Posts By David Williams

Happy #TravelTuesday one and all! I’ve expressed it that way this week because I’m busy typing away from the Starbucks in Oslo Gardermoen Airport where I’m currently between flights, and I’ve just spent a couple of days in Arctic Norway shooting a class for KelbyOne. The problem is it was delayed because of the ‘rona so, unfortunately, I had very little daylight available. But, hopefully, the content I packed in actually makes enough educational sense to be worth putting out there. We’ll see!

Today, I want to tell you a story about that time when one of my photos was stolen by a travel company to market their product/service. The memory is still very vivid in my mind, mostly because it was last week!

It all started when I noticed I’d been credited in a photo. There are harder ways to find your images online I guess, but there are also services we can use to find our images, such as a reverse image search in Google, or Pixsy, which is a company that constantly searches the images you upload and notifies you when they’re found somewhere. This particular image was being used on Instagram, which makes the subject a little tricky to work out ethically, but it’s my copyright nonetheless.

That’s the post right there. As you can see, it’s clearly advertising the fact that this company can take you to Jasper National Park in Canada as one of their destinations, and whilst there, you can go to Medicine Lake. As part of the “bigger picture,” this image forms part of their “grid” on Instagram, headed by their name and a link to their website. Interestingly, when you arrive at their website you can pick up a package to Jasper National Park for £2,069 ($2,760/2,310) per person for eight days. That figure is just worth keeping in mind. The point I’m making here is that this is not a feature page sharing my photo for nothing more than the sake of art; this is a company using my photo as part of their marketing.

As the owner or marketing executive of a travel company, one needs a salary in order to get through life. Similarly, as a travel photographer, I need an income in order to afford such luxuries as rent, food, my phone, etc. My income comes from my photos and I keep a close eye on selling them in order to generate that income. When I saw this post on Instagram I decided to check my stock sales to see if this image had been bought (whilst secretly knowing I hadn’t actually uploaded it to any stock site, but better safe than sorry.) When I was sure that it hadn’t been purchased by this company I took the first step to right their wrong in the form of this comment: –

You see, I had to be slightly firm and get my point across, but I felt it appropriate to leave the door open for them to correct the situation rather than slander them (which is what I felt like doing), so I offered my e-mail address. Some time passed with no response and I learned that they’d hit the “restrict” button on my comment, meaning I could see it but nobody else could. This got my back up, so I hit them with a couple more: –

Let me explain: If this company had taken a moment to send me a short message along the lines of, “Hey, we like your photo of Medicine Lake. Do you mind if we share it?” I would have probably just said yes. This isn’t the biggest company, but I’ll refer back to income. When Lonely Planet, Time, National Geographic, Passion Passport, and countless others have used images of mine, they’ve paid me. When travel companies offering vacations use my images in their marketing material, they pay me. So, why should this company, using my image as part of their marketing, be allowed to do so for free?

A little while later (the next day) a message landed in my Instagram inbox: –

How would you have taken this? Would you have accepted the “sincere” apology and moved on with your life? My reaction was far from an acceptance. This message simply riled me up, and I’ll explain why: Firstly, I asked them twice to e-mail me, but instead, after some pressure, they sent an anonymous message on social media. The next point is that they seem to be implying that they know full well that they misused my image, and I expect their entire social media marketing plan is hinged around misusing people’s images. I have a feeling they simply post other people’s images in the hope that far more often than not they are happy that their photo was recognised and shared by such a company, which links to another thing I’m not happy about with this response: the credit. They pointed out that they credited me with the photo, like I’m sure they do as part of the plan I suspect, that I just described, but let me tell you this for free: credit doesn’t bring home the bacon! I’ve never got in touch with my electricity company and offered to pay my bill with “credit” or “exposure,” and I wouldn’t expect them to let me. There’s no real difference here.

Anyway, another couple of hours passed and I received an e-mail:

As I said before, I suspect this company relies on sharing images and hoping the photographer is happy with the “exposure” as a major part of their cost-effective marketing strategy. The response from the Senior Content and Affiliates Executive suggests this is the case and they know full well what the market value of a royalty-free image would be at this scale and for this usage type because look:

This is one of my images on Getty Images, a reputable stock library. Their price is a fair indication of the market value of such images. I decided to accept the offer of £50—it was a fair offer had it been made upfront rather than retrospectively, and I was no longer in the mood to argue with anybody. My response will be next, but I want to take this opportunity to remind you all that as photographers, the images you create are your intellectual property. There are different methods worldwide for attaining copyright on an image, but first and foremost, unless under contract that says otherwise, that copyright belongs to you. You are a professional and, as such, you deserve to stand shoulder to shoulder with other professionals in equal stead. Just as a plumber sends invoices for their work, a photographer sends invoices for theirs. If their intellectual property is being used without permission, it is something that should be dealt with according to law. Realise your value and never let anybody steal your hard work.

For the record, I’m still waiting for the payment to be made, but here is my response:

It’s your copyright. It’s your property. If it’s stolen, don’t let anyone off the hook. We need to take a stand against image theft, and we’re all in it together.

Much love

Dave here for another #TravelTuesday post, and I’m glad to see this week’s news of progress with vaccines because I’m so over this now!

Let’s begin with an update from my world: –

This is far from the first cancellation I’ve had this year as those who follow me are aware, but this is the fourth attempt at one particular trip and it’s a rather time-sensitive one. I’m off to record a new class in northern Norway and if I can’t get it done really soon, the arctic will plunge into Polar Night and I simply won’t be able to do it. I watched a movie last night, which had a song in it with the following lyrics: –

Where the northern lights burst out in colors
And the magic nights surpass all others
Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera
[All I want is to be]

The movie was Eurovision, and it just made me want to be back on the road again. For now, I can’t do anything about it aside from hope my fourth rescheduled flight to Norway is not cancelled and I can get there to shoot in isolation. Fingers crossed!

As for today’s insight into what I find important in photography, however, I want to talk about eyes. The heading suggests something about shooting RAW, and what I want to do is touch on comparisons between these two things.

I’m lost for sources right now, but I specifically recall hearing that our eyes see 13 stops of light, which is an incredible range. When we talk about light in photography we often talk about “dynamic range.” The range-of-light levels perceptible in our image is what we’re interested in. The “dynamic” element to this is how the level moves up and down a scale of light levels. Having the ability to absorb light from a broader range of this spectrum allows us far more creative control in post-process, as well as having richer tones in our image. Our eye is the ultimate tool for this, but camera sensors have developed in their abilities from being able to only see one stop of light, through to artificially seeing perhaps two or three, all the way to the incredible tech that is now packed into our sensors affording us a far greater range.

I was blown away recently with my Nikon sensor being able to capture the moonless night sky and unlit background, the faint, dancing aurora, and the insanely stark contrast of the light of civilisation all in one frame with no clipping (that being the loss of detail in highlights or shadows), and it serves as a reminder that we should always shoot in RAW.

Each camera brand gives the RAW file format a different name. In Nikon, it’s NEF, in Canon it’s CRW, in Sony it’s ARW, with plenty of other names to boot. But here’s the point: –

If we shoot in RAW, we are able to manipulate that information far better than if we shoot in JPEG. Where a JPEG compresses our file to save space it also lacks the detail we need in order to make comprehensive adjustments. A RAW file doesn’t compress our image and, as such, each individual pixel is a true representation of the colour and tone of the photon that passed through our lens and hit our sensor the moment we pressed the shutter button. With that information available, we are given far greater control when it comes to making adjustments because Adobe can look at the pixel and know exactly what to do with it, rather than looking at a comparable JPEG file and making a guess. It’s a no brainer. For those who post on Facebook groups asking about shooting RAW and those who simply aren’t able to make their mind up, I can tell you this with confidence. Of the world’s professional photographers, it’s fair to say that 99.9% of those who shoot outside of sports and journalism, that being those who don’t retouch their images and simply upload them and wire them to a news agency, are shooting RAW.

Shot raw

If you aren’t shooting RAW, I offer you the following piece of life-changing advice: – Shoot RAW!

Much love

#TravelTuesday today is a throwback to some travel and a look at adding some zing to our travel photography with light. I’m Dave Williams, and I’m taking you today from my flat on the outskirts of west London, UK to Route 66 near Seligman, AZ. Let’s go.

Last summer after Photoshop World West in Las Vegas had drawn to a close, Mark Heaps and I found ourselves in a Triumph dealership picking up a pair of Triumph Tigers to go on an adventure we’d spent months planning and years yearning for. We were taking our two-wheeled machines from Nevada into Arizona to explore a stretch of Route 66.

Capturing the adventure would be a challenge because we were both riding so the shots we got needed to be remotely activated or cleverly executed, but there was one particular thing we wanted to capture that removed us from the scene altogether – the brilliant light of the Milky Way.

As we rode back to our top-quality motel one evening and the darkness drew in we noticed the Milky Way piercing through the deep blue of the twilight sky and despite being separated from each other and our heads encased in protection we seemed to both just know what we needed to do and stopped at the pullout in sync.

The moon was absent and aside from the nearby freeway there was no artificial light for miles, nor any cloud or haze to catch it if there even was any. The objective was clear – shoot the bikes under the Milky Way. The problem was the lack of light. To make this photo special would require us producing our own light and applying it in such a way that the bikes didn’t distract from the stars, or vice-versa.

I pulled out my Litra Pro and we both got our tripods and cameras ready, constantly scanning for tiny, stingy critters like scorpions and spiders as we stepped through the grit, and we were ready.

With the light set perfectly, here’s what we got: –

In travel and landscape photography we tend to rely entirely on natural light, but using our own light can add to a photo and make it really creative as well as technical.

Flash and lighting is not just for portraits, it can be applied in so many ways to add to our images. It just happens that right now KelbyOne is running a conference to teach all about flash, which you can jump into right here.

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope that little glimpse has inspired you to think about artificial light and different ways to apply it. As with everything it’s important to learn the fundamentals and step it up from there.

Much love

#TravelTuesday today was supposed to involve some actual travel, but because of the decisions of two national governments, I’m stranded in the UK rather than making some epic new content in Norway. Fingers crossed it all gets resolved soon because I’ve just about had enough now! I’m Dave Williams, here for you as always on Today, I want to lay down a quick Adobe Photoshop tip to save you some time with hot pixels. Let’s do it!

Hot pixels can have a number of causes, including sensor faults. If you notice the same dead pixel from one image to the next, it’s a sensor problem that you need to have repaired. Now that bit’s out of the way, what about hot pixels in general? What are they?

Hot pixels are often the result of a sensor that hasn’t received enough light in exposing an image, so they’re likely to appear in areas of shadow. For one of a number of reasons, an individual pixel or a small group of pixels will appear red or white, as if hot, which often stands out as a negative attribute to our image because of its distracting contrast. It’s common for us to get hot pixels on our images of the night sky, particularly when we shoot with no moon in near darkness.

While it’s true that we can find and remove each of these hot pixels ourselves using the Spot Healing Brush tool, there is a simpler way. Take a look at this hot pixel on the left of this image. It’s halfway up and close to the left border.

This one has fallen within a dark mountain range on one of my aurora images. There’s nothing there causing any light; it’s just a glitch of the pixel. Spread across this image are a few hot pixels, and to get rid of them all at once there’s a simple method we can use, with just one filter.

If we select the Dust & Scratches filter from the Noise menu (Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches), we simply need to select a relatively low option for the pixel Radius—usually no more than 5—and those hot pixels are automatically removed.

Because this hot pixel was just a single pixel rather than a small group, having the Radius set to 1 has removed it. This simple method has saved time in zooming in and scanning over the entire image, and it leaves us able to quickly deal with technical issues in order to focus more of our time and attention on artistic retouching.

Have a great week!

Much love

It’s #TravelTuesday and here on, that means one thing: Dave’s here! “Travel Tuesday with Dave” is still a thing, despite the distinct lack of travel going on right now.

I’m Dave Williams, and I’m coming at you today with the down-low of going behind the scenes (BTS) in your photography. It’s actually a really important element to our marketing plan and here’s why:

We live in an age of instant gratification. Like it or not, it’s true. We have access to more information, more quickly than ever. It’s literally available on-demand, 24/7. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and whatever else you can think of in terms of social media, supplying us with a constant insight into exactly what everyone else is up to. We can cash in on this as working photographers and take our audience BTS on our shoots.

This is a BTS shot of me last week in the Lofoten Islands where I was shooting the northern lights. What’s the point of this photo? Well, firstly, it’s a nice memory and souvenir for me, but beyond that, it serves the purpose of showing people that I am able to find and photograph the northern lights. That’s a key attribute to my skill set, considering I currently have a book out about exactly that—finding and photographing the northern lights. This photo, therefore, proves the value of that book by demonstrating that I can put my money where my mouth is.

Save for having a specific purpose for BTS shots, they simply show us being busy. Our audience appreciates seeing what we’re up to, even if it’s something as silly as snapping a selfie. It shows us in our environment, and it shows what we’re up to and, quite importantly, in our field, what we’re using to achieve our goals. This silly selfie in Iceland shows me, my clothing, my camera, lens, strap, tripod, and bag. It’s the complete ensemble—a true “photographer in the wild.” And, it’s marketing.

We all enjoy seeing what our peers are up to, but taking it a step further, we are all being watched by potential clients and partners. If they see our work and it catches their eye, the chance of working together begins to form, but it goes a step further when they see BTS, and somewhat of a personal connection is formed through their seeing us working (or playing) on the other side of our lens.

Take people behind the scenes on your website, your blog, and your social media channels. You won’t regret it.

Much love


It’s #TravelTuesday again—doesn’t it come round quickly nowadays? I’m Dave Williams and I’m here to impart some of my bountiful wisdom, gleaned from years of travel photography. You can find me on my website or Instagram if you want to see a little more, or go behind the scenes on my top-secret Instagram account, too.

Today, I want to explore the topic of noise. Now, I’m not talking about my terrible singing, I’m talking about sensor noise. We all hear about noise in images and it’s often regarded as a terrible attribute that we should avoid at all costs. Although there is some truth to that, it is not as important as it’s made out to be. Here’s the deal: –

Us photographers are a very particular breed of human. We tend to be very tuned in to detail, sometimes so much so that we become perfectionists and notice all the little details—not only in our images but also in life. One of these details is, of course, noise. Image noise is a topic that constantly pops up. We constantly strive to get rid of it and employ many techniques—longer exposures, lower ISO, stacking, and even post-process filters. Well, I just got back from a trip to Norway shooting all manner of coldness and one of my images from the trip is this one of the Aurora.

The noise in the image is all over. It’s so dark, despite the glow of the northern lights dancing overhead, that this image (shot at 6400 ISO with a 15-second exposure time) is packed full of noise. But, is it the noise that a “regular” person sees at first glance, or is it just the composition, colour, and subject? The answer is the latter.

Camera sensors are becoming better and better, almost by the day. The ability to shoot at higher ISO with less light and achieve less noise is remarkable. That being said, consider the fact that there’s a grain slider in Adobe Photoshop whereby we can add grain or noise to our images. It’s true to say there’s such a thing as too much noise, but it’s also true to say that noise can add to an image, in particular when we want to convey a romantic, old-world feel. Grain comes as a feature of film, which has carried over into digital photography, and replicating a film look is something highly desirable by many.

Having a clean and crisp image is all well and good in terms of technicality, but consider that photography is an art and it’s the imperfections that add to an image. It’s far, far more important to achieve a good composition of an engaging subject and end up with a photo containing noise than it is to get a technically perfect photo with no artistic features. To that end, I implore you to move the matter of image noise from your list of priorities and keep it as a secondary thought.

Much love