Category Archives Updates

No time for an intro; this topic is way too important!

One of the most important skills in photography is the ability to see light. It may sound stupid, perhaps even too obvious, but it’s a thing. It’s a thing that if you think you understand, you probably don’t. When you know, you know. You don’t think you know. You know you know. You know? I’m talking direction, diffusion, tone, colour, intensity, contrast; I’m talking about really seeing light.

– It’s like speaking a secret language that every photographer must know

I firmly believe in being the master of your trade. Knowing all there is to know, and if you don’t know it, go and learn it! It all starts with breaking down the basics—understanding the fundamentals. Seeing light will determine whether you get “lucky shots” or whether you deliberately smash it time after time, and I don’t know about you, but smashing it time after time is absolutely what I’m going for!

Think about your Adobe Photoshop adjustments. It’s the light we’re really playing with at the start. It’s the Exposure, the White Balance, the Contrast, the Highlights and Shadows, the White and Black points, and the Clarity. These elements make up the light we saw, and accordingly, we adjust them to how we want things in post. It’s these things we use in post that we must translate to the real world in order to understand light. To understand the behaviour of light and how we represent it.

This is Antelope Canyon in Arizona, USA. It’s possibly one of the best ways to demonstrate the effects of light that I can think of. How it changes tone, fades from intensely bright to barely perceptible darkness and gives us contrast across the image. Here’s what I mean, take a little look at this:

 

 

That’s the view straight up whilst inside the slot canyon, minus the sky in this case. The light hits spots on the wall and highlights them, leaving other areas in total shadow. The detail in some places island incredible demonstration of the beauty of nature, and similarly the areas in shadow give us this same beauty, combined with mystery because we know that details are there too, we even see a bit of it, but the light fades off in such a way that leaves us guessing a bit. It’s this ability to see light, and therefore choose the right composition that gives this image the edge over a regular “tourist snapshot,” and here’s what it is that we’re seeing in terms of light:

 

 

This is a blurred version of that same image, removing all detail completely and leaving the light behind. You can see that the light hits a couple of the compositional techniques we love—it bisects the top-left third, it is diagonal across the image, and it pretty much fits a golden spiral, too. Having the light do that, rather than physical elements of the image, is building the time the viewer spends looking at our shot and demonstrates, so long as it was on purpose, that we can see that light. Let’s look at another:

 

 

Everything in this shot of sunflowers in Germany that we want the viewer to look at is bathed in light. The highlights catch nicely, the setting sun isn’t too overpowering, and the areas of shadow aren’t so dark that they distract. It’s from reading this light and dealing with it correctly, according to what it presented, that allowed this shot to come to life. Here’s the blurry version showing the light:

 

 

It’s hard to explain; it’s something to keep going at until you’ve got it. Keep practicing, be it with landscapes or with models or however you like to shoot. Look at shots in magazines and see what exactly it is that attracts you with the light. Take a closer look at portraits, like those in movie posters, and try to see what’s going on in the reflection in the eyes. Practice, practice, practice, and when you can see light, your photography will take a whole new turn.

This vase sitting on the floor caught the warm, diffused (by cloud) light and was just asking for me to shoot it. It’s recognising this light that means I was able to get this shot of what is otherwise a rather mundane object sitting on the floor and making it look just that little bit more special. As I said, it’s a secret language that every photographer must know.

 

 

So, here’s the truth about seeing light, if you hadn’t picked up on it so far: it’s all about practice! They say that practice makes perfect, and they say that for a reason. Have your eyes all about you and try to see light in everything you’re doing. Set yourself a challenge and take an object or a person and move all around it or them, shooting from as many angles as possible. Once you’re done, take a good look at the results and take notice of the differences based on the light—you’ll see distinct differences and it will all help in learning to speak light.

Much love

Dave

Happy #TravelTuesday to you all! It’s time for #HybridDaveTuesdays, once again, here on Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider, and this week I’ll be telling you all about some clever AI I’ve come across to help with your Instagram hashtagging and keywording.

I’m Dave Williams, I’m a travel and aerial photographer, educator, and influencer right here in sunny London, UK, and every Tuesday you can catch my musings right here. If you like it, don’t forget to share it, and go find me, Hybrid Dave, on social media. :)

So, I’ve been putting a lot of work into my hashtag process lately, and I’ve come across a couple of awesome tools to help. I thought you guys might like to see them:

First off, hashtagging is pretty crucial in effectively reaching your desired audience on Instagram. Tagging your photos on the world’s leading photo sharing site with appropriate labels will maximise your engagement and show off your work to the world who wants to see it. It will gain you followers, comments, and likes. I write about it here pretty frequently because it really is that important for growth.

So, here’s the first one: it’s called AutoHash (currently available for Android). It’s a simple app, which scans your photo, determines what’s in it, then it scours Instagram for look-alikes and appropriates what it deems to be the right hashtags. Now, we all know that AI is a new technology and isn’t always going to always shoot and score. Take a look at this:

Yes. It’s goats in a tree.

So, it got it right throughout most of the hashtags, but there are a few clear errors: First, because I took this photo in Morocco, and then processed it and saved it to my Google Drive, then downloaded it from there onto my phone, then uploaded it to Instagram, and then uploaded this photo into the app from the “saved from Instagram” folder on my phone, the geotagging has totally failed and put it in my current location. So, that’s out. Second, it can’t seem to comprehend that there would be goats in a tree and, as such, has decided that they’re monkeys instead. My personal favourite tag here is #barbaric, but other than that, it’s pretty good. So, then I tried this one:

Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, UK

It’s a pretty accurate set of hashtags again, but it’s picking them based on the photo rather than picking hashtags known to attract engagement. It’s a good demonstration that AI can figure out what the photo is, but that’s not quite what I need.

What I need is the ability to have hashtags generated, which are on trend, as well as on theme. Recognising the content of the photo, and then assigning hashtags, which are aligned to that particular theme of image on Instagram is important for engagement. Have a look at this, which I’ve recently discovered:

This is Photerloo’s hashtag and tag app, which is online based. To use it, simply upload a photo on desktop or mobile, and it selects tags for keywording, as well as separately for hashtagging. Its functions allow users to change the number of tags, and it also allows the selection of more popular or less popular tags, which is particularly useful. Here’s why:

If you tag a photo using a popular tag, there are more photos constantly being added after yours, which causes your photo to move down the chronological feed a lot quicker, thus showing your photo to fewer people versus using a less common tag, keeping your image higher in the feed for longer. Having your photo in a feed longer gets noticed by Instagram’s engagement measuring algorithm, which raises your chances of being one of the nine top posts.

Basically, if you want engagement on Instagram, you need to use certain features to maximise your chances, and the correct use of appropriate hashtags, which differ on each post, is one of the biggest points to note.

Have a go and see what difference it makes for you. Let me know how you get on.

Much love,

Dave

Unfortunately, we are going to have to delay the announcement of the winner of the Worldwide Photo Walk’s Youth Competition (we’re waiting for a final age verification because for some reason MANY, MANY adults entered the youth competition). and our People’s Choice Winner (we’re awaiting the results from ViewBug who ran that part of the competition).

So, because we can’t know for certain if or when either of those is expected today, we’ll do the announcement this coming week. My humble apologies for the delay – our crew has been working day and night to have these ready and they’re nearly as disappointed as you are, but we want to make sure the proper winners are verified before we make the announcements.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. :)

Best,

-Scott

Take a deep breath in…hold it…now exhale….

Mindfulness is filling our world right now. Our world is hectic, ever digital, shorter-scheduled, higher-pressured, and it creates angst. Perhaps the cause is right there in that sentence, but whatever it is we’re constantly looking for ways out. Yoga seems the most popular, but for me it’s photography. No matter the stress caused by taking photos or retouching them, the rewards are ever greater, but is there any scientific basis here or is it just me? And perhaps, more importantly, how do we keep photography fun and not let it become ‘labour’ in terms of mindfulness? It’s this specific point I’ll try to address.

My friend Mimo Meidany seems happy enough to escape with a camera here in Portugal

Simply holding a camera can induce mindfulness—having it in your hand and being ready, being aware. Scanning the environment around you for that great shot, and singling out the good qualities of the world into one scene. Photography, in this sense, isn’t just about having your ‘main camera,’ though, it’s also about recognising when you’ve chanced upon something beautiful and reaching for your phone to document it, supporting the awareness of the immediate experience and bringing it focus, alongside creativity, rather than putting it aside. It’s often the case, in fact, that the memory of taking the photo is echoed every time you see it. Take this photo:

I love this photo. I took it in Norway, not too far from Odda. It wasn’t deliberate at all. My intention was a day hiking to Trolltunga, but when I arrived at the start of the signposted route, and was met with busloads of tourists and a car park packed full of people with much the same intention as me, I decided that perhaps it wasn’t going to be the idyllic, desolate walk I’d anticipated and my attention turned elsewhere. If I hadn’t met that thought, I would never have taken this shot and regardless of its eventual use or its technical constitution, it remains one of my favourite photos. The photo is underlined, twice, with mindfulness. It’s making the best of the bad situation—finding beauty elsewhere, focussing my attention, and aligning my mindset.

Doing this, and maintaining positivity in photography, is so, so important. Photography is pretty unique as it stands in a gray area, somewhere between occupation and hobby. As we all know, monotony and tedium will push through to varying extents in any job we do. If photography is our job, we need to be aware of this, and take control of this negativity and maintain our ‘happy place’ in our mind when practicing. If it starts to become tedious, or the fire and passion that made photography so attractive to us start to dwindle, then an assertive drive to rekindle it must begin. See something new, find some beautiful light, do something fresh, and reflect on exactly why you take photos. For me, it’s about sharing what I see in the way I see it. That’s why, if you take a look on my social media channels, you’ll see the phrase, ‘Let me show you what I see’.

Me in my happy place

Try this: The next time you chance upon something and your reaction is to raise a camera and capture it, try to bring yourself into that moment. Immerse in what it is that made you do that and just be present. Everybody loses track of things once in a while, feels like throwing down their camera and forgetting it all, and that’s fine. Just don’t make it permanent. If you picked up a camera in the first place, there’s a creativity flowing through you which expresses who you are and what you see, and it takes hold of your soul and makes you who you are. Bring yourself back into the moment and remind yourself why you’re doing it all.

Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.

mindfulness

ˈmʌɪn(d)f(ʊ)lnəs/

Noun

1.
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings,
thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

It has been the subject of blogs, media articles, conversations, magazine columns, and it’s this:

Should we Photoshop people?

Well, let’s relate it all to my genre: travel. Should we Photoshop travel pictures? To what extent and why? Is it an “okay” thing to do?

First, I’ll just get this out of the way: many people will argue that Photoshop is not a verb. It is. It just is. It has become a commonplace term in our society, and if you hear somebody say that something’s been “Photoshopped,” you may want to throw a can of cheese at them, but you know what they mean. This post isn’t about that. So, moving on….

My stance, as someone who writes tutorials centred on Adobe Photoshop, is that Photoshopping fits in travel photography just as much as it does in glamour photography. It has a role to play, and it is useful, but it should (in terms of its use for marketing at least) result in an image being inspiring, enticing, and offering somewhat of a realistic depiction. A representation of reality.

But when does it stop being real? How far do you have to go before your image of some far-flung location no longer looks the way it really looks? What are the limits? Well, to me, when I Photoshop something, I want the final result to look like something that could actually happen. When we apply the fashion stance, the model on the cover of the magazine isn’t real. It’s what we imagine could be real; it’s the image we have in our head, but it absolutely isn’t real. Reverting back to travel, if the image I produce has created something inspiring, but false, then I’ve let myself go too far.


Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

This image is an example. I have Photoshopped it, but it’s a thing that actually happened. If I created something that hadn’t or at least couldn’t happen, I’m no longer operating in the realm of travel photography, but have moved into fantasy. This is Hohenzollern Castle in Germany, sitting high atop a hill, overlooking the countryside for miles around. The moon rose, and I positioned myself on the opposite side of the hill to capture it silhouetting the castle. It’s a thing that happened, but in order to portray it with its massive difference in exposure, I had to retouch.

I suppose something to consider, based on what I’ve mentioned, is what we define as travel photography. When it comes to travel, we occasionally make our decisions based on personal recommendations and the influence of our peers, but in today’s society, we’re making more and more decisions based on social media. We’re looking at the images of travel photographers. Travel photographers like me. What people are looking at in my photography is the scene before me at the time I saw it, the way I saw it, and indeed the way I felt it.

 


Odda, Norway

When I was stood here, I wasn’t just seeing this scene, I was feeling it, smelling it, hearing it. I took all the information available to me from all of my senses for the amount of time I stood photographing that scene (and I’ll add, in various different directions), and I retouched the image to portray, in a tiny, little box, what I was seeing. I wasn’t just seeing an island with a tree on it, I was seeing a bunch of mist, feeling isolated, smelling the fresh, early morning dew, wrapped up from the cold, and I had to show that as best as I could in one image.

It’s for this reason that I say time and time again, “lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” What I see in my mind’s eye and what’s physically in front of me vary somewhat in most instances, however, with Photoshop I can take everything that was forming that image of what I saw and show you that same thing.


Here I am in real life ;)

One travel subject, which is a prime example of how travel photography has bent the truth, is the famed and elusive Aurora. The northern lights. The lights are phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but just as one point, they’re generally very dynamic. The countless amazing photos of them on Instagram are what you perceive them to be, not what they actually are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to crush any dreams here for those of you hoping to tick the northern lights off your bucket list, they’re incredible, but they aren’t like you see them in photos.

Westfjords, Iceland

So, it is okay to adjust things, right? In the world of travel photography, it must be. It’s what we’re used to seeing. But, when we know the truth of the image versus our representation of the scene, it can change. I’ll work to remove the things that I didn’t necessarily notice at the time. The things that were there, but that my mind blocked out of my vision—the power lines, poles, aerials, all of that stuff which is there, but doesn’t form the vision in front of me, but which immediately stand out in the photograph. The other senses have had their input, too, and everything that flooded those senses has had its say, and those power lines aren’t part of it.

If it’s true to say that we do it in real life with our own eyes, and it’s true to say that around 90% of the images we see in everyday media have been retouched, then what’s the limit? When does travel photography become fantasy? When the movement in the scene, the sounds, the smells have all gone, it’s fair to represent those things differently on our image that becomes flat and motionless.

We have a job to do in photography, and it’s not to make things fake. The job of a photographer and retoucher is to make things look real, but the real way you saw it at the time. With the distracting elements gone, the scene looks like real life. If people go and stand in the same spot, they can expect to see what you see too, but looking at its best. That’s our job. That’s what travel photography is. That’s what sets it apart from fantasy.

Lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see. Bear that in mind when you consider your limits. Show people what you see. Something achievable, realistic, and at its absolute best.

Food Photography in Motion!

Have you ever wondered how dynamic food and liquid splashes can be captured in a home studio setting with both basic and more advanced techniques and gear? When I began photographing splashes and crashes in my first home studio, I spent a majority of my time cleaning the ceiling and cursing at my strobes for not freezing the motion. In this post, I will walk you through my most recent image and how I now avoid the mistakes I made early on.

For this shot my goal was to create an image of strawberry shortcake being pulled apart so the viewer could see this common dessert in a more unique way. Here are a few tips that made it come together.

  1. Use a flash with a short flash duration. I prefer 1/10,000 of a second which can typically only be found in higher end strobes. For this reason, I recommend you rent a strobe for a weekend and plan a variety of images to make the best use of your time. When I was first starting out I rented a Broncolor pack and modifiers for a few hundred for the full weekend. High-end strobes often come up in the used market as well for a fraction of their purchase price. With a little finesse, speed lights will also capture this scene equally well given the proper settings.
  2. Have a clear concept and attempt to capture the image in as few shots as possible. When I first began compositing my images in Photoshop, I would shoot each component individually and combine them in post-production. The only issue with this process is that food has a variety of nuances, textures, and color casts that make a splash captured in a few shots much more believable and exciting that an image that was forced to come together. The best splash images I have ever created happened in three or fewer shots.
  3. Light food like an athlete! I often place two medium strip lights on each edge of the scene. This not only creates nice highlights, it enhances the textures in the front of the subject while also lighting liquids and other translucent objects slightly from behind creating a nice glow.

Once you have all of the components captured, it’s simply a matter of finding a base image to start from and blending the remaining images in using layer masks. Using a black background allows you to blend things in using a soft brush instead of making complex selections and I will often use the lighten blend mode on fine powders or other high frequency details to avoid complex selections as well.

I hope this as taken at least a bit of mystery out of the process and will allow you to make the leap to create some fun and intriguing food images.

Happy shooting!

Steve Hansen is a commercial food and product photographer in Seattle. You can see more of his work at SteveHansenImages.com, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Close