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Ilford is Creating a Set of Super Helpful ‘Darkroom Guides’ on YouTube

Over the past seven months, Ilford has been publishing a set of helpful “Darkroom Guides” to the How To playlist on the company YouTube channel. The series was created to help film photographers take their “next steps in your black and white darkroom printing journey.” If that describes you, then this is one you’ll want to bookmark.

There’s a lot of information out there about film photography—including some exceptional websites like EMULSIVE that are exclusively dedicated to film lovers—but if you’re looking for “how to” advice, one great place to start is right at the source. Ilford’s channel is filled with great behind the scenes videos, how to videos, and some fascinating photo stories besides.

This particular series features Rachel Brewster-Wright—the owner of Little Vintage Photography—who uses each episode to walk you though one key darkroom technique. The series begins with an introduction to Dodge and Burn and moves on to more advanced techniques as the episodes roll on. By episode four, you’re learning how to use multigrade filters to take your printing to the next level.

There are currently four episodes live, which you can see for yourself below:

Episode 1: Dodge & Burn

Episode 2: Selenium Toner

Episode 3: Photographic Papers

Episode 4: Multigrade Filters

We hope to see more videos with Brewster in the coming months. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this then definitely check out Ilford’s full “How To” playlist for lots more tips and tutorials on shooting, developing, and printing your film photography.

The Best Gear for Storm Photography

I first became interested in storms when I was a boy growing up in Texas, the only state in the US that experiences tornadoes, hurricane and blizzards on a regular basis. I built a scale model of a supercell thunderstorm inside a clear plexiglass box using cotton and a light bulb for lightning, and won first place in the weather category at our local science fair. Then I got permission from my mother to climb onto our roof and build a weather station.

When I was 12, I took my first storm photo: a big, fat bolt of lightning shot on a Kodak rangefinder through the window in our kitchen. In 1993, I founded StormStock, a collection of premium storm imagery including lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes and other beautiful and dramatic weather. You can see some of my work in a short film I made titled “Wakinyan” (Thunder Spirit).

Over the years, people have often asked me what kind of gear is best for storm photography. Although I spend most of my time capturing weather imagery on motion picture formats for use in movies and TV commercials, I do also take stills. That is the medium I will focus on here.

A lot of folks ask me to suggest a “best” camera or lens for photography. My first question is always, “What are you shooting?” That’s because different subjects require different gear. The more unique your subject, the more you may need to specialize. For example, one of the most demanding types of photography is fast action sports. It typically requires long and fast lenses. Long and fast. Those two things don’t go together easily and require large, heavy, expensive lenses – which is pretty specialized.

The good news is storm photography is only somewhat demanding. The most unique things about it are relatively low light and lightning. Lightning is an unusual thing to photograph because it exists only for a fraction of a second. Plus, you’re pointing your camera at something that doesn’t yet exist.

The best way to discuss this topic is to divide storm photography into two categories. General storm photography and lightning photography.

General Storm Photography

Subjects: Storm clouds, rain, blowing dust, sunsets, tornadoes.

Storm subjects tend to be dark rather than bright. This may sound obvious, but know that storms can sometimes be exceptionally bright when sunlit. Given the fact that low light is more common, a camera and lens that performs well in that environment is generally preferred.

Lens focal lengths that I like tend to fall in the 24-105mm (full-frame) range. That is why I like the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L so much. The newer version of this lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II.

If a storm is very close, then I’ll go wide with something like a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a full-frame sensor.

For a camera, I would suggest a full-frame or APS-C sensor camera. That’s because they tend to produce less noise in low light than smaller sensors. Although…an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 can take some very nice storm shots. I use my iPhone often because it’s always in my pocket, and storm light can be quite fleeting.

Naturally, in low light a tripod can be helpful. However, I rarely use a tripod for general storm photography because they are bulky and slow, and tend to shake in the wind. Instead, I use a fast lens/camera combination handheld.

Lightning

Subjects: Day and night lightning.

I separate lightning into day and night because they require somewhat different techniques. Day lightning allows for only short exposures while night lightning offers the chance to capture several strikes during a long exposure.

One thing is certain, a tripod is mandatory for lightning photography (and astrophotography). That’s because the camera must remain steady for long exposures or images will be blurred.

Another device you will need is something to activate your shutter remotely so the camera continues to remain steady. You can use a smart phone remote app or a dedicated remote trigger for this. Use the one you trust most.

For day lightning, you might be able to get away with a ¼ to 1 second exposure by lowering your ISO, decreasing your aperture size, and employing a neutral density (ND) filter. You want your exposure to be long enough to “catch” a lightning strike, like using a bigger net to catch fish. But, not so long that you overexpose. You can also employ a nifty piece of technology called a lightning trigger which senses the strike and opens the camera shutter just in time to record it.

I suggest an aperture setting of about f/5.6 for “dim” lightning, and about f/11 for “bright” lightning. Always use the lowest ISO hone you can. Exposure duration and your aperture will compensate for low light.

At night, you can use the bulb setting on your camera and wait for a strike, or set your camera to take a series of 20 or 30 second long exposures. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t exceed 30 seconds because this is when a lot of cameras begin to introduce noise into the image.

Finally, be safe when you photograph lightning. It can kill and injure. Avoid tall objects, fences and water. The safest place to be during lightning is inside a hard top car, or inside a well constructed building with wiring and plumbing. The rubber tires on a car don’t make it safe from lightning. It’s the metal that protects you. The metal? Yes. It works only if you are surrounded by the metal with some space in between, aka the “Faraday cage,” named after the English scientist Michael Faraday who invented it in 1836. More on storm safety below.

Best Camera and Lens Pairings

Sony a6000 on up to the a6600. Lightweight APS-C cameras with good noise control.

Pair with: The Sony 16-50mm “kit” lens (24mm-75mm FF equivalent), Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70mm f/4.0 (24mm-105mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 21mm f/1.4 (31.5mm FF equivalent), or a Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 (18mm FF equivalent).

Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 5D Mk IV. All around good performing full-frame sensor cameras.

Pair with: Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 EF, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 EF.

Sony A7s Mk II. This is a “see in the dark” full-frame camera. Nothing touches it for low-light performance.

Pair with: Sony 24-70mm f/4.0, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 for Sony E, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for Sony E.

Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500 and Nikon D5600. These are fairly inexpensive APS-C cameras that shoot beautiful pictures. The Nikon D5300 can be purchased new for a little more than $400, or for less used.

Pair with: Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED (25.5mm-82.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (27mm-157.5mm FF equivalent), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (52.5mm FF equivalent), Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS for Nikon F Mount (24mm FF equivalent), or a vintage NIKKOR AI-s 28mm f/2.0 (42mm FF equivalent), one of my favorite lenses.

An iPhone. Smartphones are good all around storm photography options. The only thing they don’t do well is lightning. Consider pairing them with an app like ProCam 7, which allows you to control ISO, shutter speed, etc. Shooting with a smartphone is a pure and simple type of photography. It’s easy and liberating. If this is all you use, then focus on content and composition, and you’ll have some beautiful pictures.

Simplicity

If you want something simple, but more potent than an iPhone, consider a Nikon D3300 with a Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF lens (36mm FF equivalent). The combo is lightweight, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive considering the great pictures you can take with it. You won’t need to zoom, and the focal length is pretty universal. It’s basically a very nice “point and shoot.”

Note: When using an autofocus lens with no marked, manual focus option, you should become familiar with how to set the lens to infinity, especially for night lightning. I prefer manual focus for storm photographer, but autofocus is okay as long as you know how to control it.

Tripods

Lightweight, sturdy tripods are best. Consider the Prima Photo Big Travel Tripod, Davis & Sanford TR654C-36 Traverse Carbon Fiber Grounder Tripod with Ball Head, or the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 054 Magnesium Ball Head Kit. You want something with fast deploy legs and an easy to adjust head. Frankly, you can use any tripod that is steady as long as you practice setting it up and taking it down beforehand.

Lightning Trigger

Hahnel Captur Pro Module

Filters

At the very least, you should have a UV filter attached to the front of your lens simply to protect it. Shooting outdoors without a protective filter is like running around naked. Since that’s not a pretty sight, I always buy a UV filter with every lens purchase.

Consider adding a neutral density filter to your kit for exposure control as well as a circular polarizer and gray graduated filter to bring down those overly bright skies. I especially like Formatt-Hitech filters. They are well made, arrive clean, and are hand signed by their QC technician.

Batteries

Always get extra batteries. My experience is the camera brand batteries are the best.

Cleaning

At this point, I’m assuming you ARE going to get a protective filter for all your lenses. Good. When you are shooting harsh weather, you’ll notice your gear getting quite dirty, mostly with dust.

Do NOT use canned air to clean your filters, lenses, viewfinder or LCD screen. That’s because that stuff shoots an oily substance. Instead, use a bulb blower like the amazing Giottos Rocket Blaster to remove dust and then a very clean cloth like a Zeiss Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Check carefully before using a cloth to make sure that all grains of dust are gone to avoid scratching those precious surfaces.

We spend a lot of time cleaning gear after a storm shoot. It’s a ritual.

Bags

The Tenba Messenger. I use the small, olive green model. It’s tough and well thought out.

Being Safe

Before you try your hand at storm photography, I must make a statement about safety. I do not encourage anyone to film anything that is potentially dangerous. I am not telling you to go shoot storms. I’m detailing photographic principles as they relate to storm photography. You can apply my suggestions to other subjects such as astrophotography which is much safer.

Please understand that storm photography requires not only knowledge of photographic technique, but more importantly, a thorough understanding of severe weather, how it evolves and how to stay safe. I wrote a book about severe weather safety titled “The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide.” Reading the book will help, but it takes much more than a book to actively pursue storms in a safe manner. You can see people on YouTube doing it and think it’s safe to just jump in your car and try and “chase” a storm. It isn’t.

My recommendation is you go with an expert if you want to photograph storms. Take time to select a genuine expert because some who call themselves “experts” are the same people on YouTube who are driving into tornadoes and large, dangerous hail while yelling and laughing. Would you get on an airplane with a pilot who exhibited these characteristics? I didn’t think so.

Finally, whether you go outside to shoot storm photos, or stay safely inside, you should be weather aware when storms are nearby. Get a NOAA Weather Alert Radio or a good weather alert app for your smart phone. If you live in an area where tornadoes are frequent, consider purchasing a manufactured EF5-rated storm shelter or build your own using free FEMA shelter design plans.

Conclusion

Storm photography can be fun. Just do it safely with experts, use the right tools, and practice.


About the author: Martin Lisius is an award-winning Texas-based photographer and cinematographer. His work can be seen in feature films, TV commercials and in documentaries such as the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” He licenses his work through his StormStock collection, and offers storm chasing expeditions to photographers through Tempest Tours, which he founded in 2000. He recently created a fine art retail print collection specializing in storms called StormShots. You can follow him on Facebook. This post was also published here.

Drone Photo Tips: How To Make Inception-Like Images

If you’ve seen the movie Inception, you’re likely very familiar with that one scene where physical space is bent on top of itself. It’s one of the movie’s most iconic visuals, and in this 3-minute video, COOPH shows how you can easily make your own photos with an Inception vibe with a drone.

The first technique the video tackles is what they call the “drone wall,” which involves splicing two images taken at different angles together. This simple method requires first that you photograph your subject from directly above, and then again at a 90-degree angle difference. You can then Photoshop the images together so it appears like the first image is a “wall” above the second.

The second method COOPH calls the “drone fold,” and requires three photos to bring to live. YOu start by taking a first image while keeping the drone close and at a low angle. You then take your second photo from slightly farther away, looking closer towards the ground. The last photo is taken from directly above, and the three images can be combined to create a sheer-cliff effect:

The last method is what COOPH calls Drone Distortion, is a bit more complicated and requires multiple images. When you’ve determined the subject if your image, you then start at a low, horizontal angle and fly in a curve. The goal is to slowly change the angle of the camera to point downwards as you curve the flight path upwards. In the example shown, this method takes at leat four images to achieve the effect.

This final technique also requires the most work in Photoshop, as you need to line up the lines perfectly from all the photos in order to get a smooth transition. This may require warping the images in order to pull off. If done right though, the result can be pretty great:

These all take a bit of work, but the results speak for themselves. If you’ve been trying to think of an interesting way to use your drone, give these a shot.

For more from COOPH, check out their YouTube Channel and Instagram.

(Via SLR Lounge)

Here’s a Free 30-Minute Masterclass on Street Photography by Nick Turpin

Celebrated British street photographer Nick Turpin (whom the BBC called “one of the best”) wants to teach you how to shoot on the streets like a pro. He has released this free 30-minute masterclass to teach you how to do what he does.

Turpin discusses various facets of street photography. He starts out by discussing how to pick and use camera gear. Later he shares a number of street photos and shares stories behind them and thoughts on things like composition. The latter part of the masterclass features footage of Turpin in action as well as photos that resulted.

If you’re interested in street photography and would like to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the craft, be sure to block off half an hour and watch this masterclass — be warned, though: you may be inspired to immediately run out with your camera and start putting what you learn into practice.

You can also look to Turpin’s work for inspiration through his website and Instagram.

(via visitthecity via Fstoppers)

12 Tips for Autumn Photography

It’s autumn again, and I thought I’d share some tips (and possibly inspiration) for your autumn photography.

I love autumn as a season when the trees turn gold. It just gives that magic atmosphere. Here in The Netherlands autumn is usually quite late, around the beginning or mid-November. But I already see the first signs of autumn happening. The colors in the forest change the latest usually, but the trees in between the houses that catch the most light are already turning yellow now.

But enough about the yellow leaves, here are some tips to photograph them.

1. Use a Longer Lens

Photographing trees and forests can be chaotic. Use a longer lens and focus on smaller parts to avoid a messy photo. It takes practice photographing the forest. Look for the ‘clean’ pieces in a forest and just casually and slowly move around looking through the viewfinder until you find your ‘little’ scenes.

Trees photographed with a longer lens to remove the chaos.

2. Paths and Lanes

Paths and lanes are great for autumn shots. The pavement makes an automatic leading line through the forest, and also adds great contrast between the monotone road and the very colorful trees on the sides.

A curvy bike lane through the forest.
A simple road making its way through the forest with lots of different autumn colours on an early morning.

3. Fog

Fog! I love photographing forests with fog. Shooting the autumn forests with a bit of a misty atmosphere can be surreal. As I said: forests can be chaotic and there is just so much going on in terms of composition. But fog separates all the different layers of trees and makes your life much easier. And it adds a mysterious dimension to your photo. For me, there are 2 kinds of fog in the forest: thick fog, and:

Thick fog in the forest with great colour contrast of popping orange autumn colours. I enhanced the color difference even more in post to make the orange colors really pop.

4. Light Rays

Light rays occur with clear skies and high humidity. So if you get these predictions during autumn, it’s party time. It usually happens in the early mornings but it can happen anytime. Keep a good eye on the weather. In my opinion, they’re most beautiful about 1-2 hours after sunrise, when the sun is still low on the horizon and the beams of light blast their way through the trees

Strong light beams making their way through the forest. By underexposing a little bit they became even more apparent.

5. Look at Smaller Scenes

Look at smaller scenes. This can be macro, or just a small scene very far away that can be captured with a 400mm lens for example. Think of a dark forest where just 1 beam of light is hitting 1 tree.

A little tree in a dark part of the forest, with just 1 ray of light perfectly hitting the tree. Shot at 400mm
Small scenes like this new life on a (sadly) burned tree can be beautiful.

6. Follow the Light

Autumn forests are incredible with their golden trees and golden light peaking through it. But the sun moves, so the light constantly changes. Every time new compositions pop up because of the changing of light, you have to act fast to get the shot, or it might be gone. Sometimes its almost like ‘dancing with the light.’ You come into a rhythm and move with the light through the forest. Forest photography is quite difficult that way, but extremely rewarding! On a beautiful morning in the forest, you can sometimes ‘harvest’ so many good portfolio shots.

Different parts and branches in the forest constantly light up creating new photo opportunities.

7. Get Creative with Sunstars

If you like sunstars, you can do some very cool stuff in the forest. By positioning the sun right next to a branch or a tree, you get these beautiful little stars by using a closed down aperture (f/14-f/22). You can get very creative with it. Note that the shape of your sunstar greatly depends on the lens. Kit lenses often don’t have ‘pretty’ sunstars, but other lenses really have beautiful sunstars. The shot above was taken with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens for Sony E-mount.

By positioning the sun right in between these 2 trees, I shot a perfect sunstar at f/14.

8. Experiment with Wide Angle

While I love using mostly the telephoto in the forest, I sometimes experiment with extreme wide angles. By using a branch very close to the foreground, or even a mushroom, you can create a very creative effect.

Fetting extremely close to my foreground with a 12mm lens I create this ‘3d effect’ with a lot of depth in the image.

9. Try Looking Up

Sometimes shooting with a wide-angle lens and looking up to the sky and seeing the orange leaves making a frame with all of their interestingly shaped branches can create really creative results.

Sometimes looking up can create interesting creative results.

10. Create a Frame

By photographing through frames of leaves in the foreground, you can create very creative images with depth in them. Simply put your lens close to orange leaves in the foreground and focus on the backdrop. Experiment with it

By going very close to foreground branches and leave and shooting through it, you can create a nice autumn frame. Try it with different apertures to change depth of field.

11. Try Underexposing

When you get strong light in the forest, it’s often difficult to photograph. Try underexposing and focusing on interesting leaves or trees in the forest with a long lens. This way it almost looks like you’re using a flash. Most of your frame will be dark, but only the light hitting the part of the photo will be properly exposed.

A greatly underexposed image where almost everything of the image is dark, except where the light hits. It almost looks like I am using a flash, but its just natural light of the sun hitting parts of the forest.

12. Enjoy the Moment

Last but not least: Enjoy the moment. A beautiful moment in the forest can be overwhelming as a photographer. There are so many opportunities to completely lose yourself in. Take a moment of rest, breathe in the fresh air, and realize the beautiful moment you’re in!

Beautiful autumn colours in the forest.

Bonus Tip

In post-processing, I always add quite some local glow in parts of the picture. This creates the dreamy atmosphere I am often looking for in forest images.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Feel free to check out more of my work and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!


If you are interested in how Albert post-processes his photos, check out the new course he just released.


About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.

How to Shoot Fun and Creative ‘Small World’ Photos with Your Smartphone

Capturing creative photos of miniature worlds is definitely not a new idea, but you don’t need to be a small-world master like Tatsuya Tanaka to give this kind of photography a shot. As this COOPH tutorial shows you, all you need is some creativity, a few mini figures, and a smartphone.

The short tutorial runs you through the creation and capture of six different miniature “scenes” while sharing a few simple tips and tricks along the way. Some are specific to mini figure photography, like using temporary glue to hold the figures in place, but other tips apply just as well to broader food and product photos.

For instance, if you want to keep a slice of fruit floating in a cocktail glass, cut a small piece of bubble wrap and hide it underneath:

That said, our favorite scene of the three was also the most simple: a few construction workers “repairing” an Apple keyboard. This required no special tricks other than gluing the figures down, proving that the most important element in any photo like this is your creativity.

To see all six scenes and learn a few tips and tricks for creating these figures for yourself, watch the video up top.

The only bit they conspicuously left out of the video itself was where to buy these kinds of miniature figures, so if you really do want to try this kind of photography this weekend, you can find an affordable set of 1:100 scale mini figures here, or purchase the more expensive (but higher quality) “Noch” brand mini figures here.

3 Beginner Wide Angle Mistakes to Avoid in Landscape Photography

Landscape photographer Mark Denney has put together a quick tutorial that will be particularly useful for beginners. In it, he covers the most egregious mistakes he made when he first started shooting landscapes with a wide-angle lens, and explains how you can avoid falling into the same traps.

“I think without a doubt a wide angle lens is by far the most popular choice of lens to start with for landscape photography, but there are some drawbacks and mistakes to avoid when using these ultra wide focal lengths,” writes Denney. “The field of view when using a wide angle lens is such a stark departure from what we see on a daily basis with our eyes that it can make the effective use of such a wide focal length challenging in certain situations.”

In the video, Denney shares the three “most egregious” mistakes that he made when he purchased his first wide-angle lens—traps that many (if not most) beginners fall for when they first start shooting wide. But it’s not just for beginners; as Denney explains in the video, he fell into one of these traps just last week when he created his most recent video.

Fortunately, all three mistakes are really easy to avoid if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Prime Effect – When you only use your wide-angle zoom at its widest setting. This often leads to including too much information in every one of your frames, or what Denney calls “scene stuffing.”
  2. The Flat Line Problem – When everything in your scene is the same distance away from your camera. Adding foreground interest is critical when shooting wide-angle; consider shooting in portrait orientation to make including foreground elements easier.
  3. Resisting Distortion – When you avoid distortion at all costs and it actually hurts your overall composition. For example: don’t be afraid to embrace wide-angle distortion by getting low and close to your foreground elements. Focus stack if you need to.

To dive into all three of these points in much greater detail, with plenty of example images to go along with each point, check out the full video up top. And if you have any additional wide-angle mistakes to share with the newbies in the audience, feel free to drop your favorite “pro tip” in the comments.

4 Steps Every Photographer Should Know To Balance Strobes and Sunlight

In this video and article, Chanda AM is going to help me illustrate how to balance ambient light with strobes. I love shooting in this situation with ambient light and strobe light. I want to be able to combine the ambient light here in this beautiful area with strobes.

So the way I generally do this is:

First off, I set her up so that she has the sun coming from behind. I always like the sun from behind because it gives her a nice rim light on her hat and on her shoulders. But I’m going to keep her in the shade pretty much.

It’s just that little bit of rim light coming through is giving us a few highlights on her hair, on her back, and on her hat. If I’m out in direct sun, I’ll throw up a translucent to make it look like she’s in the shade or just a plain reflector to get her out of the sun.

Step 1: Choose an Aperture for Creative Reasons

Choose an aperture for creative reasons. How much depth of field do you want? Do you want a shallow depth of field or do you want a deep depth of field? I want a shallow depth of field. I could choose a deep depth of field, but that’s not my creative purpose.

Right now I want a shallow depth of field. So I’m going to go to f/5. I can make it shallower than that. But for me, I want enough depth field to keep her face and her head sharp. And I let the background fall out of focus, and 5 does that really nicely on a 150mm lens (I used the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens). So that’s the number one point, choose your aperture for creative reasons.

Step 2: Set Shutter Speed to 1/200s

Number two is I’m going to set my shutter at 1/200th of a second. The reason I choose 1/200th of a second is that it is going to get rid of the most amount of ambient possible in the scene without having to go to high-speed sync. So I’m at 1/200th of a second, I’ve chosen f/5 for creative reasons.

Step 3: Match Strobe Power to Aperture

Now principle number three. I’m going to match the power of my strobes to my aperture. (I am using the Westcott FJ400 Strobe and Westcott 2’x3′ Softbox.) I’m going to dial the power up or down until I get the perfect amount of light on her face. I just want the strobes to match the aperture. I don’t care about the ambient light. I don’t care how dark the image looks. I just want the strobes to look right on her face.

So at f/5, I’m going to take an image here at 1/200th of a second and just see what we got. Here the strobes are perfect. I’ve dialed them up and down, and I’ve made my adjustments on my strobe. I have that strobe in a nice position up front here, the lighter face, I’ve tilted it up slightly. So I’ve got a vignette off from her shirt, but it’s too dark in the background.

Step 4: Increase Shutter Speed to Give Light to the Background

So number four, I now start increasing my shutter until I like what I see in the background. So I’m going to go from 1/200th to 1/100th sec. Now the background is becoming brighter. I like what I’m seeing. I’m going to go to 1/50s and now I’m getting some life into that background. I could even go I think to 1/30s. Yeah, I’ve got a beautiful background that she feels like she’s integrated with. The strobes don’t feel like they’re lighting it. It looks like it’s just the ambient glowing light in the scene and it looks fabulous.

The Formula

So there’s a simple formula:

1. Choose your aperture for creative reasons.

2. Set your shutter at 1/200th of a second.

3. Balance your strobe power, dial it up and down until it matches the aperture.

4. Then start opening up that shutter until you like the background the way it looks.

And that integrates those two together and then shoot away. I’m going to shoot some.

Now if I start getting a hot spot in there, and I can see one right now. You can see just over her shoulders is a really bright spot back there. I’m just going to move my camera a little bit, it doesn’t have to be very much. And I’m going to get rid of that hotspot.

So here are two images without and with the strobe. You can see the difference. Just adding a little bit of strobe opens up the image and makes it look wonderful. I got there by first getting rid of as much of the ambient as I possibly could. Then I set my strobe to my aperture, then I added the ambient until I like the look and shot away.

It’s important to note that it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any ambient light on her face. There will be ambient light on her face. But the formula allows you to get rid of all that ambient light on her face. Just see what the strobe is going to do the make sure you like the strobe and then set your aperture.

Then you add the ambient back in and you’ll find the perfect marriage of those two, strobe and ambient. Sometimes you may have a lot of ambient light on her face. Other times might not be much at all. But I’m also looking at the background trying to get that background balanced with her face as well. So I’m looking at those two things as I make my shutter longer and longer, adding more and more ambient until I like what I get. (I used the FotoproUSA X-Go Max Tripod on this shoot.)

If you do this at sunset, you can keep dragging that shutter to a second, two seconds, etc. And that gives you a really deep blue sky that looks fabulous.

That’s the formula to be able to balance your strobes in ambient light outside. So let’s wrap this up.

Follow the four steps for balancing strobe light to the ambient light and you’ll get beautiful images quickly, efficiently, and creatively every single time. Choose your aperture, put your shutter at 1/200 of a second. Set your strobes to your aperture then increase the length of your shutter until you like the match between your ambient and your strobes and shoot away. It is that easy.


About the author: Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer with over two decades of experience in the industry. He teaches photography through his company, The Slanted Lens, which runs a popular YouTube channel. This article was also published here.

30 Lightroom Tips and Tricks for Faster Photo Editing

Landscape photographer Christian Möhrle of The Phlog Photography recently put together a handy compilation of his favorite tips and tricks for Adobe Lightroom Classic. Chances are good you’ll find at least one or two (and probably several more) little workflow tips that you didn’t know about.

Like it or not, Lightroom Classic is still the RAW editor that most photographers (sometimes grudgingly) use to edit their images. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Adobe alternatives like Capture One, Affinity Photo, or open source options like RAWTherapee or Darktable, this won’t apply to you, but if you do use Lightroom, Möhrle has done a great job covering a bunch of useful tips without wasting any of your time in the process.

There’s no long-winded intro, no use of ALL CAPS in the headline claiming that this is “The TRUTH about editing PHOTOS in Lightroom,” and no Squarespace sponsor break. Just a quick breakdown of 30 genuinely useful tips and tricks for editing your photos in Lightroom Classic.

Here’s a full list, with timestamps, in case you want to skip around and only check out the ones that you don’t already know about:

  1. Dragging the Histogram – 0:28
  2. Shift-Click Sliders – 0:55
  3. Mouse-dragging slider values – 1:03
  4. Bigger develop panel – 1:13
  5. Double-click sliders – 1:23
  6. Camera profiles – 1:43
  7. Camera profile opacity – 2:06
  8. Spot removal visualization – 2:22
  9. Straighten image – 3:00
  10. Different crop grids – 3:24
  11. Make clipping visible – 3:41
  12. Auto tone settings – 4:07
  13. Alt-click lights / darks – 4:20
  14. Soft / dreamy look – 4:50
  15. Shift-click sliders – 5:08
  16. Erase Brush – 5:25
  17. Luminance range mask – 5:58
  18. Color range mask – 6:43
  19. Adding glow – 7:21
  20. Adding haze – 7:56
  21. Adding color – 8:20
  22. Auto mask brush – 8:53
  23. Tone curve – 9:20
  24. Color adjustment – 10:00
  25. Autumn colors – 10:24
  26. Polarization effect – 10:41
  27. Alt-click split toning – 11:09
  28. Sharpening mask – 11:33
  29. Auto straighten photo – 12:05
  30. Calibration color grading – 12:28

Check out the full video up top to dive into all 30 tips for yourself and see them in action. And if you want to see more from Möhrle and The Phlog, you can find him on his website, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.