinois, is married to her best friend, Ryan, and enjoys the company of her rambunctious lab-beagle pup, Kit. She is the owner of Green Tree Media and is passionate about photography.

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Pentax K-70 review

Pentax is pitching the K-70 at the outdoor photography market, promising “new opportunities and discoveries in scenic photography”. It’s dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant down to -10 degrees Celsius. There are 100 seals throughout the body, including the articulating LCD display, and the grip is designed to stay grippy even when you’re wearing gloves.

Despite all this the K-70 is still pretty compact for a fully-featured APS-C format DSLR, so it’s portable too.

And the K-70’s abilities go way beyond landscapes. Its specs and features mark it out as a rather good all-rounder, capable of taking on a much wider range of photographic subjects.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch, vari-angle screen, 921,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

Inside the body is a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, which is as high as APS-C format cameras go in terms of pixel count, and it has no anti-aliasing filter at the front, so the fine detail rendition should be enhanced even further.

Anti-aliasing filters are used to prevent the moiré interference patterns sometimes seen when photographing fine textures or patterns with a digital sensor’s rectangular array of photosites. These filters work by slightly blurring fine detail, and then leaving the camera to sharpen it up again digitally. When you take away the filter the fine detail should be sharper but you risk, moiré in some shots (although actually it doesn’t seem to be a problem in most real-life photography).

Pentax has a clever solution for this, with a unique ‘AA Filter Simulator’. This applies microscopic vibrations at a sub-pixel level during the exposure to simulate the effect of a ‘real’ anti-aliasing’ filter. You may not need it, but it’s there if you do.

This is just one of the tricks made possible by Pentax’s 5-axis Sensor Shift (SR) system. Its most obvious use is to cut camera shake when using slower shutter speeds – Pentax claims a gain of up to 4.5 shutter speed steps. That compares well with the best lens-based stabilization systems, but making the sensor, rather than the lens ‘stabilized’ has advantages – it offers a wider range of correction movements, and it should work with practically any lens.

It doesn’t stop there. Pentax also uses this sensor-shift system for its clever Pixel Shift Resolution mode, for better color rendition and definition in ultra-fine detail. This works by combining four separate shots taken in quick succession, so it works best on a tripod with static subjects, but Pentax has now added a Motion Correction feature, which detects and compensates for any moving objects.

Last but not least is an Astrotracer feature also seen on the pro-level Pentax K-1. This uses GPS data and the camera’s sensor-shift system to keep celestial objects in the night sky completely stationary, so they don’t turn into streaks of light. You will need a GPS receiver for this, though, which is an optional extra on this camera.

The K-70 is pretty well specified in other respects too. It offers sensitivity up to ISO102,400, a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000 sec, which is halfway between the top speeds of most rivals and those of pro cameras, and a clever Bulb Timer function for ultra-long exposures of up to 20 minutes.

The rear screen has a flip-out vari-angle mechanism, which already makes it pretty useful, but the promise of faster live view autofocus makes it better still. You can also use it for shooting video, of course, although the K-70 stops at full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution, so if you want 4K you’re going to have to look elsewhere – although it will shoot 4K timelapse movies.

The K-70 gives you a lot to take in. You might never use all the features it offers, but for keen photographers who want to learn new techniques and effects, it’s perfect.

Build and handling

  • Dustproof, weather-resistant body
  • Cold-resistant down to -10 degrees Celsius
  • Weighs 688g

Pentax has built some pretty wild-looking DSLRs in the past, from its illuminated K-S1 to the multi-coloured variations on its entry-level models.

By comparison, the K-70 is a pretty sober-looking camera. In fact, if we’re being honest, the square body and square-shaped grip are just a little charmless. It’s compact, easy to grip and the controls are all in the right places, but it’s not really a thing of beauty.

The K-70 has some other interesting touches, including a mode dial with two extra settings you won’t find on any other camera brand – Sv (sensitivity priority) and TAv (shutter speed and aperture priority).

In the Sv mode, you turn the control dial to adjust the ISO setting and the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture. In TAv mode, you choose the shutter speed and aperture you want to use and the K-70 chooses the ISO setting needed for the correct exposure.

These two modes don’t do anything you can’t do with the ISO adjustments on other cameras, but they do bring the ISO setting into the ‘exposure triangle’ alongside shutter speed and aperture, so that you can consider all three in your choice of exposure mode.

The K-70 has two control dials, which is good to see and typical of enthusiast cameras – once you know your way around the camera, it makes changing the settings much quicker and simpler, especially when you’re working directly with shutter speed and aperture settings.

The rear four-way controller has buttons for setting the ISO, drive mode, white balance and flash mode. Beyond that, though, you need to switch to the K-70’s interactive display, which has icons for 20 different camera functions and settings.

While displays like these are necessary with the complex functions offered by modern cameras, it’s still a bit tiresome. Worse, until you really learn your way around the camera, you don’t really know where you need to look – some options are available via the external buttons and dials, some are on this interactive display, and others can only be found in the regular menu system.

Autofocus

  • 11-point AF, nine cross-type AF points
  • Sensitive down to -3EV
  • New Hybrid AF system for live view

The autofocus system is only average for this class of camera too. It’s Pentax’s own SAFOX X system with a modest 11 AF points, though nine of these are of the more accurate cross-type, and Pentax does say the system is sensitive right down to -3EV, which is on a par with professional DSLR cameras.

The autofocus system is quick and precise, although in poor lighting it does sometimes hunt around for a focus point

But if the AF system is mildly disappointing in terms of the number of autofocus points, the Pentax K-70 hits back with a new hybrid AF system for its live view mode. This is a first for Pentax, mixing slow-but-accurate contrast autofocus and much faster on-sensor phase-detection AF when you’re composing shots on the rear screen.

The vari-angle screen meant we could get right down to puddle-level to capture this reflection – and the weather-proofing was reassuring too

The good news is that Pentax’s new hybrid AF system really does work. We’re used to DSLRs being painfully slow in live view mode – this is where mirrorless cameras really score highly – but the K-70 feels snappy and responsive. On most DSLRs you’d switch to live view mode only if you had to, but here it’s a perfectly usable shooting mode you might use a lot more.

Performance

  • 6fps burst shooting
  • 480-shot battery life
  • Packed with imaging tools

The Pentax K-70 isn't too shabby for action photography with its maximum continuous shooting speed of six frames per second, although the buffer capacity is fairly average at just 40 JPEGs.

The optical viewfinder is especially good, with properly square edges, no distortion and no nasty color fringing. It’s a proper pentaprism design, rather than the cheaper ‘pentamirror’ construction used in some entry-level DSLRs.

The K-70 is packed with digital imaging tools too. For a start, it offers optical corrections (for Pentax lenses) for distortion, corner shading (vignetting) and color fringing (chromatic aberration). It can even compensate for the image-softening ‘diffraction’ effects you get when shooting at very small lens apertures, though only with specific Pentax lenses.

It can cope with extreme brightness ranges too, via its dynamic range compensation options or, if these don’t go far enough, via its inbuilt HDR (high dynamic range) mode, which combines three separate exposures taken in rapid succession. HDR images produced in this way can look a little flat, so Pentax has added an A-HDR mode with a Clarity adjustment.

The K-70 can shoot multiple exposures (from two to 2,000), mixing them in one of three ways depending on the effect you want, and it has a related Interval Composite mode too.

For regular photography you can choose any of 13 different Custom Image modes, or picture styles and nine different digital filters – this list expands to 21 digital filters when you edit your photos in playback mode. The image customization options include Fine Sharpness, Extra Sharpness and Clarity control. 

All of these effects can be applied only to JPEG images shot in-camera, not raw files you process later on your computer – though the K-70 can also process saved raw files internally.

Image quality

  • ISO100-102,400
  • 18-135mm lens performance could be a lot beter
  • Good color reproduction

Unfortunately, while the Pentax K-70 does deliver a nice shooting experience, you may not be quite so pleased when you check out the pictures. With the right lens, this camera is undoubtedly capable of some very fine results, as our lab tests confirm. Unfortunately, the 18-135mm kit lens isn’t it. 

Outwardly, this lens is quite good – it feels well made for the price, the zoom action is smooth and the autofocus is quick and quiet enough. Optically, however, it’s a different story. It suffers from all the usual ills of long-zoom lenses, delivering ever-softer photos at longer focal lengths.

In the lab it didn’t do too badly, but in real-world shooting at its 135mm maximum, the detail proved so soft at the maximum f/5.6 aperture that it's often difficult to tell which part of the picture is actually in focus. Using a smaller aperture helps a little, but then, unless the light is good, you have to use a higher ISO setting or lean more heavily on the internal shake-reduction system.

It’s a nice composition, but the poor edge definition of the kit lens becomes obvious when you zoom in on the bicycle

The lab tests also highlighted this lens’s poor definition at the edges of the frame, at all focal lengths and aperture settings. The kit lens also suffers badly from chromatic aberration – color fringing – at longer focal lengths, and the camera’s in-built chromatic aberration correction doesn’t seem to be able to do too much about it.

So, just when we thought we’d discovered a decent-quality kit lens with a longer-than-usual zoom range, we were reminded that there’s always a price to pay in image quality, and this time it’s just a bit too high – very disappointing.

This is a shame, because the image quality in other respects is good. The default multi-pattern exposure metering does a reliable job, and while the in-camera dynamic range compensation can’t solve every tricky lighting situation, it does help. 

The K-70 has captured these autumnal colors with amazing intensity

We shot in a range of conditions, and the auto white balance system struck a good balance between correcting color casts while preserving the atmosphere – and of course you can always shoot raw and adjust the white balance later.

It was also good to see that the K-70 keeps Pentax’s characteristically rich and intense color reproduction, delivering particularly strong reds and greens.

Our lab tests show that the K-70 is capable of resolving high levels of detail, but it needs a lens that can do it justice

So what about the high-ISO performance? Well, the image quality stays pretty good up to ISO1600 and even ISO3200. Fine, textured detail starts to disappear at ISO6400, but noise levels are still relatively low. Even coarser details are starting to get mushy at ISO12,800, though, and while the quality is still tolerable at ISO25,600 – in an emergency – photos shot at ISO51,200 are very hazy, and those shot at the maximum ISO102,400 are really pretty terrible.

This is what ISO102,400 looks like. Oh dear. Enough said

The maximum ISO is just a little too ambitious, but otherwise it’s a decent performance for a camera with an APS-C sensor and this many megapixels.

Verdict

The Pentax K-70 itself is really good. It’s a compact, solid and very well specified camera that also delivers good value for money. It’s packed with innovative features, and there’s enough here to keep novices, enthusiasts and even more experienced photographers occupied for a long time to come.

The articulated screen is useful, and the new hybrid live view autofocus system – a first for Pentax – makes live view shooting an enjoyable and practical alternative to using the viewfinder. It’s not quite as slick and speedy as using a mirrorless camera, but it does close the gap considerably.

The 18-135mm kit lens, however, was a disappointment. It handles well, it focuses quickly and it offers a much longer zoom range than most rivals. Unfortunately, the image quality just isn’t up to the mark. It’s okay at shorter focal lengths, but this lens softens considerably as you zoom in, which takes away the advantage it has in overall zoom range.

If you are tempted by the K-70 – and it really is a good camera – you might be better off getting it in body-only form, and investing in more expensive glassware. Pentax offers better lenses than this one, as do independent makers Sigma and Tamron.

Competition

Nikon D7200

Now overshadowed – but only slightly – by the newer Nikon D500, the D7200 still delivers excellent resolution, great overall image quality and good handling. Bought as a kit with Nikon’s very good 18-105mm kit lens, however, it’s still pretty pricey.

Read the full review: Nikon D7200

Canon EOS Rebel T6s / EOS 760D

With its 24-megapixel sensor, vari-angle display and hybrid CMOS AF sensor, the EOS Rebel T6s (known as the EOS 760D outside the US) is a close match for the K-70 in all but ruggedness. The wide choice of quality lenses and accessories makes it a camera that can grow with you, and it’s very affordable too.

Read the full review: Canon EOS Rebel T6s / EOS 760D

Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85

Panasonic's Lumix G85 (or G80 if you're outside the US) is a cracking mid-price mirrorless camera with a vast range of compatible lenses. Its 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor might not be quite a match for the K-70's, but it's not far off thanks to the absence of an optical low-pass filter. Handling and AF are great; throw in advanced 4K video capture, and you have a very nice camera.

Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85


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How to Take Amazing Travel Photography

Travel photography is a career for some. Most people, though, just want to bring back nice photos to show their friends and family. No image will replace the moment of being there; that’s why people still travel instead of browsing Google Images!

tokyo travel photo

photo by Moyan Brenn

Choosing a Camera

Professional or amateur, the first thing you need is a camera. Yes, a camera, and a real one—not a phone or something you attach to your helmet.

Choosing the best camera requires a good amount of research. However, most modern cameras will do a good enough job, particularly if you don’t want to get too technical. Today, if you buy any mirrorless or DSLR, you will get a very good camera. Just skip the kit lens and buy a good general purpose one, but not a super-zoom as those compromise in image quality and low-light performance. For just making nice photographers, you can get a smaller fixed-lens camera. There are plenty of premium models offering one inch sensors—a huge leap in image quality from the typical ultra-compact and cellphone camera.

Better image quality only allows a photographer to show the images bigger. It does not improve a photograph itself. Even a low-end camera now offers much better image quality than what 35mm used to be like 20 years ago and many such images graced covers of National Geographic. So, make sure you have a camera, and let’s get started on how to make amazing photographs!

Planning

Actually, the second step to create stunning images starts without the camera! What your images need to do is share your amazement of a place. So what you need to do is look for what amazes you and investigate it well.

Say you just arrived in downtown Lima at the Plaza de Armas. The plaza is enormous. It’s surrounded by imposing historic buildings on three sides. There’s a huge fountain in the middle, lights, flowers arranged in patterns, and hordes of people passing through.

You feel amazed but you can’t snap a photo as soon as you step onto the plaza and expect a great outcome. An actual photo of the plaza is impossible from within it; you would need to seek a good vantage point for that. Instead, find each element and details that make the place amazing to you.

The cathedral, for example, on the east side of the plaza, is extremely imposing. It also has these spectacularly carved wooden balconies protruding from the stone walls. Get close to it, look at what element fascinates you the most. Once you have mentally noted elements that interest you, it’s time to start composing your image.

Composing

Composing means place elements together. Of course, you cannot move the cathedral or the fountain but you can move yourself to show elements together or separate them. This is where the camera lens makes the whole difference and where zooms greatly help. Place yourself where you can see the elements you thought of and bring the camera to your eye. Look and inspect the view. Adjust your position and zoom until what attracted you to make this photo is prominent and there is little to nothing else in the frame.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Already if you get this right, your photos will have much more impact. Then you can further improve the composition by adding other techniques:

  • Leave space in front of the subject. Either unoccupied space or something which establishes location, such as a patch of flowers.
  • Let a complimentary subject in the frame. For example, a person or animal to show the scale of things.
  • Include a leading line, something which points to the subject, a road, fence, etc.
  • Tilt the camera up to exaggerate perspective for imposing subjects.
giving a photo context

photo by Markus Trienke

Working with Light

The last thing that has the most impact is light. Photographs are made of light but not all light is equal for photography. Cameras can only capture a certain amount of contrast. Anything behind that results in over-exposed (completely white) or under-exposed (very dark) areas.

There are two ways to deal with natural light. One is to work with and the other is to wait for it. Travel photography is not studio work, so you cannot control the light much and without accessories.

Working with the light means to move yourself and the orientation of your camera to that what is shown in the viewfinder does not have a too high contrast. It’s pretty simple, just look at the darkest and brightest area of the scene. Move to exclude one or the other when they contrast too much.

working with light

photo by Pedro Szekely

Working with the light often goes against the composition created in the previous step. This is why it is often much better to wait for the light. The sun does not move fast so this takes time but it is highly predictable. Take the time to see where the sun is and if it is moving towards a better position or not. Remember, the sun always moves toward the west. If the light is improving, come back later. If not, come back tomorrow.

Pay attention to sunrise and sunset times. Around then, plus or minus an hour, depending on where you are, the contrast is lowest and there is still color in the sky. This is the best time to take beautiful images. Over 95 percent of published travel images are taken during these times!

There you have it. Much better images to showcase with only three steps: get a camera, compose, and work with the light.

About the Author:
Itai Danan is a travel photographer with an extensive collection of fine art photography from around the world showcased on Neoluminance.

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GoPro Karma Drone

The Karma Drone has been GoPro’s soap opera. It’s been a rollercoaster of excitement and disappointment, all of which started with vague sightings and rumors leading up its grand arrival – and the long-awaited drone was then recalled a few months later, when a fatal battery flaw began causing drones to lose power mid-flight and fall from the sky.

GoPro has now addressed the Karma Drone’s battery woes and put it back on sale. But, the question is, has the world of drones moved on in its absence, and is there still room for the Karma?

Price and availability

Drones aren't cheap, but the GoPro Karma comes in at a surprisingly reasonable $ 1,099 (£999, AU$ 1,649) price considering everything that's included in the package.

That price puts it just slightly above the $ 999 (£1,099, AU$ 1,699) DJI Mavic Pro and $ 799 (£829, AU$ 1,899) Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon; but, as the line goes, the Karma is so much more than a drone. The GoPro package offers more versatility, with a removable GoPro Hero5 camera that you can use separately or attach to a handheld gimbal.

There are also plenty of barebones options to purchase only what you need. The Karma Drone is especially tantalizing for GoPro Hero 5 owners, as the rest of the package costs $ 799 (£719, AU$ 1,195) without the bundled camera.

There are even more slimmed-down options. There’s a drone-only kit for $ 599 (about £470, AU$ 790), while $ 399 (about £320, AU$ 530) nets you just the quadcopter without a gimbal or even the included controller.

Users can also purchase the Karma Grip on its own for $ 299 (£289, AU$ 499), while for those who are curious the GoPro Hero 5 costs $ 399 (£399, AU$ 549).

At the time of writing, GoPro has only announced that the Karma Drone is back on sale in the US. However, we expect availability at its original pricing (as we’ve listed) should be returning to other territories including the UK and Australia.  

GoPro Karma drone review

Design

The Karma Drone led the charge for compact quads when it debuted last September. Measuring 14.4 x 8.8 x 3.5 inches (36.5 x 22.4 x 9cm) when all folded up, it's dramatically smaller than the DJI Phantoms that have dominated the consumer airspace for years.

However, this is exactly where DJI came in to steal the Karma’s thunder with the water bottle-sized Mavic Pro, which was announced a week after GoPro’s quad.

Despite it not being the smallest drone in the world, the way you can stash the Karma into a regular backpack is admirable. This is all thanks to a folding design that sees the both sets of arms flipping forward, while the landing gear closes flat against the drone’s underside.

Image Credit: Nick Mediati

The Karma Drone is also unique in that the camera sits on its nose, whereas most quads have the camera hanging underneath their fuselages. Seating the camera up front enables a greater range of upward movement. Another benefit is that the rotors and the drone’s chassis are rarely captured on video.

The Karma Drone’s greatest asset is its versatility

Unlike other drones, the camera and even the stabilizing gimbal aren’t permanently attached to the Karma Drone. You can pull out both the camera and gimbal after giving the front collar lock a quick twist, and attach it to the included Karma Grip for stabilized handheld video.

Alternatively, the camera is held in place by a simple clamp that you push to open. Once it's removed you’ll have a standard GoPro Hero 5 camera that you can use for your earthbound action shots.

Last but not least, the included controller also makes the Karma Drone stand out. It comes with an integrated 5-inch touchscreen, along with all the usual flight controls, and folds up into a portable package just like the drone itself. 

Build and handling

Although the Karma Drone's main body is made primarily of a lightweight plastic, it feels tougher and sturdier than most quads. During our month with the drone, it survived several scuffs along the ground and hard landings unscathed.

In the event of a real crash, it’s easy enough to replace parts. You can take out the metal limbs with a single screwdriver; meanwhile, the gimbal assembly also makes replacing the camera and its stabilizer a simple process.

Unfortunately, the Karma Drone isn’t as sturdy when it’s in the air. Without any ultrasonic sensors or external cameras, it doesn’t hover in place as steadily as other drones. You also won’t find any of the intelligent collision-detection or "follow me" features that have almost become standard on quadcopters from DJI and Yuneec.

The Karma Drone also only comes with four autonomous modes, including  "Orbit" if you want it to fly around you, and "Dronie", which takes a selfie and then zooms way out to show where you are. "Reveal" and "Cable Cam" are the two other modes you can use to send the drone on a set flight path.

Even with these special modes, though, you have to manually fly the drone to spots and set the flight path, which rather undermines their autonomy.

GoPro Karma drone review

We also ran into an issue with the camera leveling itself at off-kilter angles and leaving us with a tilted horizon line. Sometimes turning off the drone and finding level ground would fix the issue, but in a few instances we had to drop everything and recalibrate the gimbal.

So, the Karma Drone may not be the smartest drone around, but at least it is super simple to fly. It’s quick to respond, and moved predictably by our commands. Although we hadn’t flown a drone for any decent stretch of time before, within a week we felt like we'd become seasoned aviators.

GoPro claims the Karma drone can operate as far as 1.86 miles (3km) away and 1.99 miles (3.2km) high, and in our experience, it lives up to these numbers. However, this seems like only a small achievement when you consider the DJI Mavic Pro’s maximum range of 4.3mi (7km).

Since the Karma Drone communicates over Wi-Fi, it has a much shorter range compared to the radio signals DJI employs. Likewise, the Karma Drone zips around at a max speed of 35mph (56km/h), which is quick to be sure, but the Mavic Pro edges ahead at 40mph (65km/h).

Battery life is this quad’s most glaring weak point. Lasting only 17 to 20 minutes tops, you’ll almost always spend more time getting to a destination than capturing aerial footage of it. Meanwhile, both the Yuneec Typhoon and DJI Mavic Pro can stay in the sky for roughly 25 minutes.

All in all, the GoPro Karma Drone offers solid performance and capabilities for a first-time flier. However, it’s clear the Mavic Pro will give you the extra legs you need to fly higher, faster and for longer.

Video capture

One area where the Karma Drone leads in is top-notch video quality, thanks to the GoPro Hero5 camera. Video looks crisp with thorough detail, vibrant colors and a broad dynamic range.

The three-axis camera gimbal and the Karma’s rotors work together to keep footage stable and, from what we’ve seen, it works stupendously well. Even with the drone racing around at maximum speed, the resulting video clips look like they could have been shot on a professional-grade crane or dolly.

GoPro is also well attuned to the needs of its active users, and makes editing on the fly easy with a pair of mobile apps. In just a few minutes we clipped a snippet of footage through Quik, replaced the audio in Splice, and uploaded it all from our phone.

Handheld stabilizer

Of course, capturing video on the GoPro Karma is only half of the story. Popping out the camera's stabilizer and inserting it into the included Karma Grip lets you record your on-foot adventures.

The handheld stabilizer basically smooths out any unwarranted bumps as you walk around – at least that’s how it should work on paper. In reality, the Grip does add a lot of stabilization, but there’s still a noticeable wobble upon every step.

There’s just too much vertical and longitudinal movement to contend with, though we found we could further minimize camera shake by deliberately walking from heel-to-toe. Turning on the GoPro Hero5's electronic image stabilization’s is another solution, but you’ll limit your video’s resolution to Full HD.

Despite the so-so performance on foot, the stabilizer is rock-solid for capturing slowly-panning footage. The gimbal keeps the camera on a level plane while gently turning with the direction of the handle. Alternatively, with a press of a button, you can lock the camera’s tilt as well.

We only wished it had a joystick for manually changing the camera’s orientation, or an extra mode for locking the camera in one direction. Despite not being as nuanced as 3-axis gimbals designed for mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, it’s a handy device for recording some establishing shots and extra handheld footage that’s relatively well stabilized.

Unfortunately, the Karma Grip’s servos are also loud enough to be heard in your footage, which makes it unusable for vlogs unless you’ve also plugged in an external microphone. It’s not a huge problem in our book, though, as you wouldn’t want to use the GoPro Hero5’s stock microphone in the first place.

We liked

In terms of enabling you to get set up and flying quickly, GoPro has come up with one of the simplest and most portable drones yet. The folding design of the quadcopter and all-in-one controller are superb, and so is the quality of the video you’ll be able to capture with this system.

As we’ve said before, the GoPro Karma’s great strength is its versatility. Aside from the drone that comes in the box, you can split up the parts for a handheld gimbal and a standalone action camera.

We disliked

The Karma Drone is far from perfect, with its little gimbal quirks and less-than-autonomous auto flight path modes. Then there’s the inescapable fact that the DJI Mavic Pro and other quadcopters on the market outpace GoPro’s offering in almost every way.

Final verdict

The GoPro Karma Drone isn’t perfect. But, judging how deeply you’ve already bought into GoPro’s ecosystem, it might be a wise purchase. If you also see yourself only flying a few times a year, the Karma system is more versatile in that you can also use it for handheld footage and as a standalone action camera.

Otherwise, there are better-specced and smarter drones out there for dedicated fliers. The DJI Mavic Pro easily overshadows GoPro’s offering as a better drone with more sensors, intelligent features, longer battery life and a smaller footprint – and it’s a smidgen more affordable to boot.


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5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching

There are some photographers who use Photoshop or plugins such as Portrait Pro to do portrait retouching. There is nothing wrong with this and these programs can do an excellent job, especially if you retouch portraits at a high level.

But you may be surprised at just what an excellent job Lightroom also does at developing portraits. There are compelling reasons to do all of your portrait retouching within Lightroom. Here are some of them:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

1. You can use Lightroom Presets to create different looks

Whether you buy presets made by other photographers, download freebies from the internet, or make your own, presets can open up new worlds. There are presets that emulate film (such as those from VSCO and Mastin Labs), presets for black and white photography and ones that create just about every type of look you can imagine.

It’s possible to buy or put together an entire preset system – a set of presets that is designed to make developing portraits much faster and simpler than going through the right-hand panels in the Develop module individually.

Retouching portraits in Lightroom

The same portrait, processed with three different Lightroom Develop Presets to create three different looks.

2. You can easily bulk process portraits in Lightroom

Another benefit of using Develop Presets in Lightroom is that they make it easy to bulk process your portraits. In any portrait session, it is natural to take lots of photos, possibly hundreds, as you explore a variety of poses, clothing, and settings. If you want to spend as little time on a computer as possible processing those photos, then Develop Presets are the key.

I’m particularly impressed by the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System which I’ve seen in action on a Creative Live class. Designed for high volume wedding and portrait photographers it really does make bulk processing easy. It is not difficult for advanced Lightroom users to come up with a similar system themselves.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Sets of similar portraits that share the same lighting and background are the easiest to bulk process. All you have to do is develop the first image, then copy and paste the settings to the rest. Leave local adjustments like retouching until last as those need to be applied to portraits individually.

3. You don’t need to leave Lightroom to smooth skin

The main selling point of portrait plugins is that you can use them to make anybody’s skin look beautiful. The danger of these plugins, if overused, is that they remove skin texture and make it look over-processed and plastic.

But what you might not know is that the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is an excellent tool for portrait retouching. The Soften Skin preset helps you smooth skin while retaining texture when used with the Adjustment Brush tool.

You can reduce the opacity of the brush after you have applied the effect, giving you full control over the strength. Combined with the healing brush tool, which is perfect for eliminating blemishes, you can retouch nearly any portrait.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

This before and after view shows how Lightroom’s Soften Skin preset smooths out skin while still retaining texture.

4. Saves hard drive space

I always recommend that you do as much work in Lightroom as possible, and only export photos to Photoshop or a plugin when absolutely necessary. The main reasons are hard drive space and workflow.

Every time you export a photo, Lightroom has to convert it from Raw to a file format the program understands. For maximum quality, you should use 16-bit TIFF – a file that is much bigger than Raw. 16-bit TIFF files are very large and rapidly fill your hard drives.

Retouching Raw files in Lightroom is much more space efficient. The workflow is also much smoother when you keep everything within Lightroom.

5. Lightroom helps you create a natural look

One of the biggest dangers associated with using Photoshop or plugins is that you can go too far and over-retouch your portraits. It’s common in movie posters, which make the actors almost unrecognizable, and expensive advertisements. The search for perfection results in a lie and realism goes out of the window.

We’ve all seen those epic Photoshop fails, where the retoucher takes a few inches off a waist or thigh, enlarges the model’s eyes or changes the shape of her face. This takes great skill and restraint to do realistically. Most people fail. A model once told me about another photographer who enlarged her eyes and altered the shape of her face in Photoshop. She didn’t like the results at all and felt they were no longer photos of her.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Lightroom is well suited for processing portraits with a natural look.

The benefit of Lightroom here is that it doesn’t have the same capability of Photoshop so there is no temptation to use it to distort the shape of the model’s face. Lightroom helps you keep it real and go for the natural look.

What happens when you can’t rely on Photoshop to slim somebody’s face or figure? You have to learn how to do it through lighting and posing. Using Lightroom indirectly helps you become a better portrait photographer.

Conclusion

Photoshop and portrait retouching plugins are powerful tools but Lightroom is just as good, maybe even better as it stops you from over-processing portraits. But what do you think? Do you have a favorite retouching application for your portraits or do you prefer to use Lightroom? Let us know in the comments.


If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom, then please check out my popular Mastering Lightroom ebooks.

The post 5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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DIY Hack 2-for-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Can we really have enough camera bags? In this article, I will show you a DIY hack to easily convert a small travel bag with wheels into a camera roller bag. Basically, you get two bags for the price of one.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A piece of luggage with wheels on the left and with a padded camera insert on the right – and voila it’s now a camera roller bag!

The one main drawback to being a photographer is the amount of gear you have and what type of bag to store your equipment in. This is especially true whether you are a professional, semi-professional or hobbyist photographer. There is no getting around it, once you invest in any type of camera with interchangeable lens, the add-on extras are similar to lego…you just keep building!

And herein comes the next must-have for any photographer, the camera bag.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A very inexpensive luggage bag on wheels H54.5 X W34 X D20cm

So much choice

peak design everyday backpack

Courtesy of Peak Design – Everyday Backpack.

With such a plethora of camera bags on the market, it can become a bit of a quandary to know which bag to choose. For me, the one that proves the most comfortable in hauling around gets my vote. Although that said, I do love to see what company is launching the next must-have-camera-bag.

Peak Design’s marketing campaign video for their Everyday Backpack was just brilliant. I had to physically sit on my hands to stop myself pressing the buy button. Oh, I was so tempted!

Assess your needs

My main focus when going to a location shoot is to try and limit the amount of gear I bring. At the same time, I can’t afford the risk of not having that one extra bit of kit that may be crucial to a shot. As I do a lot of location shooting, there have been many occasions where I had to improvise and change the direction of the shoot. This was only possible as I had the extra camera gear with me in my bag. It is about good planning and being professional.

I also find it’s the non-camera gear that is really useful to have with you on a shoot. Even an elastic band comes in handy.

Look at options in non-camera stores

I was at my local shopping center recently and browsing at travel luggage bags. I was on the lookout for one of those carry-on size bags with wheels. Whoever thought of putting wheels on a travel case is a genius.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

This bag from itLuggage proved a great solution for my dual combo – a travel bag that converts into a roller camera bag!

My thinking was two-fold. I needed a small travel bag for trips away, plus I could use the same bag as a camera roller bag. I have always loved the idea of dual functionality with one product, especially when it’s not marketed as such. Plus, storage space in a house can be a premium, so the idea of doubling up on my bags to save space seemed an obvious solution.

The average camera roller case is expensive. One can range from €250 – €500 ($ 265USD – $ 530USD) here in Ireland (Europe). If you are a hobbyist photographer, this price tag may seem pretty high and way above your budget range.

DIY camera roller bag

The simple idea of turning a travel bag into a DIY camera roller bag is just brilliant. What I really liked most about this hack is there is no DIY or customization to be done to the actual bag and it looks great.

travel bag with wheels - DIY camera roller bag

An in-expensive travel bag from itLuggage.

I first saw the concept of turning a luggage bag into a DIY camera roller bag on Fstoppers a few years back. So, I’m in no way claiming this as my idea. However, it is so simple and easy that it is worth sharing the idea again in case you missed it.

This bag which caught my eye was ridiculously cheap at €39, approximately $ 41 USD. It is extremely lightweight and the size was perfect. H54.5 x W34 x D20cm (21.4 x 13.8 x 7.8”). Plus, this size of the bag meets the strict dimension requirements of European budget airlines.

Customize or DIY the bag

I was able to source this padded camera divider with an egg crate foam from B&W International. Even with the Sterling conversion to euros plus shipping. It cost me €50 ($ 53 USD) and in my opinion, was well worth it.

The dimensions of this padded camera divider were perfect for my travel bag:  H43 x W30 D12.5cm (with the egg foam 15cm). (16.9” x 11.8” x 4.9”). Do a search on Amazon for padded dividers by B&W or Pelican to find more size options to fit your bag snugly.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Inexpensive travel bag with wheels with a padded camera insert and egg crate foam from B&W International. DIY camera roller bag. 

I was impressed with the overall quality and robustness of the material. The dividers are all easily removable and can be configured to your own setup.

padded camera insert

Padded camera divider insert with modifiable velcro attachments, typical of most camera bags.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Quality padded camera insert from B&W International.

The whole camera bag insert fits snugly into the travel bag with ease.

Try it out

I brought my new roller camera bag to a local event recently and it worked a dream. More importantly, my shoulders were not screaming at me the next day, as those little wheels did all the work.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Camera gear packed into the padded camera insert with lots more room to spare.

Now, I can’t wait to go away on a trip and use my new travel bag with wheels. I’ll keep you posted!

Have you already done this DIY camera bag hack? Would you consider doing it? If so, please leave your comments in the section below.

The post DIY Hack 2-for-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Hasselblad X1D review

Hasselblad is best known for its professional medium-format camera systems – and the professional price tags that go with them – but the X1D is a new and radical step into a very different market.

Its minimalist mirrorless design means it’s a fraction of the size of a regular medium-format camera, and scarcely larger than a 35mm full-frame DSLR, and while it’s still a long way from cheap, its price does put it within the reach of many more professionals and well-heeled amateur photographers.

Key features

  • Medium format (43.8 x 32.9mm) CMOS sensor, 50MP
  • 3.0-inch touchscreeon, 920,000 dots
  • Flash can be used at all shutter speeds

So what’s the big deal about medium format? It’s all about image quality – both in terms of detail rendition and less easily defined pictorial qualities. At 50 million pixels the Hasselblad X1D’s sensor has, from the sound of it, no inherent advantage over the 50-megapixel Canon EOS 5DS, for example.

But there’s more to this than megapixels. The bigger sensor means bigger photosites which, in turn, should mean less noise and wider dynamic range – Hasselblad claims up to 14 stops. 

The larger sensor also delivers a very different ‘look’, with a much shallower depth of field at any given effective focal length. The X1D has a crop factor of 0.82x, so the 45mm f/3.5 XCD lens supplied to us for review is actually equivalent to a 37mm lens on a full-frame DSLR, while the 90mm f/3.2 XCD lens is actually equivalent to 74mm.

And it’s not just the sensor that’s different. The design, look and layout of the X1D is also quite unique. This is a very modern camera, built from milled aluminium to produce a strong and durable body, and round the back is a thoroughly modern touchscreen display which is just as clean and minimal. 

If you don’t like composing shots on the rear screen, you can use the electronic viewfinder. There’s no pretend pentaprism here, just a slightly raised section on the otherwise perfectly rectangular body.

Hasselblad has launched a new series of XCD autofocus lenses for this camera (though you can use existing H System lenses via an optional adaptor). Each lens contains its own integral leaf-type shutter – the X1D does not use a focal plane shutter. This means less vibration, and flash synchronization right up to the top shutter speed of 1/2000 sec.

We tested the camera with the 45mm f/3.5 XCD and 90mm f/3.2 XCD lenses. There’s also a 30mm f/3.5 XCD lens. As you might expect, they’re not cheap, ranging from £1,900 to £3,300 ($ 2,300 to $ 4,000), although that’s within striking distance of the prices for top-spec full-frame prime lenses.

Other interesting features include built-in Wi-Fi and a clip-on GPS adaptor supplied with the camera (though not our review sample) and dual SD card slots for backups (saving to both cards simultaneously), overflow (using the second card when the first is full), or for separating JPEGs from raw files.

The X1D is very much a ‘raw’ camera. The JPEGs it saves are just one-quarter size, and designed for quick reference or sharing, not for final use. Instead, you use Hasselblad’s own Phocus raw conversion/editing software to process your images, or a third-party program like Adobe Camera Raw.

Build and handling

  • Milled aluminium body
  • Excellent digital spirit level
  • 725g

The Hasselblad X1D may be comparatively small, but it’s still a solid and hefty camera, and although the body is impressively light at well under a kilogram, the lenses are pretty substantial and do push the weight up.

This is one of the few cameras, though, with enough height in the grip to let you get all four fingers of your right hand around it, instead of leaving one dangling at the bottom. 

The controls are really good. There aren’t many of them, but everything you need is here. The mode dial has an interesting action – to lock it, you press downward against spring pressure until it locks flush with the camera top plate. To change the mode, you press it again to release it and it springs up. It’s a neat idea, although perhaps the dial could do with being a little larger.

The touchscreen interface is responsive, and very clear, and there's an excellent digital spirit level, which displays a solid circular ‘bubble’ along a horizontal and vertical axis on the screen. It’s both more intuitive and much more responsive than we’re used to seeing.

A pair of buttons on the top plate offer quick access to auto/manual focus modes, ISO and white balance, and there’s a depth of field preview button on the front. On the back there’s an AE-L (exposure lock) button and an AF-D button for activating the autofocus – effectively, ‘back button focusing’ – although the autofocus can also be initiated by half-pressing the shutter release in the normal way.

There are some quirks. You could spend a long time looking for the full-size JPEG option, not realising there isn’t one. Hasselblad cameras only offer quarter-size JPEGs for quick reference or sharing, although we were told a full-size JPEG option was being considered for the X1D.

It’s also inconsistent in the way it handles shutter speeds. Initially, we thought it didn’t offer shutter speeds longer than 1 second in manual mode. In fact, as you turn the dial it goes from 1 second to the B and T exposure settings, and then past those into the longer exposure times. In shutter priority mode, the shutter speeds follow the normal sequence, with the B and T settings at the end.

Hasselblad has just introduced a v1.15 firmware update, which adds focus peaking, GPS support, maximum/minimum values for the Auto ISO option and the ability to specify a different exposure simulation on/off setting for manual mode, typically for use in studio flash photography.

The battery arrangement on the Hasselblad X1D is especially interesting. For a start, there's no door to the battery compartment. Instead, the base of the battery sits flush with the base of the camera to provide its own ‘door’. When you flick the battery release lever on the base of the camera the battery pops out a short distance, but no further – you then have to push the battery against spring pressure to release the catch fully.

There's also no battery charger. Instead, you plug the charging adaptor directly into the battery. It might sound like change for change’s sake, but it seems to echo the X1D’s style – fewer parts, less fuss.

Performance

  • 1.7-2.3fps burst shooting
  • Contrast-detect autofocus
  • No image stabilization

It should be no surprise to discover that the Hasselblad X1D lacks the speed of a smaller-format DSLR or mirrorless camera, but it’s still pretty snappy. The start-up time is disappointing, admittedly, taking a few seconds, but the autofocus response isn’t bad at all. It does sometimes hunt around a little, or even fail to focus completely in low light, but it feels no worse than early mirrorless cameras or some Nikon DSLRs in Live View mode, for example.

This is not a camera for shoot-from-the-hip grab shots. Instead, it’s a tool for more thoughtful, considered photography. You can still shoot relatively quickly, but the more you rush it, the more frustrated you’re likely to become – and the more you risk losing a little of the amazing image quality this camera is capable of capturing.

The exposure system seems geared towards highlight preservation, which is ideal in a camera of this class. You can bring out shadow detail easily enough in post-processing, but you don’t want to take any chances with highlight detail. The auto white balance system did a good job in our tests, and while the X1D didn’t do especially well in our color rendition lab tests, the real-world results looked good, if a little undersaturated.

Real-world results looked good, if a little undersaturated

The point here is that the X1D is designed for raw imaging, and users will modify the exposure and color settings to their own tastes during processing – our test figures indicate the default conversion settings only.

In short, the X1D delivers spectacular results, but it demands a fraction more care and time than the average camera.

Image quality

  • ISO100-25,600
  • Built-in low-pass filter
  • 8272 × 6200 pixels

It’s not just the megapixels, but the extraordinary clarity and precision of each one of them. Hasselblad says its XCD lenses are optimised to get the best results from its sensor, and on the basis of the 90mm and 45mm lenses we tested, it’s certainly done that.

The X1D’s non-anti-aliased sensor gave our resolution test chart some issues with moiré, but our real-world images look razor-sharp, even right to the edges of the frame.

It’s possible to get lovely separation in images

The lenses undoubtedly play a part in this, and having used both the 45mm and 90mm at a range of apertures, we’d have no hesitation in using both of them wide-open – the contrast and edge-to-edge sharpness are almost undiminished, even at full aperture, and this will also emphasise that wonderful spatial depth, or shallow depth of field, that you get from the larger sensor.

The quality of the optics is excellent

There’s another reason to use wider apertures. Neither the camera body nor the lenses have stabilization systems, so if you’re shooting handheld it’s wise to keep the shutter speeds well above the minimum ‘safe’ levels, otherwise you risk losing the edge off that spectacular detail rendition.

Verdict

The Hasselblad X1D needs to be used at a slightly slower pace than full-frame rivals, but the payback is spectacular image quality and a very rewarding shooting experience. The clean, minimal design is matched by an equally clear and efficient set of controls, and the two lenses we tested are just as impressive as the camera. We now can’t wait to try out the new medium-format Fujifilm GFX, but the Hasselblad X1D has certainly set the bar very high indeed.

Competition

Canon EOS 5DS

The EOS 5DS packs in an incredible 50MP full-frame sensor – we haven't seen anything like this in a DSLR before. The blend of resolution, size and affordability looks unlikely to be beaten any time soon. It’s a terrific camera, but it also demands the very best lenses.

Read the full review: Canon EOS 5DS

Pentax 645Z

We loved the medium-format Pentax 645Z for its DSLR-style handling and controls, but prices have stayed high, and the X1D is a strong, premium-quality rival.

Read the full review: Pentax 645Z

Sony Alpha A7R II

Sony's flagship mirrorless camera features an excellent 42MP full-frame sensor. It may have a smaller sensor than the X1D, but you could spend the money you save on some of Sony’s spectacular new G Master prime and zoom lenses.

Read the full review: Sony Alpha A7R II


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Stops in Photography Explained

No doubt that if you’ve started toying around with photography you will have come across the term stops.

What is a stop?

In photography, a stop is a measurement of Exposure.

For example, if you were to increase the exposure by one stop – you would in effect be doubling the exposure.

So if your settings are

  • Aperture: f/4
  • Shutter Speed: 1/100
  • ISO: 100

And you up the ISO value to 200 you will have effectively increased your exposure by one stop.

This function of photography can be a bit daunting, but understanding this is instrumental in helping you achieve the results that you’re after and knowing what needs to be done.

Let’s see a little simple sample of this.

Say you;re shooting at f/2.8, 1/100 of a second, and ISO of 200, but the effect you are after is a shallower depth of field. Widening the aperture to f/2 will produce the required effect but knowing that this will double the amount of light that is entering your lens will allow you address this problem.

You’ve made a full stop with your aperture to get the correct DOF.

The consequence is that the exposure is too bright now.

To combat this you could halve the ISO to 100 or double the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second.

Each of the three elements will have different stops. Let’s see the difference between them.

ISO

ISO doubles between stops. So in effect:

ISO 100 -> ISO 200 is one stop.

ISO 200-> ISO 400 is one stop.

So far so good. Let’s move onto Shutter Speed stops.

Shutter Speed

The simple one here is when you are using shutter speeds of one second or longer. The same principle as above applies. You simply double the time 1-> 2, 2 -> 4, etc.

long shutter speed

photo by Sean X Liu

When shooting at fractions of a second (which will probably be most of the time at least during your early journey in photography) you will need to halve the number on the bottom (the denominator)

So 1/100 is twice the length of 1/200. One stop, double the exposure.

1/50 is twice the length of 1/100. One stop, double the exposure.

Phew… that wasn’t so bad. Now let’s move on to aperture.

Aperture

This is where I’ll need you to bear with me.

aperture

photo by Nayuki

This little puppy is the most complicated and mathematical of all.

The aperture scale doesn’t follow the same path as the shutter speed or ISO. Aperture is measured in what is known as the f-stop scale. This f-number tells you how wide the aperture is which affects the exposure and the DOF. The lower the number, the wider the aperture (or bigger the hole).

The scale is as follows: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22.

The most important thing to know about the numbers above when dealing with stops is that each number decreases the aperture to half its size (one stop).

Keep in mind that the scale above does not show every number that will show in your camera. There will be other numbers in there (e.g., 3.5 and 3.2) these are known as third stops and won’t be doubling of halving your exposure but lie somewhere in between.

exposure cheatsheet

photo by M@ndy

Take out your camera, compose your shot, and play around with the settings to see what the outcome is.

Compose? The next big factor in your photographic journey. Stay tuned.

About the Author
My crazy world has included successfully combining all the skills of a artist, photographer, designer, programmer, and marketer into one crazy life. I’m available for guest blogging, article writing and speaking events. Follow me in my crazy world via my site or Facebook.

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5 Tips for Photographing Water

Water is a beautiful subject to photograph. It can be as dramatic as a waterfall, predictable as a fountain, vast like the ocean, or just a winding exciting river. Whatever the source, it can be a point of interest in your image or an element of your composition. If you are enchanted with photography water, here are a few tips you can use to improve your final image.

5 Tips for Photographing Water

1. Capture Motion

Firstly, think about what you want to convey and how to add that characteristic to the shot. This may be as simple as choosing the right shutter speed. A fast shutter speed freezes motion and works well for crashing waves to show the activity of an ocean. Sometimes when using faster shutter speeds, your camera may indicate that you are getting insufficient light – this is where adjusting your ISO can come in handy. When using shutter speeds of 1/500th and above, timing is key for spectacular shots.

On the opposite side of fast shutter captures are long exposures. If you want to show greater motion or get that silken effect, slowing down your shutter speed gives you that cool effect. A few key things; aim for an exposure between 0.5 and 10 seconds which means that your camera needs to be absolutely still (a tripod is a definite, you can also use a shutter release cable/remote if possible). Dusk and dawn are great times for long exposures but there is no need to limit yourself to these times of day if you have a neutral density filter (discussed lower down in this post).

Bonus Tip: Getting closer to the water makes the blurring effect of moving water more noticeable.

2. Mirror Mirror

Water is a natural mirror. Seek out reflections and classify them. Is the reflection enhancing your image or distracting from it? In the latter case, move around a bit to eliminate reflections where possible or return to your location when the sun is at a different angle. A polarizing filter can help eliminate some of the reflections and give you nice contrast (rotate the filter and check out what’s possible).

Reflections can also add to an image and are used a lot where water is calm and still. That being said, ripples can also be interesting as they add texture and effect. There are also abstract reflections that look great in moving water such as the lights of a cityscape.

With reflections you can go for a symmetrical composition or not, depending on what you want to portray. You can even just shoot the water reflection and not the subject itself; the possibilities are endless.

3. Filter it

Using a polarizer was mentioned above, but it is worth a second thought as it is quite a useful tool to have in the field when photographing water. In addition to removing reflections (when they’re not wanted), a polarizer is very helpful in cutting out glare. By eliminating glare, it helps bring out any color details of the water and what lies below the surface.

Neutral Density (ND) filters are quite useful for creating long exposures during the day as they give you better control over your exposure. They do this by stopping/restricting light from reaching your camera sensor, thus allowing you to leave your camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time.

Note: ND filters do not affect the color in your photo in anyway, while the same cannot be said for a polarizer filter.

4. Underexpose when photographing water

Perfect exposure in-camera is your ideal goal. When water is your subject though, too many highlights can make it look white and it is difficult to recover the details in large areas that are blown out or clipped. If water is the dominant subject in your frame, it will benefit you to underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop.

Bonus Tip: Shooting waterfalls in overcast conditions is something many landscape photographers would recommend. There is no direct sunlight on the water itself.

5. Get your feet wet

If you can get into the water safely with your tripod, it’s a perspective worth trying. Use extra caution when setting up on slippery rocks and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure your equipment is insured, and you’re all set to try something different.

If this is not an option for you, grab a zoom lens for some close up details. It is worth the time to experiment with unusual angles.

Conclusion

Water is indeed a fascinating subject and with so many ways to capture it, why not give it a try? Are you drawn to the dreamy motion of long exposures, or do you find yourself caught up in a reflection? What other fun tip would you share to help improve other’s water photography?

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Water by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass is a handy little tool, popular with intrepid detectives and bug collectors. As the name suggests, the convex lens produces a magnified image of an object, but it can also be used to make some unusual and eye-catching imagery. Pairing a photographic lens with a magnifying glass will probably not create a flawless alternative to a macro lens, but the unique properties of a handheld convex lens mean that there are endless combinations of optical effects to exploit.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

What you will need:

  • DSLR camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Subject to photograph
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Tripod

Getting Started

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

The first thing to remember when using this technique is that the glass in your average, run-of-the-mill magnifying glass will be of far lesser quality than that of the glass inside your camera. The nature of the cheaper quality glass lends a softening effect to an image so sharpening in post-production (using software like Photoshop or Camera Raw) will help to add a bit more definition to the photographs. But don’t worry if you aren’t getting pin-sharp precision, the softness can actually add to the image overall.

Using a tripod to photograph subjects through the lens of a magnifying glass is a good idea too. Without a tripod, camera shake will add another layer of difficulty to a process that can be slightly tricky at times. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve chosen flowers as my subject. They make good subjects for this technique because they are colorful, interesting and they don’t move around. Getting the hang of this technique on a static subject will save you a bit of frustration when moving onto more animate subject matter later

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

This leaf was photographed against a window with the afternoon sun pouring through from behind. The light illuminated the veins in the leaf and the magnifying glass helped capture the detail in its intricate fibers.

Magnification depends upon a magnifying glass’s distance relative to the subject or camera, so there are endless angles and distances to experiment with to create imagery with soft light and diffused bokeh-like effects.

Method

First, clean the glass of the magnifying glass with a tissue or cleaning cloth to avoid dust spots. Maneuver your camera up close to the subject. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom in as far as possible. Your autofocus will most likely get confused by the additional glass between the lens and the subject, so set your lens to manual focus instead.

Hold the magnifying glass over the front of the lens with your hand.  Notice that it will either make the subject appear bigger or just extremely out of focus. With one hand you will need to either adjust the camera focus manually or move the magnifying glass forward and backward between the camera and subject. Trying to find a sweet spot where part or all of the image looks focused can be tricky – but be open to how the magnifying glass alters the photograph. The results can often surprise you.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Keep in mind that the extra layer of glass will cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor so you may have to adjust the exposure compensation, depending on the available light of your setup. Don’t forget to experiment with depth of field by adjusting the aperture as well. Taking control of the aperture will guide the viewer’s eye around the photograph. That can be crucial in more abstract images like these floral landscapes.

Experiment!

The best bit about this technique is that it rewards experimentation. Once you have a feel for photographing your subject through a magnifying glass, why not use two taped together for greater magnification? Or take a chance at photographing a friend or pet? Or why not try including the loop of the magnifying glass to create a framing effect? With even the slightest adjustment in angle or distance a magnifying glass can render some unique results. Take the time to experiment and have fun.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Experiment with black and white images to highlight shape and form.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Tape two magnifying glasses together for greater magnification.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Create unusual framing effects by incorporating the loop of the magnifying glass in your photograph.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

After you get the hang of photographing still objects, why not move onto something more animated.

The post How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

In this article, I will give you some tips for creating your own studio starter kit. A portable studio that doesn’t break the bank or the budget.

For many new photographers, the idea of using strobes and portable flashes may seem too daunting. Once you get over that fear, however, you will realize that it is not as difficult as you once thought, nor it is completely unaffordable. I’m sure many of us see famous professional photographers use top brand names such as Profoto, Broncolor, Westcott, Pocket Wizard, Elinchrom, Bowens, Manfrotto, and Lastolite, just to mention a few. We look at the price tag and quake in our boots. That kind of gear is worth its weight in gold for sure and would last many many years, even with daily use, as long as they are used appropriately and with care.

But fear not! These are not the only brands that work and if you are after a starter kit, there are plenty of other more affordable options out there that do the job just fine.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

So, I will share with you some alternatives to top brands for a studio starter kit especially if you just what to try it out. Of course you can go the full nine yards and shell out for the best brands, or alternatively you could rent a few items first to test them out.

#1 Know your subject and understand your audience

First of all, assess what you need your portable studio for. What will you be shooting; headshots, photobooths, full body shots? Knowing your usage requirements will dictate the height your light stands, the power of your strobes or capabilities of your speedlights, for example.

Secondly, how often will you need to use your portable kit as you need to take into consideration the wear and tear on your equipment. This has more to do with the quality of the materials used in manufacturing. You don’t want your umbrellas and softboxes to rip from frequent use, for example, or the screws of your stands to come off so quickly.

Thirdly, what backdrop will you be using? Your stands need to be sturdy enough for the weight of your backdrop.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

#2 Do your research and read reviews

When you have a clear idea of your needs, allowing room for improvement and progression into other subjects, get on the internet and read reviews of various brands and compare them. It is a good idea to stick to a budget and if you can manage it, not to get into debt when acquiring equipment, although I know that sometimes that is not an option.

For the most basic studio starter kit, all you need is a light and one stand. That’s it. Of course, you do need a subject and a camera with a memory card. But, you don’t even need a remote trigger if you can use the built-in creative lighting system of your camera and flash. This works using infrared so that your camera and off-camera flash can communicate with each other for as long as both are within line of sight. For a better starter kit, though, I suggest you add a light modifier and a transceiver.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

Portable studio wish list

This would be my list for a good portable starter studio:

  • Backdrop stands x 1 set (a set will have two stands and a bar from which to hang the backdrop)
  • Clamps for your backdrop x 12 or depending on length of bar and number of clamps needed
  • Sandbags (one for each your stands)
  • Transceivers (or remote trigger and receiver system)
  • Light stands (preferably air-cushioned, as many as your lights)
  • Reflectors (preferably foldable and at least a 5-in-1)
  • Speedlight x 1 minimum (either the same brand as your camera or a third party compatible brand) or …
  • Strobe x 1 minimum (preferably with a battery pack so you won’t have to worry about power sockets on location)

Left image: background stand (Photosel) and clamps (Neewer)
Right image: Manfrotto Monopod with ballhead, Gorillapod, stands by: Neewer, Pixapro, and Photosel. I can’t remember the brand of my tripod (far left).

  • Adaptors for speedlight to stands x 1 minimum (you need this so that your speedlight can be connected to your light stand)
  • Light modifiers which can be any of the following; an umbrella (silver, white, black on the outside, silver on the inside, all white diffusion), octabox umbrellas (with or without grid), foldable softbox (with a speedlight mount)
  • Tripod or monopod (preferable but not essential)
  • Light meter (preferable but not essential)
  • Plenty of Gaffer tape
  • Spare batteries for your camera, speedlight, and/or strobe (whichever you are using)

Left image: A studio strobe by Pixapro, transceivers (Yongnuo on the left, Paul Buff Cybersyncs on the right), Nikon SB 910 Speedlight, and a Sekonic L-358 lightmeter on the far right.
Right image: Ring Flash by Neewer, video lights are Yongnuo, and the magic tube is by Travor.

Third party options

Alternative cheaper brands that offer an astonishing array of photographic accessories at a fraction of top brand name prices.

These are only some of the many alternatives easily accessible nowadays through the internet. The photos shown within this article have been taken with my portable studio starter kit made up the Pixapro, Yongnuo, Neewer, Paul C Buff, Rogue Photographic Design, Sekonic, Nikon, and Manfrotto. Sometimes I use just one light, other times two, and sometimes I include a reflector as well.

Left image: The flash softbox is Westcott. The flat rectangular modifiers are Rogue flash benders and the mini-versions on the left (one is rolled up into a black tube which I use as a snoot) are from Kaavie, again from Amazon. 5-in-1 reflector showing in gold is Neewer.
Right image: The collapsable gray card is by Lastolite, next to it are light stand adaptors as well as spare batteries.

Continuous lighting

In addition to strobes, you might also want to include some continuous lighting in your arsenal.  There are many types of continuous lights, the most popular of which are video lights, ring and tube lights. The usually come with filters too, which is handy. The great thing about continuous lights is not only their portability but the price tag – they are super affordable nowadays with various brands competing in an already saturated market. Personally, I only use these occasionally and cannot justify spending much on them.

Backdrop

For backdrops, you can use paper or fabric. A good tip is to use fabric that doesn’t crease and doesn’t need ironing. There is nothing worse than having to Photoshop all the creases from a backdrop. Trust me, I have done it before!

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

#3 Use your new studio

Having a studio in a box that never sees the light of day is a waste of your precious time doing all the above, not to mention money. Use your new kit and try out what works for you and what doesn’t. You will learn new things by experimenting and actually using your gear, rather than just reading what other people say. You will learn how to troubleshoot, and how to pack and unpack in the quickest time. If you don’t have a live subject to photograph, then take pictures of still life subjects to practice and find things out.

While there is no doubt that there are differences in the quality of the material used between brands, I believe that the difference in the quality of light is debatable and I’m pretty sure these differences are not life-changing. Ultimately, it’s not about the gear but how you use what you have.

Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio

When it comes to light, the important thing to remember, more than the brand name, is that the bigger the light the better the quality, the closer the light to the subject the softer it is. When it comes to a portable studio kit, make portability a priority so that everything is easily collapsible. Don’t forget to consider the weight of your portable studio too as well as how much room it will take when transported. Many of the materials nowadays are made of lightweight durable metal, alloys or steels. You want a portable starter studio that really folds into a pocket!

Do share here any tips for starter portable studios especially if there is anything I haven’t included on the list above.

The post Studio Starter Kit: How to Design a Starter Portable Studio by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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