Compositional Techniques for Better Photos

Compositional Techniques for Better Photos

When we learn about portrait photography, we generally focus on things involving the subject: posing, retouching, etc. However, your subject also needs to be surrounded by a compelling composition to complete the image, and this fantastic video tutorial will give you some great tips for improving yours.

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Brexit forces Nikon UK to temporarily stop taking new orders

Nikon UK has announced some changes due to Brexit. The company has temporarily stopped all orders, and it’s possible that your orders will be delayed even if you placed them earlier. The announcement has been published on Nikon UK’s website: Please note that, as we navigate the changes brought on by Brexit, we will temporarily […]

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Similarities between photography and cooking food

  There are many similarities between cooking food and photography. I trained as a chef in a cookery school in France for five years and graduated aged 19 and cook more today than ever before, in fact my food is a lot tastier than my photography. Food is as important in my life as photography […]

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Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K Report

This Special Report about the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K camera is compiled from several editions of FDTimes. It is a free, printable, 36-page 11 MB PDF download.

The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K costs less than $10K. It dares to defy a typical engineering riddle—pick any four of six: quality, resolution, easy data wrangling, size, weight, cost. Incredibly, URSA 12K gives you all six.

URSA 12K is a serious camera now shooting seriously stellar Super35 images at an astonishing 79.6 Megapixels per frame (12,288 x 6480) up to 75 fps in 2.39:1 (2.4:1), among many other aspect ratios, frame rates and resolutions. read more…

The post Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K Report appeared first on Film and Digital Times.

‘I’m Not Going to be Putting This in a Portfolio,’ Bernie Meme Photog Says

One of the most widely published photos shot during the inauguration of Joe Biden this week doesn’t feature Biden at all, but rather Senator Bernie Sanders sitting in isolation while wearing a big coat and homemade mittens. In case you somehow missed it, the photo has taken on a life of its own as a viral Internet meme.

Freelance photojournalist Brendan Smialowski was documenting the event on Wednesday with his Nikon DSLR and telephoto lens when he captured the independent senator from Vermont sitting with his now-famous posture.

Embed from Getty Images

The pose did not go unnoticed, as soon a tsunami of clever memes began rolling over the Web.

After the meme went viral, Bernie Sanders’ campaign even turned the photo into a $45 “Chairman Sanders Crewneck” sweatshirt, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity Meals on Wheels Vermont. The item has already sold out.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Smialowski reveals that he snapped a couple of quick shots of Sanders while his mind was actually focused on other politicians at the event who have been more prominent in the news in recent weeks.

“The picture itself is not that nice. It’s not a great composition. I’m not going to be putting this in a portfolio,” Smialowski tells Rolling Stone. “This exact moment, I took two photos. It’s funny because the second one — for me — I thought was better. But I sent the first one because the moment — his posture, his pose — is a little better. But the composition was garbage. It was messy, but it was a better moment.

“I always say that in photojournalism, composition comes second to content. And content is the moment. Make it look pretty after.”

As with many memes of this sort, the photographer behind the photo had no idea what was coming when he shot and submitted the photo — Smialowski says he shot the photo because it was a “nice moment” and a “good slice of life.” In fact, Smialowski says he would have never created a meme-worthy photo if he had the choice.

“If I could know, I would never take a meme,” the photographer tells Rolling Stone. “I would be more than happy to never have a meme.”

How to Find Your Photographic Style

Finding your photographic style takes time. It’s a process. You may even think you found it only to discover that your preferences have changed. That’s okay. That’s good. It means that you are growing and evolving on your journey.

I remember the first time that I thought I had found my photographic style. I was so excited! It had an airy-bright, yet film-y look. This was in my early, Lightroom-only days. It was this photo that I thought was a breakthrough:

Here are some other images from that “bright and airy” phase in my life.
I was drawn to the Fuji Pro 400H greens and tried to emulate them.

I went with this style for a while until — surprise, surprise — it didn’t feel so right for me anymore.

I felt lost and confused.

So what do you do when you are totally lost and confused and feel pressured to label/define your photography? If that’s you, take a deep breath (or two, or three) and then rid yourself of that feeling of pressure. You don’t want to box your style in. You want to hone in on it. Now, how do you do that? Read on!

Inspiring Images

Whenever you come across an image by someone else that stands out to you in a special way, take note. Maybe even check out the photographer. Chances are they have more images like that. Analyze the types of images that you are drawn to. If you don’t know which ones, don’t worry. Sooner or later you will stumble upon one that will make you stop scrolling. When that happens, analyze the image — more on that in a second.

I started to gravitate towards more saturated colours and deep tones…
…and Photoshop came into play.

But before you look elsewhere for inspiration, I want to encourage you to look at your own work, at images that you have taken and that you love. The images that get you all giddy and excited, that inspire you, that move you. Look at those favorites. Then analyze them. Here’s how!

Questions to Help You Analyze Your Images

Once you have a little collection of inspirational images, study them carefully:

  • What is the light like in these images? Is it soft (e.g., backlit with golden hour light, overcast and foggy, etc.) or harsh (direct sunlight, very contrasty, harsh shadows)? Where does the light come from? (e.g. from behind (backlit), from the side, no direct sunlight)
  • What’s the setting like (indoors/ outdoors)?
  • What are the colors like? Are they cool? Warm?
  • Are they vibrant and full of color or are they muted, and desaturated?
  • What are the tones like? Are they bright and airy or dark and moody?
  • Are the images crisp and clear (have a lot of depth of field with everything in focus) or do they have a shallow depth of field and creamy backgrounds?
  • Are there people in it? What are they wearing? What are they doing? Are they posed?
  • Are there animals in it? Where are they positioned?
  • What mood does this image evoke in you?
  • Do you notice a common theme between these images?

What to Do With the Results

As you see themes emerge, use them as a guide and then try and emulate those parts that you are drawn to. This starts in the way the photo is taken, and then continues through the editing process. For example, when you see a photo with that golden hour glow, don’t expect to achieve a similar look when you shoot in the midday sun, which is known for its harsh light.

Ask questions if you don’t know how to achieve a certain effect. I know this takes guts, but just do it! What do you have to lose? It will help you grow and move forward on your journey.

I am still a fan of colours but these days I am drawn to capturing the magic of the moment.


Don’t be alarmed when your photographic style changes. You might like one style for a while and then find yourself being ready to move on to something a little different. But be sure that your client work is consistent! By that I mean, when you showcase bright and airy images in your gallery, clients expect bright and airy images from you. Don’t suddenly switch to dark and moody. Do it gradually, so it is always clear what images clients can expect to get from you.

Let me illustrate this in a practical way: during a photo shoot in the transitional period, shoot 75% to 90% of your images in the style the client is expecting from you and 10-25% for the new style. As your portfolio for the new style grows, gradually up that percentage. This ensures that your clients get what they expect and that you can transition to your new style while keeping them happy.

Looking back at my own journey, my process through all these stages remained the same:

  • Study images (my own, and those from photographers with the style that I admired)
  • YouTube the concept, ask questions, ask for constructive criticism on my images
  • Practice, practice, practice (by way of taking pictures and editing)
  • Feeling stuck? Buy a course from a photographer who has that style!
  • Practice, practice, practice some more, this is the step where you make this style your own.

A Word of Caution

Don’t try to be someone else and let your work be nothing more than an imitation of someone else. I promise you, it will always leave you feeling disappointed.

Don’t cage yourself. Believe in yourself. Learn from others, and then make “it” your own. By “making it your own,” I mean this: when you notice that certain processes or steps that someone else swears by don’t feel right for you, listen to that voice. It’s your signal that there’s a chance to make something your own. Unique to you. Celebrate that opportunity and run with it.

About the author: Svenja Christina is a natural light, lifestyle, and portrait photographer based in London, Ontario. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Christina’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

In Praise of Inexpensive Lenses

When I was a semi-professional 4×5 landscape photographer I often spent a half-hour shooting a single sheet of film and several hours enlarging it to the best of my ability. I sought the sharpest possible result. And now in the digital age, I still pursue sharp images.

Phillip Reeve writes on his website that he has two hobbies, photography and photographic equipment and they rarely intersect. I too enjoy both creating photos and testing lenses. The two hobbies are different.

My second hobby has led me to discover that lightweight inexpensive lenses perform well at the smaller apertures that I usually choose for depth of field.

I enjoy taking my Sony a6400 along on daily walks and often take the smallest zoom lens available, the 16-50mm. It weighs only 117 grams and is very flat. Photo writers often recommend that you ditch this cheap “kit lens” and replace it with a “real lens”. But in my tests, it matched my best 35mm Zeiss prime at f/5.6 and smaller apertures.

Sony a6400 with 16-50 kit zoom extended.

Zooms and Primes

When zoom lenses first became common, I thought they weren’t good enough and only used primes. But with time zooms improved and I learned that they often match or even exceed the sharpness of primes, especially at small apertures and with a bit of sharpening in edit.

At large apertures, cheap lenses are reasonably sharp on center. It’s off-center where they may be soft. But when I do use large apertures, I want blur off-center to highlight the central “star” of the shot. Of course, composition goals might dictate placing the “star” off-center, but I shoot it on center, where lenses are best, and crop for composition.

Isolated “star” subject
Another isolated subject

Quantitative Testing

I love imatest test results. When first investigating a lens, I Google “lens-name, imatest”. I find that a good starting point. But if lens “A” has imatest result of 2,000 lines and lens “B” tested at 3,000 lines, how do I relate that to my photos? To answer that I seek test pics. Cameralabs and Phillip Reeve offer test pics on and off-center at all apertures. Also, I often shoot my own tests.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

My favorite test subject is a sloped shingled roof. As Lensrentals founder Roger Cicala teaches, an oblique shot shows sharpness and field curvature. He also teaches that field curvature is rarely a problem. More about that later. Roger likes to shoot grass and that works, I’ve come to like shingled roofs.

All roof shots except “composition shingles” were made with Sony a6400 and 16-50mm kit zoom.

The test roof
Composition shingles

Sharp lenses capture the grainy quality of the crushed rock on composition shingles. Wood shingles are good too. Another advantage of an oblique subject is that if you miss perfect focus, it’s probably there, a bit higher or lower in your frame.

Recently I shot this roof with several 35mm primes and zooms at all their apertures. I examined the sides of the image to determine at what apertures the sides reach their best sharpness. This was f/5.6 to f/8 for most good lenses and every lens I tested had sharp sides at f/11. My cheap 16-50 “kit lens” surprised me by achieving sharp sides at f/5.6 and smaller when slightly sharpened. That’s excellent.

Crops of test roof. Color shift is present in the entire roof image above

Center crop (left), right side (center), and right side sharpened (right).

My Zeiss ZA 35mm f/2.8 had sharp sides wide open. When I saw this, I was amazed and delighted. But then I realized that even though this lens has sharp sides wide open, I would usually stop down to f/11 or f/16 for depth of field. And on the occasions when I did use large apertures, I would want soft sides. So the outstanding performance of this lens was of little advantage over lesser lenses.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

Why I Don’t Fret About Field Curvature

I usually want depth of focus and use small apertures where field curvature disappears. And if I’m using larger apertures, that is to isolate the central “star” of the shot and I want blur off-center.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

A “Good Lens”

The widely accepted definition of a good lens is one that’s sharp over the entire frame at a wide aperture. The ZA 35 mentioned above would be considered “very good” because it achieves that wide open. But I’m happy as long as my lens is sharp over the entire frame at least by f/11. To date, every lens I’ve tested meets that. And because I like light weight, I often walk around with my cheap lenses, which are my lightest.

About the author: Alan Adler lives in Los Altos, California. He has been an avid photographer for 60 years. He is also a well-known inventor with about 40 patents. His best-known inventions are the Aerobie flying ring and the AeroPress coffee maker.

How to Colorize Photos in Photoshop with Just a Few Clicks Using AI

Adobe recently gave Photoshop the ability to instantly colorize photos using Adobe Sensei AI technology. Here’s a new 1.5-minute video tutorial by Adobe showing how you can now breathe color into a black-and-white photo with just a few clicks.

After loading up your photo, go to Filter->Neural Fliters to open up the new Neural Filters panel.

In the beta filters section (the Erlenmeyer flask icon), you’ll see a Colorize option. Click the toggle to turn it on.

Voila! Photoshop will use its image recognition technology to colorize the elements of your photos in the way it thinks best.

Before applying the Colorize Neural Filter in Photoshop.
After applying the Colorize Neural Filter in Photoshop.
Before applying the Colorize Neural Filter in Photoshop.
After applying the Colorize Neural Filter in Photoshop.

If certain areas of the photo are slightly off, you can make custom adjustments in the Colorize panel as well. The result is added on top of your photo layer as a Smarter Filter on a Smart Object.

To get started with the Colorize Neural Filter, make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Photoshop CC. You’ll also need around 130MB of disk space to install the Colorize filter itself.