Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Q&A: Photography professor discusses service project in Saudi Arabia - The Ithacan

During her 2010–11 sabbatical, Levy taught photography at Princess Nora University, a large government-run university in Saudi Arabia. She said she learned that students were interested in doing more service-learning projects and decided to start one ...

from DIYS

Photography and the power to collapse time and space - The Boston Globe

WILLIAMSTOWN — A photograph collapses time and space. It collapses time by taking the past and keeping it in the present. It collapses space by taking a there and keeping it here. In an age of jet travel and the Web, we don't appreciate much how a ...

from DIYS

Virtual Reality: An Emerging Game Changer In Healthcare

By Eric Williams, MFA

As Obamacare returns to center stage, stakeholders in the healthcare debate will look for ways to squeeze costs while improving medical care. 

I am not a doctor, politician, or accountant.  I am an Emmy Award-winning producer in interactive educational media and director of a cutting edge Master of Fine Arts in communication media.  I believe there are ways to use new technologies in virtual and augmented reality to hold down medical costs and enhance care.

Images from an OhioHealth newsroom video about the project.  360-degree camera on right.

Virtual Emergency Room

Collaborating with academics and healthcare experts at Ohio University, Northern Arizona University, and OhioHealth, our Immersive Media Initiative is creating a virtual trauma bay for pennies on the dollar compared to the real thing. 

Imagine putting on a headset and immediately you are in a trauma bay with real patients.  You can hear and see everything just by turning your head:  the patient, the medical team, and the equipment.  You are there.  By spring, the next class of emergency room physicians will be able to participate in this sort of training. 

With 360-degree video, the viewer is in control of what is being watched, and when.  Imagine being able to freeze an image at any point during a live trauma and then being able to look around and observe important elements of the room:  the medical monitors, the patient, or the professionals. 

The audio is immersive as well.  You hear the monitors behind you, and can look and see them.  Cross talk between team members is crystal clear.  If you want to isolate on the head nurse’s interaction with the team, you can do that. Then you can watch the whole trauma again, this time from the perspective of the head surgeon.

Images from the 360-degree video shot at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center.  Man in the baseball hat is a paramedic delivering the patient.

Virtual trauma room training brings three important cost-effective benefits to healthcare:

• First, it helps acclimate newcomers to a stressful, chaotic job setting that has low tolerance for error. 

• Second, it allows students to experience the realities of the emergency room without getting in the way or putting others at risk. 

• And third, it allows experienced professionals to assess their work in a way that hasn’t been possible before.  It’s like post-game analysis, on steroids.


Training via photography, audio, and video are not new to healthcare.  In the 90’s, I was the "video guy" at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center in Columbus, OH.  Hospitals like Grant have a constant need for video to document, promote, and train medical professionals. Two decades ago, I was choosing the shots, editing video, and showing medical students what I thought they should be seeing. 

This year, I returned to the trauma center at Grant with a virtual reality team from Ohio University’s Immersive Media Initiative.  Using five cameras and eight microphones, we recorded five medical traumas during a 12-hour period on a weekend in July.  Respecting privacy, we agreed to use footage only if patients granted permission; three of five did so.  We produced three 20-minute 360-degree immersive experiences that allow medical students to observe and listen as if they were in any one of three positions in the trauma bay. 

Our goal is to build a library of low-cost, easily accessible virtual reality videos on a wide variety of trauma cases.

Broader Changes to Healthcare

With eye-tracking technology, multiple-user headsets, and tactile interaction, I expect these technologies to expand, to help develop medical students into medical professionals more quickly, more efficiently, and at a higher caliber than ever before. 

Virtual Reality testing at the Immersive Media Initiative at Ohio University

In April, cancer surgery in London was live-streamed via two 360-degree cameras.  Rather than just a few students peering over the shoulder of surgeon Shafi Ahmed, medical students and other observers from around the world could "be there" by wearing low-cost virtual reality goggles.

At Northern Arizona University, Petra Williams is using virtual reality technology to acclimatize Doctor of Physical Therapy students to new environments so they are better prepared for clinical experiences. Meanwhile, Embodied Labs created a virtual reality experience called "We Are Alfred," to show young medical students how it feels to be 74 years old with audio and visual impairments.  

Virtual reality is on track to change healthcare as we know it, to modernize training, speed rehabilitation, mitigate phobias, improve doctor-to-patient empathy, and enable virtual medicine.

About the Author 

Eric Williams is an associate professor at Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication, Athens, OH, where he is the director of the MFA in Communication Media Arts and the co-creator of the Immersive Media Initiative at the Game Research and Immersive Design Lab.

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from DIYS

10 of the Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

Photographers can be some of the best business people around or some of the worst. But realistically, if you’re building a photography business, you probably didn’t get into it because you enjoyed business and marketing. This is why some photographers struggle at being successful. They got into it for the passion, and then wake up one day to the reality that it is a business like any other.

The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Dancer Portrait

However, fear not. The business and marketing aspect of photography can actually be rewarding and interesting. It’s necessary to learn it to be able to succeed, but once you start to see it work, it becomes empowering. It’s a way to guarantee your success as a photographer so you can continue to do what you love.

But you can’t do that if you make too many mistakes. Here are the biggest mistakes that I see photographers make (and which I have also made myself).

Mistake #1 – Not charging enough
Business Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

How much you charge is going to be the backbone of your entire business. You cannot let clients lowball you over and over again. By doing that you are lowering the perceived value of the work for the entire industry, and you are not even giving yourself a chance to succeed. By not charging enough, you will inevitably go out of business. Even if you feel desperate for a job, know that it will take up time that would be better spent on marketing yourself to get jobs that pay what you need to survive and thrive.

Many young photographers are afraid of losing jobs, but that’s a regular part of the business. You should not feel bad about it if the client cannot afford you. If they can’t afford you, then it was never a real job in the first place. How can you do good work or create a portfolio worthy piece if you’re not being paid enough to have your heart in it? In addition, these cheap jobs always end up to be the biggest headaches anyway. Every photographer has a story from when they were starting out about that client who just wouldn’t go away.

Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography

Even worse than a client lowballing you, are situations when you do not charge enough! Sometimes you will have no idea that a client has budgeted much more than you quoted them. A simple and fantastic question to ask to help you handle confusing pricing situations is, “What is your budget?” This question is sometimes not appropriate, but there are many ways to say it, such as telling them that you offer multiple levels of service based on the cost and asking what their budget is for the project. Or if they say they are tight on budget, you can offer to help them and simultaneously ask what they can pay. When introduced in the right way, this can get your client to lay all their cards on the table.

Mistake #2 – Not responding to inquiries quickly enough
Musician Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Musician photography

Every ounce of business development and every second of time spend on the tedious aspects of building a business serves the specific purpose of getting someone to contact you with a job. Well then answer them! I get nervous if it takes me 24 hours to respond to an inquiry, and the clients usually come back thanking me for responding so quickly. If you answer your emails and calls efficiently, then you immediately put yourself ahead of the majority of photographers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that we were able to have a whole back and forth and book a job before a competitor even replied.

In addition, responding regularly and efficiently will add to their comfort in working with you. Showing that you are responsible enough to do this also shows them that you are probably responsible in all aspects of your business. It is a great way to set the tone for what working with you will be like and can be excellent for gaining referrals in the future.

Mistake #3 – Not having a focused business plan
Business Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business or corporate photography

You need to know how you are going to make money. Having a focused plan with an income target, price per job needed to reach that target, and a strategy to reach clients will become the basis for your entire business. The more focused that plan is, the more focused you will be. Figure out the strategy with the most potential to help you make a living and start with that. Focus on that before you waist your time on anything else. You do not want to fragment yourself too early in the building process.

Mistake #4 – Not setting aside enough time for personal work
Fine Art Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Fine art photography

Personal work is what you do to renew your passion for photography. Without that, it will be very difficult to succeed in the photography business. However, it is also the way that you get jobs and build your portfolio. It’s where you test out new strategies and ways of photographing, and it is a way to improve overall at your craft. If there is a type of job that you want to start booking, then build a portfolio of work that will help sell you as a photographer to those clients. They don’t have to know that this portfolio wasn’t made of paid jobs, and in many cases they will enjoy knowing how passionate you are in pursuing your personal work.

Mistake #5 – Not researching colleagues/competitors

As a business owner, you need to know what’s out there. Learning from your competition and even your friends is incredibly important. Go through their work and figure out what you like and what you dislike. Try to figure out the different ways that they market themselves and where their jobs come from. See how they use social media and where they get press from. Learn their pricing and test out their website.

All of this information is so important to helping you find your way. Take the best aspects of everyone you research, and put them together into your own plan. All of the information is out there for you to be successful, it’s just up to you to find it.

Family Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Family photography

Mistake #6 – Not having a plan for editing and delivering

One of the biggest problems that I see newer photographers have is that they take way too much time editing. They end up missing deadlines, wasting their time, and worrying too much. This is not a good situation for anybody and is one of the quickest ways to hold your entire business back. Learn to cull your images from a job quickly. Right away, knock 800 images into the top 200 or 150 as fast as possible and work from there. Organizing and attacking a job’s editing in an efficient matter will make your life so much better, and it will make your clients very happy.

Always tell a client that you will deliver a job to them a couple days after you plan to (under promise over deliver). That way you will look very good when you deliver the work early, and if you have some unfortunate setback or issue in your life, you will still have extra time to complete the job.

Mistake #7 –  Not doing enough local networking
Writer Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Writer environment portrait

Friends, family, and colleagues are your first line of people who can help you gain work. The second line is your local area. Figure out the businesses and people in your community that might need your services, and figure about the best way to reach them. Find business meet-up groups, local meet-ups, and trade shows that occur in your community and become a part of them. And this tip doesn’t mean that you should only show up once and never again. Become a regular part of them. Spend more time socializing within your community and that will come back to you business-wise.

Mistake #8 – Not using a mailing list
Business Portrait Photography- The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

Social networks come and go. They all change constantly and hold you at their whim. While they are necessary to be a part of, social networks are in it for themselves, not for you. Diversify your marketing and build up a mailing list of all your contacts, clients, and friends. This way there is nothing between you and reaching them with important news. Mailing lists have a significantly higher open and click-through rate than social networks, and won’t charge you (per email) to reach your list.

Mistake #9 – Trying to do too much all at once
Event Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Event photography

There are so many strategies to market yourself in photography. Every situation is unique, and every marketing plan should be different. It is important to learn as much as you can about marketing, but at the same time you need to prioritize. Five strategies done with a small amount of your attention on each will be much less effective than one strategy with all of your attention focused on it. Spend some time to figure out which strategies will have the most potential for your situation and rank them. Then start with the first one and over time move down the list.

Mistake #10 – Not putting yourself out there
Artist / Writer Portrait Photography focused

Artist / Writer Portrait Photography

Nobody is going to give you an opportunity if you don’t ask. The biggest difference between the people who make it and the people who fail is that the ones who succeed will wake up tomorrow and take these steps. None of this is rocket science – it just takes dedication, organization, and follow-through.

Many people won’t give you an opportunity the first time you ask. Learn to take rejection because rejection isn’t that bad. It means you’re pushing yourself and it’s inevitable along the way. Keep a thick skin and pride yourself on trying. Marketing is a grind at first. The photographers who can dive right in despite every frightened feeling their brain gives them will be the most successful.

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

The post 10 of the Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

from DIYS

The dPS Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography

Download “The Ultimate Guide to Landscape Photography”

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Landscape photography is one of the most challenging and most rewarding hobbies a person can have. One of the things I like most about it is that there is always more to learn. It keeps our brains active! Between learning about what type of gear you need, how to use it, understanding light and composition, and learning to process your photos, you will quickly come to the realization that making a striking landscape photograph involves a number of essential ingredients.

Note: this is one of the most comprehensive articles we’ve written – get a free downloadable copy to print and/or refer to later above.

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The goal of this guide is to touch on each of these essential ingredients because you need to know a little about each one before you’ll start making the quality of images you are after.

My journey in landscape photography began 25 years ago, and since then I’ve constantly thought about what makes a truly great landscape image. I hope that you will take what I have learned over the past 25 years and use it to jump start your own journey in photography and start making striking images you are proud of.

Gear Essentials

I want to emphasize that gear is not the most important factor in landscape photography. The other chapters outlined in this guide are all more important when it comes to making striking images. However, you do need some gear, and it can be hard to make the right choices when you are just getting started. This chapter will help you understand the most important things to look for when buying your gear.

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Your Camera

There are three basic categories of digital cameras: point-and-shoot; digital single lens reflex (DSLR); and mirrorless.

Point and shoot cameras are the small digital cameras that most people start with. These cameras do not have interchangeable lenses, and they have tiny sensors that have limited image quality. Point-and-shoots are used for making snapshots. If you are getting serious about your photography, you’ll want a camera that has a bigger sensor for better image quality, manual functions, and one that accepts a variety of different lenses.

DSLRs are the most popular type of camera for landscape photography for a number of reasons. They allow you to shoot in RAW format for maximum data capture (more about that later). They have a variety of shooting modes including fully manual. DSLRs have large sensors and you can use a huge variety of lenses with them.

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Mirrorless cameras are relatively new technology. They have all the same features as a DSLR, but they don’t have the internal mechanism that includes the mirror, which is why the camera bodies are smaller and lighter. However, they are not cheaper! But if weight and size are important factors to you, you may want to check out a mirrorless system.

Sensor size

When it comes to image quality, the only thing you should concern yourself with is sensor size. Megapixels are not nearly as important as sensor size.

The largest sensor is known as a Full frame because it is the same size as a 35mm film negative. You’ll pay the highest price for a system with a full frame sensor, whether it is a DSLR or mirrorless system.

Sensor sizes smaller than full frame are known as Cropped (or Crop) Sensors. The largest cropped sensor is an APS size. You’ll find a wide variety of cameras with these types of sensors at a more affordable price.

DPS ultimate landscape photography guide 10

The next smaller size is the four-thirds sensor. There are actually quite a number of sensor sizes in between the three I have mentioned, but these are the most common. Sensors smaller than these three are what you find in point-and-shoots and mobile phone cameras.

Personally, I use a mirrorless camera with an APS sensor for my landscape photography because the weight of the kit makes a huge difference for me when carrying my gear on long hikes.

I recommend that when you are choosing a camera, you pick the sensor size you can afford, then choose the camera that feels good in your hands and has a menu system that makes sense to you. These days, all of the DSLR and mirrorless cameras available are capable of making great images so don’t worry about whether Canon, Nikon, Sony or another brand is better. They are all good.

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Once you have your camera picked out, you’ll want to pick a few quality lenses that give you good focal range from wide-angle, which puts everything in your field of view into the frame, to telephoto, which will allow you to zoom in to something in the distance.

Lens choice is important because your photograph is influenced much more by your lens than by your camera. Sharpness, contrast, depth of focus, clarity, and detail are all determined almost exclusively by the glass (lens). It forms the image, while the camera simply captures it.

While it may seem absurd to spend more on a lens than on the camera itself, most photographers agree that they would always prefer to have a less expensive camera with a quality lens, rather than the other way around. And because lenses don’t depreciate in price as quickly, the investment is far more worthwhile.

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Prime versus zoom lenses

Lenses come in two forms; prime and zoom. A prime lens has one fixed focal length, such as 35mm. A zoom lens has a focal range, such as 18-55mm. Prime lenses are often slightly sharper than zoom lenses. However, zoom lenses are much more versatile and allow you to carry fewer lenses in your bag.

I recommend that you start out with three zoom lenses that cover a focal range from 10mm to 200mm for maximum versatility. These are the three that I use for my landscape photography:

  • Wide Angle Zoom 10-18mm
  • Regular Zoom 18-55mm
  • Telephoto 55-210mm

DPS ultimate landscape photography guide 15


For landscape photography, a tripod is an essential piece of gear. When you have lots of light, you might get away with hand holding your camera. But if you want to make images in low light situations such as sunrise or twilight, you’ll need a tripod so that you can use longer shutter speeds.

This is the purchase where everyone seems to make the same mistake. Buy cheap, buy twice. Most landscape techniques require long shutter speeds – sometimes very long. A bargain bin tripod is not strong enough to hold your camera steady with a telephoto lens on it. It’s not strong enough if there is any wind. It’s a waste of money. On the other hand, if you purchase a sturdy, well-built tripod from a reputable brand it can last you a lifetime.

Make sure you check the load capacity of your tripod and ensure it can handle your camera with its longest (heaviest) lens attached. Expect to spend as much money on your tripod as you did on your camera.


Many landscape photographers also carry filters, which can help you enhance your images. The two most commonly used are a Polarizing Filter and a Neutral Density (ND) filter. Graduated ND filters can be helpful as well, but become tricky to use if you do not have a clean, straight horizon.

  • Circular polarizing filter – This is an essential piece of equipment when photographing water to allow you to remove reflections and glare from the water’s surface and allow you to see through the water to any interesting rocks underneath.  It can also help enhance the richness of a clear blue sky, or remove reflections from windows and other shiny surfaces in urban settings.
  • Neutral density (ND) filter – If you decide to shoot a long exposure and it happens to be the middle of the day when there is a lot of light, you will need this gray-tinted piece of glass placed in front of your lens. It blocks some of the light from hitting your sensor, allowing you to use a slower shutter speed. These are sold in varying strengths, and can be stacked for different levels of light absorption.

Make sure to get the right filter size for your lenses. Better yet buy one for your biggest lens (look inside your lens cap for the filter size) and step down rings to your smaller ones.

Recommended Camera Settings

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Shooting in RAW

Most people are used to shooting pictures that come out as JPG (jay-peg) files since this is the default setting on most cameras. JPG is a compressed format meaning that some of the data the camera captures is discarded to make a smaller file size. Raw format, on the other hand, is completely uncompressed with no information thrown away.

What results from this is a digital negative – a large file that can only be accessed through Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, Photoshop and other compatible image editing software products. We’ll talk more about processing your photos later, but start off by capturing a RAW file so you have more information to work with when you process your photos.

Shooting Mode

Your camera will likely have a mode dial on the top where you can choose your shooting mode from one of the following; auto; aperture priority; shutter priority; program; or manual. For landscape photography, I highly recommend shooting in aperture priority mode, likely marked on your camera’s mode dial as “A” or “Av”.

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The reason for using aperture priority is because aperture controls the depth of field in your image – the amount of the scene (in your image) that will be in focus. Generally, for grand landscapes, you will want everything from the foreground to the background sharp, so you’ll pick an aperture like f/11 or f/18. But sometimes, you might want only your subject to be sharp and everything else to be blurred and out of focus. For this, you might pick f/4 or f/5.6.

More information about how aperture affects depth of field is coming up in the chapter on exposure below.

Using aperture priority shooting mode allows you to make this choice based on your artistic vision and the camera will choose the corresponding shutter speed to give you a good exposure.

Metering Mode

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Evaluative or Average metering is the most common metering mode to use in landscape photography because the camera reads the light information from the entire frame. This is your best bet most of the time when the highlights and shadows are spread relatively evenly throughout the scene.

However, if there are very dark blacks or very bright whites, this can throw your camera’s meter off. In this case, you might want to switch to Spot Metering. Using Spot Metering, your camera will take its reading based on one single spot in the frame, which you choose. Choose the most important part of the image, likely the main subject, and let the rest of the scene fall where it may.

Note: Just a word of caution. Make sure you are familiar with how your camera meter works and how to do Spot Metering before you attempt this. Remember, your camera meter will always try to measure for medium or 18% gray. Therefore, if you meter off something that is black or really light in tone, your camera will compensate and try and make it gray. So you will need to adjust accordingly by using Exposure Compensation

DPS ultimate landscape photography guide 22

Focus Mode

Your camera likely has at least four focus modes, they are; single shot autofocus; automatic autofocus; continuous autofocus; and full manual focus. If you have good eyes and focusing comes easy to you, use manual focus. For the rest of us, one of the autofocus modes is better.

For landscape photography, single shot autofocus is the best option because it will focus the camera once (and lock on) when the shutter button is pressed halfway down. The other focus modes are good when you have something moving in the frame that you want to lock on to, as you would with wildlife photography.

Location Scouting

Now that you have your equipment sorted out, you’re ready to do some shooting! But how do you find those specific spots where you can make images with impact?

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The first step is to research the location to get a good overview of the place and see what kinds of scenes are on the menu. These days, my favorite tool for doing this type of research is Pinterest. Keyword searches on Pinterest will bring up loads of photos of any given location. You can create a Pinterest board, which is like a virtual scrapbook, where you can collect these images in one place for future reference.

The next step is to map out the specific locations you have chosen so you know how to get there on the ground. You can look on Google Maps or pick up a hard copy map at a visitor center.

Next, visit the location in person and have a walk around looking for good compositions. I like to do this during midday when I’m not likely to be photographing due to the bright, harsh, light. Finding your spot during the day means you will know exactly where to go and you’ll be ready during the limited hours on the edges of the day when the light is just right.

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Helpful apps

Speaking of good light, the final tool you can use in your location scouting is something that will tell you sunrise and sunset times, when moonrise and moonset occur, and the direction that those things will take place. This will help you immensely when thinking about the direction the light will be coming from on the edges of the day.

My favorite tool for this part of my research is an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. You can use it on your desktop or mobile device. It will tell you exactly what is happening in the celestial sky at a particular time. So if you want to get a photo of the full moon rising behind a bridge, you can find out when the full moon is, exactly when it will rise, its position in the sky and then it will calculate where you have to be to get the point of view you want.

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Making the Most of Natural Light

Understanding natural light is a critical aspect of landscape photography. Even when you’ve done everything else right, if the light isn’t right for your scene, your photos are not going to look their best. That is not to say there is such a thing as “good light” and “bad light”. You just have to know what to do with various types of lighting situations.

Remember, you can change the direction of light simply by moving around your subject. Or, you can photograph subjects that are in the shade.

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Sidelighting occurs when light hits your subject on one side casting a shadow on the other. It is often thought to be the most pleasing type of light for landscape photography because the contrast between light and dark emphasizes texture and shape.

If you have a round object with light hitting it on the side, it will have a shadow on the other, and the gradation of light will emphasize the round shape. Similarly, subjects with textures will have shadows that serve to emphasize the texture. Without the shadows, the texture will be more difficult to convey in an image.

Ultimate landscape photography guide 01

In this photograph from the Palouse region in Washington, sidelight emphasizes the curves in the hillside.


Backlight occurs when the light source is directly in front of you, hitting your subject from behind. It is a bit more difficult to create a good exposure in these kinds of high contrast situations, though.

Backlighting is wonderful when your subject is somewhat transparent, like the petals of a flower for instance, because it will make your subject appear to have an inner glow (image below left). This is especially effective when you have a dark background. In this situation, make sure you meter on your subject and allow the rest of the image to fall into shadow.

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Backlighting is also useful when you have a subject with a great shape that you can make into a silhouette (image above right). To do this, meter on the sky portion of your frame so the sky will have a proper exposure and your subject will go completely black.

When you have backlight and you want to meter on a specific portion of the frame, this is a good time to use spot metering instead of evaluative metering mode. It’s a little bit more difficult but well worth the effort for the dramatic images you can create using this method.

Front Light

Front light occurs when the sun is behind you hitting your subject directly in front of you. This is my least favorite type of light because it is often intense and unforgiving causing a scene with a lack of texture and depth.

However, used at the right time it can be the best kind of light! When the sun is low in the sky, such as at sunrise and sunset, the light is not so harsh and it can cast a golden glow on your subject, especially when your subject is tall such as a mountain or a cityscape. The golden light will fall on the tallest part of the scene, casting its golden glow, while the rest of the scene remains in shadow creating a dramatic shot.

from DIYS

How to Choose the Right Camera Mode to Get the Shot You Want

When starting out in photography, one of the scariest and most confusing things for a beginner is deciding which camera mode to use. While the automatic modes provide a bit of a safety net for those just starting out, there will come a time when you either want to or have to, take greater control of your camera to get the results you desire. But how do you know what camera mode to use?

Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority mode is a perfect choice for a scene like this where you know you’ll want deep depth of field to keep the entire scene in focus.

First off, I won’t discuss any of the automatic modes here. A full discussion of what those do can be found here: Camera Modes Explained for Newbies. What I’d like to do here is discuss specific situations and the appropriate mode for each. Before we dive into that, I’ll explain the basics before we move forward.


The aperture is the opening of the lens, which determines exactly how much light enters the camera and strikes the imaging sensor. The aperture also affects the field of focus from foreground to background, otherwise known as depth of field. A shallow depth of field is one that has a sharp focus on the subject, while objects in front of or behind the subject are out of focus. Deep depth of field is when the entire image is in sharp focus from foreground to background. And of course, you can have a depth of field that is somewhere in between those two.

Aperture is shown as a number on your lens, usually as a ratio. For instance, lenses with a maximum (widest) aperture of f/1.8 will have a very shallow depth of field. That same lens set to f/16 will have a deeper depth of field. An easy way to remember this is smaller numbers give you less and higher numbers give you greater depth of field.

Aperture Priority

When you know you want the background blurred, setting a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field is key. Aperture Priority mode can be used in cases like this (keep reading to learn more on that a bit later).

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed determines the amount of time light strikes the sensor when it enters the camera. The faster the shutter speed, the less light strikes the sensor. In addition, shutter speed is directly responsible for how movement is rendered in an image. Shutter speeds are referred to in fractions of a second, such as 1/125th, 1/60th, or 1/1000th. Faster shutter speeds, such as 1/500th, freeze motion, while slower shutter speeds, such as ½, 1 second, or even 30 seconds,  will show motion as more of a blur. The longer the shutter speed, the more blur motion will create.


Your camera’s ISO determines how sensitive it is to light. Lower numbers such as ISO 100 or 200 mean your camera is less sensitive to light and are used in bright situations, such as in direct sunlight. When there is less light, such as in shade, or indoors, you might use a higher ISO such as 800, 1600, or 3200 to make your camera more sensitive to light. ISO plays an important part in the various situations I will discuss going forward, so always keep in mind that you can change this setting, and don’t be afraid to raise your ISO if needed.

Camera Modes

Before going any further, I want to clarify that there are multiple ways to get a specific desired result with your camera, using any of these modes. Once you understand the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, you’ll be able to do whatever you like in any of these modes.

But which mode is best for which situation? You’ll have to visualize your image to decide.

Program Mode


Program Mode resides on the advanced side of the camera mode dial, usually denoted by a P. In this mode, the camera will set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed for you. So when should you use Program Mode?

Program Mode is good when you’re not looking for any effect in particular. Your camera, when set to Program Mode, will attempt to give you a proper exposure that can be handheld, meaning you won’t be required to use a tripod to steady your camera. This is a good mode for when you’re just casually photographing and just want to be sure your exposures are right.

It is a lot like Automatic Mode in that regard, except that you have the ability to override, or shift, the exposure the camera sets, as well as many other settings such as white balance and picture style. In addition, while in Auto mode, the camera will pop your flash up when it thinks it needs more light. But in Program Mode the flash will not pop up unless you tell it to.

Aperture Priority

On some cameras, this mode is simply denoted by an A on the mode dial, while on Canon cameras it is denoted as Av, meaning Aperture Value. In any case, in this mode, you set the aperture and ISO you want and the camera will set the appropriate shutter speed for you. So when should you use Aperture Priority mode?

Aperture Priority

When you want a shallower depth of field, such as in a portrait, using Aperture Priority and setting a wide aperture is an excellent choice.

To determine the answer, visualize your finished image in your mind’s eye. What do you want it to look like? Generally speaking, if you’ve decided that the most important factor in your image is a specific depth of field, you’ll want to use Aperture Priority Mode so that you can force your camera to give you the depth of field that you want. For instance, if you’re making a portrait, you probably want your subject in sharp focus, but you may also want the background to be a little blurred, to keep your viewer’s focus on the subject. An out of focus background can create a setting without distractions for the viewer. So you might decide you want to use a fairly wide aperture such as f/4, to create enough depth of field to keep your subject sharp, but let the background blur nicely.

But watch your shutter speed too

It’s important to note, however, that you also need to keep an eye on the shutter speed setting. While the camera will set this for you, unlike in Program Mode, the camera is not going to try and give you a fast enough shutter speed to handhold. If there isn’t enough light, this will result in a slower shutter speed that may not be fast enough to freeze any subject movement. This could result in a slight blur due to unsteady hands or slight movement by your subject. If the shutter speed chosen by the camera (based on the aperture you’ve set) isn’t fast enough to freeze motion in this situation, you’ll need to raise your ISO. Raising your ISO will effectively increase the shutter speed given for the aperture you’ve set.

Aperture Priority Landscape

Aperture Priority is a great choice when photographing a landscape where you want a deep depth of field, and the shutter speed doesn’t need to be set at anything specific to capture motion a certain way.

For landscape photography

Another situation for Aperture Priority would be a landscape photo, where you may want greater depth of field to keep the entire scene in focus. In this situation, your primary goal is to get lots of depth of field to keep the entire scene in focus, so you’d set an aperture of f/11 or even f/16 to capture a greater amount of the scene sharply. In this situation, if you’re using a tripod, the shutter speed may not be as big of a factor for you.

But if you’re handholding the camera,  you will want to pay attention to the shutter speed the camera sets to ensure it’s fast enough to avoid camera shake. In addition, if there is moving water or clouds, or the wind is blowing the trees or grass, you’ll want to ensure that the shutter speed the camera sets is appropriately stopping that movement to your liking. If not, you’ll want to adjust your ISO so the camera sets a more appropriate shutter speed.

Shutter Priority
Panning using Shutter Priority

When you know you need a specific shutter speed, such as this image where a panning technique was used, Shutter Priority is often the best choice.

Shutter Priority is usually denoted using an S on most cameras, while Canon uses Tv, representing Time Value to denote Shutter Priority mode. Shutter Priority Mode is just the opposite of Aperture Priority. In this mode, you set the shutter speed you want, as well as the ISO, and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture.  This mode is an excellent choice when you’ve decided that rendering motion in a certain way is the key component of your image.

Shooting sports

For example, suppose you are photographing a sporting event. Most likely, you’ll want to freeze the action of the athletes on the field. To do so, you need a fast shutter speed, such as 1/500th or even 1/1000th. In shutter priority, you’ll need to again keep an eye on your ISO to ensure that the camera is giving you a proper exposure. Usually, the exposure indicator in your viewfinder will flash to show that at the current settings, proper exposure cannot be achieved. In this case, raise the ISO to achieve the correct exposure for the shutter speed you want.

Shutter Priority for Fast Action

You might want to use Shutter Priority Mode when you know you need a fast shutter speed to stop action, such as when photographing sports.

As another example, let’s say you want a slower shutter speed to create a panning effect. Again you would set the correct shutter speed to create the effect, and let the camera adjust the aperture. Any time the primary concern is the appearance of motion in an image, Shutter Priority is a good choice for shooting or camera mode.

Panning in Shutter Priority mode

Another example of using a slow shutter speed to create a panning effect in Shutter Priority Mode.

Manual Mode

Once you’re comfortable with changing settings and you really want to take control of your camera, Manual mode is the way to do that. You will set all of your settings according to how you want your final image to look. There is one caveat, however. Your settings will also be dependent on the available light in the scene. So if you want a fast shutter speed, and deep depth of field, you’ll probably need to raise your ISO a bit. Or compromise on one of the other settings as well.

Watch the meter

Just keep an eye on your camera’s meter and it will help you find the right combination of shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. The other modes do a nice job of taking some of the load off your brain by allowing you to choose one setting to have priority, but sometimes you just need to take full control.

Silhouette in Manual Mode

Manual Mode is the best choice when you want to create an effect that the camera’s normal exposure modes just don’t normally do, such as this silhouette.

Exposures long than 30 seconds

One instance where you’ll need to do this is when creating an exposure longer than 30 seconds. Today’s cameras don’t have shutter speeds for longer than that, so you would need to calculate in your head how long to keep the shutter open, and then use the Bulb setting to do so. Any time the camera can’t properly calculate exposure is a good time to use Manual Mode.


When creating images using a long exposure, such as this one with an exposure time of two minutes, Manual Mode is the best (or possibly only) choice.

Another time to use Manual Mode is when the lighting in a scene is especially challenging, such as when there are a lot of dark shadows. Your camera will try to expose for the deep shadows, causing the highlights to overexpose. Using a manual setting to override the camera’s choices will work well in achieving a satisfactory exposure.


As I mentioned, there are many ways to capture an image and arrive at similar settings. But each time I’m out photographing, I go through the following checklist in my head:

  1. Do I want deep or shallow depth of field?
  2. Do I want to stop action or is some motion blur okay?
  3. Which of the above two choices is more important for this image?
  4. Is one of the priority modes suitable for the available light of the scene?

The answer to those four questions should lead you to the correct mode for the shot you want.

Shutter Priority for fast action

Shutter Priority can be used when photographing sports to set a fast shutter speed to stop action.

The post How to Choose the Right Camera Mode to Get the Shot You Want by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Product Review: Polaroid Carbon-Fiber Travel Tripod and Varipod

First a little background: I’m a wilderness photographer. I spend time, a lot of time, every year on multi-day river, backpacking, and winter trips in Alaska. This past summer, between June and mid-September, I spent more than 60 days in the backcountry. On every one of these trips, to one degree or another, weight was an issue, and I’m always on the lookout for good, light equipment that might suit my travels. With that in mind, on to the review of two new support products from Polaroid, the Polaroid Pro Series Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod, and the Varipod.


Image made using the Polaroid Pro Series Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod (ISO100, 1/5th sec @ f22)

Polaroid Pro Series 55″ Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod With Removable Ball head


I was excited to open up the box containing Polaroid’s new carbon travel tripod. Upon first inspection, I was impressed. There are five leg segments, each about eight inches in length making the tripod very compact. Additionally, it is designed so the legs fold back over the center post and included ball head, making the fully collapsed tripod very small indeed.


The leg segments are of the twist-lock variety, ergonomic, and very effectively hold the sections in or out with a simple, quick twist. The numerous legs section means that the lowest sections are thin, giving the impression of flimsiness. However, after several days of use, they did not strike me as fragile.


The legs of the tripod, even when fully extended are not very long. Polaroid has made up for this shortcoming by having a fixed center post that extends up another foot or so from the top of the tripod, adding substantially to the height. The post itself is expandable, allowing the very compact tripod to stretch almost to my eye level (I’m six foot). Though using this extendable system reduces stability.


The included ball head is the highlight of this tripod. Made of machined aluminum, it’s designed much like the large Kirk Industries head on my full-size tripod. Polaroid’s version uses three knobs, one to lock the quick release (similar to Arca-style plates), one to control the rotation, and one to lock and unlock the ball itself. One side cut allows for vertical compositions. Simply, it’s a great little ball head that held my big Canon SLR easily. In fact, it was so good, I wish I could purchase it separately to replace the flimsy head atop my current compact tripod. As the head is the point where many light and entry-level tripods fall short, I was impressed and surprised by this one.

Usability of the tripod

I put this tripod to use a number of times over a couple of weeks, including a couple of sunset photo shoots on a beach, and two evenings photographing the aurora borealis. In bright conditions and relatively fast shutter speeds, the tripod worked well. The height adjusts easily and quickly, though the center post system does limit how low the camera can go. (At its lowest, the camera is still 12-15 inches off the ground, see photo below.)


During my sunset photo shoots, the system worked fine at a variety of heights, and I was able to use shutter speeds down to about 1/5th of a second, and still maintain sharp images (see top image in this article).


Image showing the design of the non-retractable center post on the Polaroid Carbon Travel Tripod.

It was when I tried to shoot the northern lights that the tripod showed its one flaw – instability with a heavy camera. The non-retractable, non-removable center post, make the tripod a bit jiggly when used with a full-size DSLR. A point and shoot, or mirrorless system would not likely have the same trouble. However, even with the heavy camera, I was able to attain sharp images when I used a remote shutter release and the mirror lock-up function of the camera.

To maintain sharpness, I was forced to use the camera's timer and mirror lock-up functions.

To maintain sharpness at extended shutter speeds, I used the camera’s timer and mirror lock-up functions.


If it weren’t for that wobbly center post, I would give this small, light tripod, with an awesome ball-head, a glowing review. I’d like to see Polaroid include a system to retract the center post to add stability when I drag the shutter. If the next version of this tripod includes such a feature, I’ll strongly consider adding it to my quiver. In the mean time, I can easily recommend this tripod to anyone shooting with a light-weight camera system. If you are working with a point and shoot, or mirrorless, the simplicity, flexibility, and the particularly impressive ball head make the Polaroid Pro Series Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod a contender.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Polaroid 65″ VariPod 2-in-1 Telescoping Camera Monopod with Removable Tripod Balance Stand Base


Out of the box, Polaroid’s rendition of this classic long-lens tool, the monopod, looked more or less like a standard version of the product, with one exception. The foot of the monopod incorporates a removable, articulated, three-legged base. At first, I didn’t understand the purpose of this feature, but later, as I used the Varipod outdoors, I figured it out (more on that in a moment). The expandable leg, like the tripod reviewed above, uses a twist-lock system that holds the aluminum tubes firmly extended. I had no issues with segments collapsing, even with a heavy lens and SLR.

In the field, the monopod worked well. The removable foot is articulated so it doesn’t interfere when you tip the monopod forward or back. Though at first confused by this seemingly unnecessary add-on, as I shot with a 500mm f/4 on a sandy beach, the usefulness of the stand was obvious; the monopod foot didn’t sink into the muck. This could be useful to anyone shooting in soft terrain, whether the sidelines of a sports field or a muddy wetland.plmonstand-66-final

The foot system did seem overly complex. It is made of aluminum with various hinges and springs. Though effective at providing support in soft terrain, it also got dirty and was very difficult to clean. The foot had to be blown out, rinsed, and shaken before I eventually managed to remove all the grains of sand.

The support provided by the monopod allowed me to achieve sharp images with my 500mm f/4 at shutter speeds as low as 1/30th, opening up creative composition possibilities with moving subjects. The monopod is also far lighter and maneuverable, though of course less stable, than a full-size tripod.


The Polaroid Varipod works. The articulated foot provides support in soft terrain, and the legs are sturdy and easy to adjust. My main complaint is the complexity of the foot and difficulty in cleaning. I’d like to see this made simpler, with fewer parts that can jam with sand and dirt. Otherwise, it’s a solid contribution to the market.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The post Product Review: Polaroid Carbon-Fiber Travel Tripod and Varipod by David Shaw appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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