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Three Things That Would Have Made My First Ever Composite Better
Most people know me as the guy who does Photoshop Tutorials on YouTube. But in the last year, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been involved in several compositing projects that I am very proud of.

Photoshop User magazine featured one of my favorite composites in the 2016 July/August edition.

But probably my most notable composite last year was a composite that Adobe commissioned me to do for their Make A Masterpiece campaign.

I was one of five artists who worked on that campaign where we each had to recreate a painting that has been lost or destroyed.

The only rules were that I had to use Adobe Stock images and Photoshop to recreate the painting.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the painting that I was assigned (The Just Judges) and my recreation.

I presented my composite at the Adobe MAX 2016 conference. The final image used 115 Adobe Stock images, and it took over 80 hours of work to complete. The final Photoshop document was 4.7 GB, and it contained over 1,500 layers.

You can check out my Behance page to see my interview with Adobe and to see more about this project.

As you might imagine, I did not always have the skill to pull off composites like this.

I recently was going through an old hard drive, and I came across my very first composite, which I made in 2003.

It was a composite where I tried to make it seem as if I was feeding a giant dog. But clearly, there was a lot wrong with my composite.

I had not seen this composite in many years, and by looking at it now with the experience that I have, I can clearly see all the mistakes and the things that I didn’t know about compositing when I made it.

Throughout the years I have learned that a composite is a lot more than a collage of photos and that you cannot expect great results by just throwing photos on top of each other.

To make a realistic composite, you need to consider the differences of each element, and in Photoshop, figure out how to reduce those disparities to create a cohesive image.

Right off the bat, I can think of three things that would have made this composite a whole lot better!

Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time and fix these problems. But I can tell you what they are, and hopefully, they can help you in your composites.

The concepts that I am going to talk about are not Photoshop hidden tips and tricks. There are no hidden buttons or menus that will automatically make your composites better.

What my composite was missing were the art principals that make composites look real.

1) Matching Perspective
Perspective is perhaps both the most overlooked compositing principal and the most important. In my dog composite, I paid absolutely no attention to perspective, which is why it seems like such a cheap cut-and-paste job.

I did a good job on the masking, but that is just not enough. Perspective must always be the priority of any realistic composite. Everything else could go right, but if the perspective is off, then the composite will still feel off.

Put simply, to match the perspective of two images you must make sure that the horizon line of both your photos matches. The horizon line is where the ground plane meets the sky, and where the converging lines meet up at a vanishing point.

In this graphic, you can see how all the parallel converging lines of the cubes end up on a vanishing point in the horizon line. The cubes don’t seem out of place, and they look like they are sitting on the ground.

If we bring in a cube and place it randomly in the scene, it will not match. You will get the feeling that something is wrong just by looking at the image.

This feeling is probably the same feeling that you had when you have looked at your own composites and knew that something was off, but you didn’t really know what. Most of the time, when you get that feeling of something being off, it is the perspective that it is not matching.

What you need to do to solve this issue is find the horizon line of the object that you are trying to composite in (the foreground). You can find the horizon line by looking at the original image and figuring out where the ground plane meets the sky.

One way of doing this is by following the converging parallel lines until they meet. The place where they meet will be the vanishing point, which lays on the horizon line.

Once you determine the horizon line, you can move your object so that the parallel converging lines meet up anywhere on the new background’s horizon line. It does not matter where they meet, as long as it is on the horizon line.

Notice now that I’ve moved the cube, the horizon lines match, and the cube looks like it belongs in the scene. Even though they have different vanishing points, they have the same perspective.

You do not need to be 100% precise when matching horizon lines, but the further that they are from each other the more noticeable it is that the two images don’t belong together.

The same would be true if we were using photos. In the example below, you can tell that the person standing by the beach does not belong there. Sometimes it almost seems right, but something inside tells you that there is something wrong with the image.

Even though the lighting, contrast, color, and everything else matches, your eye is still telling you that something is off.

Notice that the horizon line for the background is high up on the image. Almost on the top edge of the photo. That’s where the ground plane (the water) meets the sky.

By disabling the Layer Mask on the model, you will see that the original photo of the man standing has the horizon line (where the ground plane meets the sky) just above his knees.

In the composite, the horizon line was above his head. This mismatch is what makes the composite not work.

To correct this mismatch, you will have to move the background image down to try to match the foreground, or use an entirely different background image.

Sometimes the discrepancy in perspective is so vast that you cannot composite two images together and get realistic results. But in this case, I could bring the background down, and match the horizon lines.

Notice that once the horizon lines match, the perspective matches, and we have a composite that is much more realistic.

In my dog composite, the perspective was too different, and I would not have been able to correct that discrepancy.

Knowing what I know now about perspective, I would have shot the photos differently so that the resulting images would have similar perspectives to make it easy to composite them in Photoshop.

If you want to learn more about perspective check out this tutorial on YouTube:

2) Matching Luminosity and Contrast
Another huge problem with my dog composite is that the luminosity and contrast of the two photos do not match. Notice that the background is a lot brighter than the foreground and it also has less contrast.

If this were a real photo, then the contrast and luminosity of all the objects in the scene would match.

In some cases, it the difference is not obvious. It is difficult to compare the contrast and luminance values of each object in your composite with the naked eye.

The color in the image may be distracting, and you will not be able to see the differences. But by desaturating the image, the differences become more apparent.

You can use a Black and White adjustment layer to desaturate a composite temporarily. If there is a mismatch in contrast and luminance between your images, then it will become more apparent.

In the example below, you can see that the model is much brighter than the background.

You can use a clipped Levels adjustment, to adjust either the foreground or background. In this example, I made the foreground element darker and gave it more contrast to match the background.

Once the contrast of the foreground and background are similar, you can delete the Black and White adjustments layer to reveal a composite that looks much more realistic than the original version.

In my dog composite, I would have probably done the opposite and darkened the background since it was too light. But the idea is the same. You must make sure that all objects in a scene have similar contrast.

In some cases, you must also think of how “deep” in the scene the object is. The further back you go, the less contrast it has. This effect is known as atmospheric perspective.

Atmospheric perspective is not a problem in my dog composite, but it is a common problem that you may come across.

I have a tutorial that it is all about atmospheric perspective and how you can use it to make better composites in Photoshop.

3) Image Quality – Blur, Noise, and Pixilation
For my dog composite, I used images that were of vastly different qualities. The background image is out of focus, and it has a lot of scratches. The foreground image is not perfect, but it is a better photo.

In a perfect world, all the images that you use for a composite should be of high quality. If you must use images of lower quality, you will have to match all pieces in your composite to the lowest quality piece. This is especially important if the lowest quality piece is an essential element of the composite.

In my dog composite, the lowest quality piece was the background. So, I would need to blur the foreground and add scratches to the photo.

In some cases, you may need to add pixelation, or even noise to a photo to make the elements match.

A technique that I often use when I finish a composite is to add just a tiny bit of noise to the entire image to help make the composite more cohesive.

I think that with those three things my composite would have been much better. I can’t go back and fix my composite (I lost the PSD!), but I hope that these tips help you improve your work!

If you would like to learn more about compositing, then join me in Orlando at Photoshop World 2018! I’ll be leading a session on compositing!

Also, check out this playlist with my best Photoshop tutorials!

Jesús Ramirez is a digital graphics expert, speaker, and educator specializing in Adobe Photoshop. Jesús is best known as the founder of the Photoshop Training Channel, one of the most popular Photoshop YouTube channels in the world. Jesús has been a speaker at Adobe MAX, Adobe SUMMIT, Adobe MAKE IT, CreativeLive, CreativePro and many other conferences and industry events.

You can find Jesús on Instagram, Behance, Twitter, and Facebook!

Love What You Do
Firstly, I’d like to thank Scott and Brad for inviting me to write this blog, it’s a real pleasure.

I write blog posts and articles for magazines all the time, with no problems at all and I thought it would be the same with this one as well, until I actually sat down to write it haha… A thousand ideas running through my head yet I was finding it hard to pin down one that I thought worthy. Who knew one would struggle with it even before I’d even began.

I blame it on a photographer’s mind for having too many ideas!

So, after much deliberation I thought I would write about what I like as a photographer. Well, just a little bit of it.

I’m a fashion, beauty, and advertising photographer. I’ve been in this industry for around 25 years. It’s been a tough journey with a lot of ups, but also a fair share of its downs too; the biggest being quite a few years ago, when a spinal injury took me out of the game for around six years. It also took all my clients and my established name too.

Coming back from that and having to start all over again without anyone knowing your name or your work was hard… not impossible, but certainly very hard, especially in a fast paced industry like fashion and beauty. It’s almost soul destroying when you phone one of your big magazine clients and say, “Hi, It’s Wayne Johns, I’m back!” and you get the empty reply of, “Sorry who are you?”

BANG – thats a tough pill to swallow!  This industry changes so fast, so sleep with one eye open! Hey, we may fall down but we can always get back up and carry on, can’t we? It’s what I did!

So, not wanting to make this a negative feeling post, what’s changed? Photography gear has for sure, not really in what it does but more how it does it, things are so much faster, better, sharper, more intuitive and so on. But most of all and more important than gear – I’ve changed. What I shoot, what I like to shoot, and even how I shoot. Even my preference to what kit I like to use and shoot with.

I’m certainly not saying photo gear is any sort of substitute for creativity or ideas. We all know that’s so not true, and you don’t need a camera to have an amazing idea/concept. But this can bring change in all of us, which can be good and bad. We often run to keep up with the speed of a fast moving world/industry when perhaps we should slow down a little to absorb and appreciate our creativity as artists. One of the most important things of all for us!

It’s funny, we often see photography as ‘capturing a brief moment in time,’ yet I always feel I never have enough time to capture all those beautiful moments or ideas I constantly have rushing through my mind. I’m pretty sure a lot of you out there also feel the same, but hey, there are only so many hours in a day.

I have a whole sketch pad full of ideas and concepts I’ve got nowhere near to shooting yet, not sure if I ever will as I always have new ones popping up. That said, photography is a beautiful thing! We love what we do and we do what we love. I think as photographers/creatives we’re very lucky to have a passion as a profession that we can call work.  Even if it’s not your profession and you’re an enthusiast or hobbyist, modern cameras have given us all the opportunity to capture all sorts of images and memories. It’s a great place to be in.

I love to photograph people, so I’m most definitely a people photographer. I enjoy being around people; they can be so diverse and everyone is just a little bit different. Their quirks, skills or personalities can sometimes help make or break a shot, and also make for an enjoyable shoot on set for you and your team. I’m sure we all like those moments when we’re out and about, having a nice coffee, and we sit silently sipping away while we indulge in a little ‘people watching’ as the world passes by. Ah the moments we could capture if we always had a camera in our hands.

So people are definitely my thing to shoot and they fill me full of inspiration. I love a happy studio/location. I like to smile, joke and be happy with who ever I’m working with so we can all enjoy our day. I find it really helps the shoot be more productive and fun too, and coffee and biscuits are a must though!

I’m happy to say I’ve progressed over the years and stepped up a notch since my very first Hanimex 110 flip film camera as a child. In fact, it wasn’t even mine. It was my mother’s, but I used to ‘borrow’ it on occasion when she wasn’t aware.

Now I love shooting with medium format. I always have since the days of film before moving over to digital. I kind of like the way it weirdly but naturally and instinctively slows us down, slows our erratic minds, our shooting process and the way we control and manage our shoot. We seem to take our time to enjoy our moments just a little bit longer. It’s a lovely tool that slows us down without us really knowing why.

Perhaps because on the film side of things we know we only get 10-12 frames, and in the digital world we know that medium format file sizes are huge and we’re aware that we have to store what we shoot on a vast array of hard drives. Or perhaps it’s just the way that medium format is one of those tools for helping us to relax and engage in a more creative and controlled process. I’m sure everyone has their own reasons. Either way, it’s a nice feeling to occasionally have that calm pace and breathing space.

I’ve used many MF systems in my time, both film and digital, but one I really love (and more importantly enjoy) shooting with is the one I use now, for 80% of my commercial work, and that’s my Fujifilm GFX50S mirrorless system. It’s an awesome piece of kit! Why do I love it? Well, apart form the physical form factor and truly amazing image quality, it’s smaller, lighter, and quieter than a lot of cameras, its even smaller/lighter than a Canon 5D, but this is medium format we’re talking about. It’s a small but rather big beast.

Medium format does give an image a different look and different feel compared to DSLR’s or Mirrorless CSC/FF cameras, The image quality of my GFX has an unsurpassed beautiful depth to its tonality with very smooth gradations of tonal ranges across the image. It gives a very creamy feel to backgrounds while your subject is ridiculously sharp and a subject to background separation almost reflective of 3D, even without shooting wide open apertures.

The dynamic range is incredible. I often demonstrate this in my workshops by purposely under exposing my image around 4 stops then pulling it back 5 stops in post, and it’s completely usable with little or no noise in the shadows. It’s sensor technology gone nuts, it’s almost like cheating! My GFX gives my images a very filmic look reminiscent from the film days which I adore, but with mind blowing detail and sharpness which is just out of this world. It’s a joy to handle and feels so easy to use, and, as it should be, you almost forget you’re holding a camera.

Bizarrely, it’s reignited my excitement for shooting again, which my other MF systems never did. I think that’s important for inspiring your personal work too; generally if you’re in a happier mood you’ll find you want to shoot more things. My GFX is now small enough that I often take it out with me wherever I go in a little shoulder bag that I used to carry my rangefinder around in. It’s so brilliant!

If you’ve never shot medium format, then I urge you to go out and give it a go, film or digital it’s your choice. Take your time, master your equipment and learn your skills, but enjoy it. You’ll find a new found love in your images for sure.

(Left) Full Shot // (Right) 100% Crop

Lighting wise, I’m a firm believer that simplest is best, and we don’t always need to complicate things, yet often we do. Now I’m not ignoring the fact that some projects require more complexed set ups than others… but I can’t help liking ‘one light set ups.’ I’d love to shoot a whole book project on it. There’s just this lovely simplistic beauty to them and also so much you can do with just one light and a bunch of reflectors. I’m aware my commercial world may dictate a different approach, but being able to create beautiful imagery with one light can be magical in the simplest form.

If you haven’t done it for a while, push yourself to go and do it again. Play with different light shapers to help you achieve different results, and remember reflectors can make all the difference. One camera, one light and a reflector… it’s already sounding simple and refreshing for the soul. Hard light, soft light, moody, emotive, high energy, seductive, expressive so many options and all achievable with one light. Go and get creative (and share your images too, it will be nice to see)!

Commercial work can be quite draining and sometimes very uninspiring creatively. We’re often shooting what a client wants and not what we want or how we want. Rightly so; the product is the most important thing in that shoot and not us. It comes with the job we have to accept that, and we all do it to pay the bills. So where can we break free from commercial constraints, apart from having a free rein in commercial projects? Our personal work of course!

I’m guilty, like most, of not shooting enough personal work, and I can’t instill the importance of shooting personal work. For many valid reasons, it certainly helps you to grow as a photographer, you can experiment with style, concept, approach, technique and lots of different ideas, you find what you like and what you don’t, it helps you see and realise what you’d do differently, and it helps build not only your body of work but also your character. It’s that kind of work that clients like to see because it says a lot about you as a person and they almost get to see the real you the artist.

If you get stuck for inspiration, even though there is a lot of amazing work out there to get inspired by, I sometimes use this little tip to get my creative thought processes going. I pick just five words and give myself a challenge of creating a shoot from it. It can be any five words you wish; try this right now, five words like: blue, shiny, cold, metal, fairytale. Hopefully those five words already has your mind crunching some ideas. If it inspires you go straight off to shoot something, please share your five words and your final image. It really is that simple to get inspired and sometimes the little lift we need when we have creative block or need a boost.

It’s kind of weird, as some of the ultimate greats like Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, David Bailey, Paolo Roversi, Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Guy Bourdin, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson, Patrick Demarchelier and many many more were some of my idols and inspiration throughout my developing career. They were quite simplistic in their approach, but with some outstanding results and imagery that helped shape where we are today. I almost feel that the commercial world and what I shoot now has taken me far away from what I followed as my inspiration. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the industry, sometimes we all need to reflect on our work both past and present. Are you going in the right direction on your journey right now? If you’re lacking inspiration what do you need to do to get that creative buzz back again?

All of our journeys change throughout our photographic career, and how you do what you do can sometimes steer you into certain directions and open up other doors. For me at my current point in my journey, I find myself giving more talks, seminars and live workshops around the world, and I have to say I’m loving it. I’m at a point in my career where I have a good mix of commercial work too, which is a nice balance. I also have a young family, my 3-year old daughter, who I absolutely love spending time with. When she was born, I made to point to clear my diary of clients every Friday so I could have what I call ‘a daddy daughter day,’ as I didn’t want to miss her growing up. In three years I’ve only missed five Daddy Daughter days. Importantly a good life work balance can help you enjoy those moments of creativity and development a little bit more. :)

Photography is fun – sometimes challenging, but that makes for more fun! It can be a beautiful, creative, inspirational thing to do – go and enjoy it. Experiment, master your skills and create some beautiful images of your own. Shoot more (personal work) but shoot less (frames). Take your time to capture just what you’re after and keep in mind what you do now helps carve a path for tomorrow.

I think I should take a lesson from myself here on all of this!

I hope my words have given you some inspiration, and something to think about, please share some of your images with me if it has, I’d love to see what you’ve done (five words is all it takes).
Thank you for reading this.

You can see more of Wayne’s work at, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

How to Become A Concert Photographer
Concert photography is one of the most challenging fields in photography, but it’s also one the most satisfying. Imagine combining your two passions – music and photography – and shooting your lifelong idols in front of the stage. For some of you, this might feel like a dream come true.

But how do you start to become a concert photographer?

What equipment do you need?

Which camera settings work best?

In this blog post, I am going to reveal how you can get started as a concert photographer, which equipment you need when you’re on a budget and what camera settings work best. I hope it will improve your skills in this exciting field of photography.

Getting Started
The easiest way to build your career as a concert photographer is to start taking photos of concerts in small, local clubs. In these venues, it’s more likely that you can enter with your camera equipment without any special press accreditation. In my opinion, it’s also the only route when you’re starting out, learning all the basics that will help you nail the shots when you get to shoot the big rockstars later on. Why not ask some friends who play in a band and offer them your skills next time? For sure they would be more than happy to have pictures of their next concert.

The challenge in these small venues is often the lack of stage light! Most of the concerts I was starting with had only a blue and a red spotlight on stage. Besides the fact that the musicians look like creatures from another galaxy, the light was so low that you hardly got sharp pictures when not using proper equipment.

What is the solution? Get the right camera gear!


Camera: First, you’ll obviously need a camera. There are hundreds of different cameras from various manufacturers in different formats such as compact cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless or micro four thirds (M43) systems to name a few.

If you want to get out to a concert as soon as possible, get yourself a good DSLR and don’t think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter which brand you choose. I use Nikon, others use Canon and there are others who use Sony. Nikon and Canon are the biggest players in the market and offer a wide variety of lenses. Just go to your local photography store, hold some and decide which camera body feels best in your hands.

The ISO capability of your camera is key in concert photography. Depending on your budget, try to buy a crop sensor DSLR camera with a maximum ISO setting of at least ISO 6400. You will be faced with low lighting conditions on stage and therefore need the option to set high ISO values.

Crop sensor DSLRs are mostly available as a kit package together with a lens. You can get a decent camera body with a lens such as an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6. This kind of lens is good for “everyday” photography purposes, like travel and birthday parties outside, but they are absolutely useless for concert photography. So, in addition to your kit lens you will need to get another lens, or save some money and opt for a “body only” purchase.

Lens: For novice concert photographers on a budget, I would recommend the cheap 50mm f1.8 prime lens (it’s available for all brands and is a no-brainer!), because of its ability to shoot in low-light at its largest aperture setting. This lens is made of plastic, is small, lightweight and unobtrusive. The “Nifty Fifty” – also called the “plastic fantastic” – has saved me more than a few times. For small stages, a 50mm lens is a good compromise to get a headshot of the lead singer and a full-length shot of the drummer. Alternatively, you can also start with a 35mm f1.8 lens if you prefer a wider focal length.

You might ask, “but what about zoom lenses? I can have all focal lengths covered in one lens. Why should I buy a prime lens?”

Here’s the deal. The kit zoom lenses that come with cameras have smaller apertures (higher aperture numbers). By using an aperture of e.g f5.6, less light passes through the lens (compared to f1.8), which will result in a lower possible shutter speed. From my experience, an aperture of at least f2.8 is a necessity in concert photography, and therefore a cheap zoom lens is not an option for using as a concert photographer. You can get zoom lenses with an aperture of f2.8, but they are quite expensive and thus are not fitting for everyone’s budget.

The correct camera settings are key to getting awesome concert photos in low light situations. Maybe you were in this situation before. You used the fully automatic mode in front of the stage and – BAM- the little flash monster sitting on top of your camera pops up and throws the ugliest light you can think of onto the singer’s face. At this point, a lot of frustrated concert photography beginners just take their cameras home and never shoot a concert again. But wait! The following camera settings are the ones that I use all the time during concert shoots, and I promise they’ll help you to get awesome concert photos.

1) Aperture vs. Manual Exposure Mode
I started in Aperture priority mode. In this mode, you tell your camera the aperture you want to use and the camera sets the shutter speed accordingly. This is a great option for a beginner to use because you’ll be stressed enough with all the other things going on around you. However, I soon recognized that only the manual mode would give me the flexibility I was looking for. I set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and then change them on the fly using the internal exposure bar in the viewfinder.

2) Lowest Aperture Number
When deciding which lenses will work best for concert photography, you’ll always come to the same conclusion: use fast lenses and shoot them wide open. Set your aperture to the smallest number on your lens e.g. f1.8 (which reflects a big aperture). This allows the most possible light to enter your sensor and is a must-have setting in ultra low-light stage conditions. The best zoom lenses have an aperture of f2.8, the best prime lenses f1.4 or f1.8. For beginners on a budget, like I said before I suggest to get a 50mm f1.8, which is cheap and therefore a no-brainer for concert photography.

3) Fast Shutter Speed
Have you ever been to a concert where the artist was hyperactive jumping from one side of the stage to the other? To freeze these movements we have to use a fast shutter speed. In general, I set my shutter speed at 1/200 and faster. Otherwise, you risk blurred photos.

4) High ISO Values
ISO or film speed refers to the sensitivity of an analog film. Today the term is used for the sensitivity of your digital sensor. The higher the ISO setting the less light is needed for a proper exposure, but the more noise you will encounter in your pictures. Depending on the ability of your camera a good starting point is an ISO setting of 1600. If my shutter speed is too low at this setting, I will crank up the ISO setting to 3200 or 6400.

5) Spot Metering (using Aperture priority mode)
Set your camera’s internal light meter to spot metering. This takes a light reading limited to the center of your viewfinder. When shooting concerts, you will often find yourself in a situation where the artist is lit by a spotlight and the rest of the stage is almost dark. When using spot metering mode, place the artist’s face in the middle of your viewfinder and you’ll get the right exposure for it. When using the matrix (or evaluative) metering setting, the camera will take a light reading at several points in the scene and you’ll probably get overexposed faces if the background is dark.

6) Autofocus Point
On your camera, only use the most central focus point in low light situations. This will be the most accurate one. If you don’t always want to have the artist in the middle of the frame, you have to “recompose.” Simply push your shutter button halfway down to focus on the artist’s face. By holding the shutter button, you lock focus. Now move your viewfinder until you get the desired framing and push the shutter button fully down.

To use this technique, you have to set your camera to “Autofocus single” (AF-S) mode, otherwise the camera focuses continuously whilst you’re reframing your picture.

7) Auto White Balance
Use the auto white balance setting on your camera. The reason being is that I shoot in RAW format and can, therefore, adjust the white balance setting in post-production anyway.

8) Multiple Shot (Burst) Mode
Set your camera to multi-shot mode. It allows you to rapidly shoot three to four photos in a row (depending on the frames per second of your camera model). It’s more likely that at least one of the four photos is tack sharp whereas the others might not be in focus.

9) Never use flash
In general, you are not allowed to use a flash in concert photography. Imagine ten photographers burst their flashes at the same time. This would be quite annoying for the artist. Second, straight flash pictures don’t look awesome. So my tip is to learn the basics without using a flash.

10) RAW Format
Always shoot concerts in RAW format. If you shoot in JPEG mode, the camera’s internal computer adds contrast, saturation, and sharpness to your photos. These files look great when you open them on your computer, but don’t leave much freedom in post-production. If you shoot in RAW format, the camera does not process the photo at all. The advantage is that you can change parameters like exposure, white balance, saturation, contrast, clarity and so on afterward.

With these camera settings, you will be able to get great results when shooting in low light conditions such as concerts.

– Start in small clubs
– Get a crop sensor DSLR camera with an ISO setting of at least 6400
– Buy a 50mm f1.8 or 35mm f1.8 lens
– Use the camera settings from above
– Enjoy living your passion

Matthias Hombauer is the founder of How To Become A Rockstar Photographer, a platform that helps passionate people start living their dream as concert photographers. In his weekly HTBARP Podcast he is interviewing the worlds best music photographers who share their crazy story about their Rockstar life. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

I’m super excited about releasing my first post and I’m glad that it can be about this subject! This happens to be one of my top favorite things, mainly due to how spontaneous everything is. As you go through life as a creative you find out that a lot of your best work comes from when you just stop thinking and go for it. It’s even better when having muses who are up for any crazy lighting, open to different ideas and trying new things, it ends up as a perfect recipe for the magic to be made! A lot of times people aren’t willing to step outside of their comfort zone for the image, and most of the time that is what’s needed for a masterpiece.

The Set Up
I try to keep my settings and equipment around here when shooting my muses.


  • Canon 6D
  • Shutter: 1/125
  • F/: 5.6
  • ISO: 125
  • 70 – 200mm 2.8 Sigma
  • Lights: Elinchrom
  • (1) Portalite Elinchrom Square Softbox
  • (1) White Beauty Dish
  • (1) Snoot with  a red gel
  • (1) Reflector with another color gel
  • Neutral Density (optional)

I normally like my photos to have a lot of contrast in them. Using harsh lighting, I am able to create depth and clarity which makes it a little more tedious when it comes to retouching but worthwhile once the image is finished.

When using the square softbox, I position it as the key light, and the beauty dish is used for fill. I know that’s not very ideal at all, but creates exactly what I need. I also use the snoot with the red gel to cover the shadows with red. Sometimes you have to mix gels to get the proper color you want.

Lighting Example:

Towards the end of my shoots, I always learn something new. By the end of the session, I may start creating slow shutter speed shots or playing with a different setup. When using colors and experimenting it’s welcomed. Don’t be afraid of not getting it right the first time, the second time, or the third time. Work at it until it’s almost perfect.

HOWEVER, to get back on point, I started creating shots with long exposure. It took a long time because with the method long exposure you have to make that everything is just right. That means everything from a steady camera to the camera settings, and all the way into lighting. Throughout trial and error and a little dizziness, I finally get the shot that I’m searching for.

You can see more of Donte’s work at, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Never Stop Learning
What’s up everybody my name is Sebastian Bleak! I am an Adobe Community Professional and I create training videos for companies like, PluralSight, Astute Graphics and more, focusing on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I’ve only been doing this for a couple years and I’ve been really lucky to work with companies that I’m a fan of and have a lot of respect for, in such a short time.

Prior to this I was working as a production manager at the best custom T-shirt shop in Los Angeles. Now that might sound like a cool title but when I first started out there, I didn’t know much about Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop but I thought I knew it all (LOL). Back in those days, I figured since I had the latest version of Photoshop, that meant I was producing the best product, right? Boy was I wrong!

One day I was working with a client at the t-shirt shop and they made a request on modifying some artwork. I tried to explain to them that “Illustrator doesn’t work that way.” So they asked if they could give it a try. I said “yes,” knowing they would fail. BUT they made the change that I thought was impossible.

I can’t begin to describe how embarrassed I was at that moment but today I’m extremely grateful. That experience told me that I had a lot of learning to do and it was the catalyst for this educational journey that I’m currently on.

The next day I decided I was going to learn everything there is to know about Illustrator and Photoshop, and I made sure everybody knew it. I even started wearing Adobe themed t-shirts and everything! My friend Gary Lockwood was the first one to introduce me to training videos. He challenged me to start a weekly blog where I would choose a new tool on Sunday, study that tool throughout the entire week, and then post a tutorial based on my findings at the end of the week.

He named my blog Never Stop Learning. I am now on week 325 of this project (when this was written) and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Each week I’m posting a new video to my YouTube channel on what I’ve learned thought the week. I have a whole new respect for the software, and I’m proud of the fact that I study the tools of my trade the way maybe a carpenter or a blacksmith might have done generations ago by doing and asking questions.

I didn’t have a long-term goal other than to continue studying the software and to share the information with the design community. I started getting involved with every Adobe User Group meeting in Los Angeles, and they taught me how to use social media to expand my reach and it worked!

One day I received a private message on Twitter from Astute Graphics, all the way out in the UK. That private message got me my first gig as a Video Training Author, got me out of the T-shirt shop and changed my professional course forever. That was the first time I was being acknowledged by a big name company that I had a crazy amount of respect for. This was a sign that I could actually make a career out of something I was doing on this side, just for me, but was extremely passionate about. It was time to set new goals and dream bigger than ever before!

What’s crazy is that I never thought I’d be in this position. A couple years back, I barely knew anything about the software. Now I’m being referred to as an “Expert” in my field, but I see myself more as an enthusiastic student, happy to share his notes with the rest of the class. The thing that got me here was consistency by sticking with my weekly projects and studies. The more I learn, the more I’m able to do. The more I’m able to do, the more I’m looked at as an expert. What’s the take-away from all this? It’s to Never Stop Learning and share your journey with others!

Sebastian Bleak is a video trainer, software presenter, and instructor.

In his work as a trainer, Sebastian specializes in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and boasts a strong background in t-shirt production. Professionally, he’s motivated by seeing a student’s “aha!” moment when they understand how a piece of software works, as well as by the investigation of how tools work together, and creating a specific style of design or combining methods to achieve a different look.

You can see more of his tutorials on his blog and YouTube channel, and follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photo by Jake Peterson

May Blue Skies Fill Your Horizon

The promise of photography the first time we pick up a camera body is overwhelming, nearly life changing! We’ve all been exposed to photographs, but to have that power within our own reach nearly takes our breath away that first moment we embrace that magical black box. Then we find our first photographic love in the viewfinder and all those feelings come rushing back to push our photography even further. For over 25 years, this was the feeling I got every time a critter filled my viewfinder! That emotional reward has kept me going out over and over again no matter the photographic reward. Then in 2008 my photographic world was blown apart and reassembled in ways I never knew were possible!

It was June of that year that my childhood of stories and model building were reunited in the viewfinder. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up spending the summer hiking the Sierra backcountry with my father, a WWII & Korean War vet. At night around the campfire when not staring at the heavens getting my nightly navigation lessons, my dad would share his stories with me being in a B-29. Those nights under the stars planted the seeds for much of my life to come, ones I wasn’t even aware were there.

What makes us the photographers we are comes from all our experiences we’ve had up to that moment we go click. I’m not talking about photographic experiences, but all of our life experiences! On that June morning in 2008, my 25 years of panning with birds to capture flight shots, along with my childhood stories around the campfire, came together in the viewfinder when that first aircraft at Reno Pylon Race School exploded my world! Just hundreds of feet away, the thunder of the engine vibrated the earth, getting louder and louder as it came closer… the explosion of air rushing by, and the thrill of experiencing 400mph up close and personal, and getting the shot. Wow! As I warn everyone I take out to photograph aircraft for the first time, “Don’t blame me if you get hooked,” because from that moment on, I sure was!

Where The Pixel Leads Us
As we all painfully know, success with one photograph or one photographic shoot means you’re hooked, but then the real work begins. I was again incredibly fortunate in my career to hook up with folks very generous with their knowledge. Richard, a gifted aviation photographer befriended me, providing some key insight he’d learned over his years. Bob, an amazing pilot and gentleman took me under his wing to mentor me as we made the real decision to add aviation to our wildlife image library. What many call “reinventing,” we simply call natural growth as storytelling is in my genes. So the challenge beckoned!

I’m sure you’ve been there, from that new camera experience, new photographic endeavor and finally the challenge. No matter the genre of photography you find continually in your viewfinder, how do you move the pixel forward? Fun, yep, fun, that’s what is key in making it all work as you go through the ups and downs it is to be a photographer! At least that’s what I do with a huge dose of passion. In this case I set my goals real high, and that’s to move from photographing aircraft from the ground to up into the skies. Like everything in photography though, getting there requires small steps.

Typically photographers start off with little if no foundation in the fundamentals of photography. Again I was fortunate in 2008 in having enjoyed some success as a wildlife and landscape photographer. For example, panning a 500mm lens hand-held with a speeding aircraft in the viewfinder was second nature after 25 years of chasing birds. And watching that background to make the most of it is landscape photography to me. And what all of these genres of photography have in common is the same as the photography you enjoy, light! In following that light I quickly went from a ground-based photographer to sky-based and over the past nine years, and it’s been a thrilling ride. It’s one you can do too!

What Is So Cool About Aviation Photography Any Who?
That’s a darn good question, thanks for asking! When I’m asked this, the first thing I tell folks is it requires no special gear to start photographing aircraft. Seriously, any camera body and lens that has 200mm in it and you’re golden! With this in hand, the next thing I tell folks is access is open to everyone. All spring, summer and fall there are hundreds of airshows and fly-ins around the nation, permitting everyone with the same access to some amazing aircraft. With this equal playing field is the next cool thing about aviation photography, standing out from the rest!

This is where your skill and passion as a photographer comes into play. At most airshows, for example, the aircraft fly when we tend to think it’s the worst possible time of day for light, noon. If you start to create images of static or flying aircraft in this kind of light that stands out, you will instantly stand apart from the photographer standing next to you shooting the same thing. How?

What are you doing for exposure? Are you under ½ a stop to play up shadows and punch up colors? Are you watching your background to incorporate the small cloud? Are your basic hand-holding and panning skills top shelf so the photograph is tack sharp? Have you spent time with the static aircraft to understand the aircraft’s best angle for the light so you can incorporate that knowledge when it’s flying? How are your post production skills? Are you fixing or finishing your photographs? And most importantly, are you incorporating a passion for photography and subject that comes out in your photograph?

This is just partly what’s so cool about aviation photography! Let’s be honest here, as we’re all photographers, first, we can’t just own one body and one lens, especially when the bug has bitten us. Then there is the speed and sex appeal of our subject. The amazing folks who are part of our aviation heritage play a huge part of what makes it cool. Many aviation photographers primarily photograph the folks of aviation, the plane being just something in the background. Then there is the challenge in getting the shot in the worst conditions that everyone loves. And finally, getting out tomorrow to do better than you did today! And the best part and what makes this the coolest is that after all of these rewards and successes, there is still so much more. What I think is the ultimate reward!

The Sky’s The Limit!
When you know that there is no limit, that the sky’s the limit. It’s an exhilaration that propels your photography to a whole new level! Air-to-air photography (not aerial) is an adrenaline rush like none other I’ve experienced! Literally hanging out of an aircraft with only a safety harness between you and the earth directing another aircraft like a remote control on a string with a camera in hand is a thrill I wish all could experience! That feeling the first time you put a camera in your hand is relived each and every time the prop turns heading off on a photo mission. That’s until the reality that you must, must produce at the very least a tack sharp image sets in. Then a panic greater than falling out of the plane strikes you!

You’ve gotta do better than the other guy, you’ve gotta do better than the last time, the next flight depends on your success of this one. What’s your secret ingredient to making it all come together in the viewfinder? Your passion for your subject. All the lessons you learned on the ground photographing parked aircraft as well as those flashing by at airshows come into play as the breeze slaps you in the face as you look out the door through your viewfinder. And hopefully you’re thinking this is all up your alley because it is!

There are many traditions in aviation that naturally are transferred to aviation photography like helping the new guy. It’s one aspect I truly love about aviation because I’ve been a recipient of that tradition, which is why in large part along with Scott and the team at KelbyOne we’ve brought out Takeoff. From the cover, you might think this book is about aviation photography, and you’d be right. But man, it’s much bigger than that as photography is photography no matter the genre. Gear, flash, settings and basic techniques are part of Takeoff, as a firm foundation is required. What about the business of photography, printing and the real toughie for me, walking up to a stranger and asking to make their portrait? Yeah, that’s all in the book as well, because they are universal photographic challenges.

What Takeoff includes more than anything else is what photographers love, all the secrets. I lay them all out there because I have no secrets, but more importantly, I want you to move your photography forward no matter the genre that excites you! What kind of secrets you ask? How but the biggie, just how do you get an air-to-air photo mission? How do you make your photographs stand out from the guy next to you (the answers apply to any genre of photography)? How about getting your images published? Yep, that’s in the book too.

“They belong to everyone!” The first time Bob said those words to me, they really set me back on my heals. After 25 years of guarding the slide and then the file, the idea of just giving a file to someone was about as repulsive a business concept as they come. Bob and I were talking about the ownership of aircraft when he made that comment. He went on to say that he was just the momentary steward of that aircraft. He was just the one at the moment who got to share its history, tell its story. Ever since that conversation the giving of files to pilots has been kinda basic business practice and it has paid back in spades.

Photography, just like aviation, has many traditions, and one of its grandest is the telling of stories. It’s probably why aviation photography has become so incredibly popular because we are historians, visual storytellers at heart. May blue skies fill your horizon!

You can see more of Moose’s work at and, check out his classes at, and follow him on Facebook, YouTubeInstagram, and Twitter.