Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Renowned director Wim Wenders hits out at phone 'photography' - BBC News

Renowned film director and photographer Wim Wenders has hit out at phone 'photography'. Talking at an exhibition of his polaraoid works, he says photography is dead and thinks mobile phones are to blame. Video produced by Trystan Young. Listen to ...

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Behind-the-Scenes: “Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting” - Bowdoin (press release) (blog)

At first, we were a little surprised and confused—we didn't know Homer had a connection to photography, especially because so many artists of the period either rejected the emerging technology or were ambivalent towards it. But we learned over several ...

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San Juan County Fair Photography Department needs volunteers and judges - Journal of the San Juan Islands

Submitted by Miles Crossen. It's almost time for the San Juan County Fair and, as in years past, the photography department needs volunteers and judges. The most urgent need for help is from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14, to accept entries and put ...

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Willa Finley photography on display at the Lubbock Memorial Arboretum on August 3 - EverythingLubbock.com

Photographs by Willa Finley will be on display at the Arboretum on Friday, August 3, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. in the Interpretive Center (red brick building.) The photographs celebrate her parents' work in the Wildflower Garden as well as the Wednesday ...

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The Steadify claims to replace all your tripods and monopods

This is an odd one, and I’m curious what you guys think. When I first saw this, I thought “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen”, but a couple of friends said it looks quite useful to them. The more I thought about it, I could see potential uses. But some of the claims made […]

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How the Sony 85mm Prime Lens Is Changing the Portrait Photography Game - Adorama

When it comes to the world of photography, portrait photography is regarded as one of the most common styles. Portrait photography is the art of capturing a subject — it can be a person, or a group of persons — with a particular focus on their face ...

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3D printing is changing photography - Popular Photography Magazine

There are now several cameras that use elements of 3D printing to excite film photographers. The cardboard PinBox from Hamm Camera Company incorporates 3D printed film spools. Then there's the Goodman One, an open-source camera designed by ...

and more »

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Switching from Nikon to Sony for wedding photography

After almost a decade of photographing weddings with Nikon cameras, we decided to trade our d750 cameras for the Sony a7III. Here are a few thoughts on how the process went and why we feel it was the right decision. We’ve been shooting with Nikon cameras for a long time. Our first Nikon camera was […]

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Ode to Avocado Decor: Here’s Just How Good, or Nauseatingly Bad, It Can Get

It’s National Avocado Day! Here at realtor.com®, we wanted to celebrate the best way we know how: by highlighting the right—and very wrong—ways to decorate with the verdant shades of an avocado.

Green is a notoriously difficult color to bring into the home. It can be off-putting if used in the wrong way, which is why many people just steer clear. But there are ways to masterfully incorporate it into your interiors without going overboard.

Prepare to be wowed by the photos below—some of which used avocado-inspired decor to truly enhance the rooms, and some that really miss the mark.

Do: Try a tile backsplash

Photo by TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design

In which room does avocado-colored decor look the most apropos? The kitchen, of course! Choose green tile for the backsplash, and arrange it in a unique pattern to add texture and depth.

Don’t: Put it on the cabinets

Photo by Applegate Tran Interiors
Subtlety is key when decorating with avocado-inspired colors, even in the kitchen. Any color you put on your cabinets will immediately stand out, so make your kitchen less of an assault on the eyes—steer clear of using bright green on ’em.

Do: Paint a piece of accent furniture

Photo by Erica George Dines Photography

Have a favorite side table or chair that could use a makeover? A couple of coats of guac-inspired paint is just the thing to liven it right up. The green console table above looks sophisticated and fresh next to the antique wooden bed.

Don’t: Paint your entire house

Photo by Kenny Craft, CNU LEED AP

There are plenty of ways to show your adoration for avocados, but painting your entire house this unsightly shade of green is not one of them. We appreciate that they tried to tone it down with the white trim. But still.

Do: Use it to accent the room

Photo by Camilla Molders Design

A throw pillow or blanket, an upholstered armchair, a tray—these are all small decor pieces you can use to accent the room with touches of avocado green. You can even use a few Monstera leaves or tree branches to incorporate the earthy tone into your home.

Don’t: Use it on everything

Photo by Art&deco

Some people may say the more avocado the better, but that works better on toast than it does with home decor. Bright green everything is never a good thing, especially in a bedroom. In a room that’s supposed to be your sanctuary, an avocado-colored rug+bedspread+curtains+wallpaper=the opposite of tranquil.

Do: Paint an accent wall

Photo by Weppner Architect

Bright green paint can work inside—it just needs to be used in small doses. Case in point: the accent wall above that’s used to highlight a photograph and bring depth to a living room. Notice how they balanced the wall out with other green touches like a throw pillow (strategically placed on the opposite side of the room) and plants.

Don’t: Paint the whole room

Photo by Design Theory Interiors of California, Inc

No matter how much of a fan you are of avocado green, four walls painted in this shade is just too much. Having such a bright color on the walls will make the room feel smaller and more closed in.

The post Ode to Avocado Decor: Here’s Just How Good, or Nauseatingly Bad, It Can Get appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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How to Shoot the ISS Flying Across the Face of the Moon

I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, and one of my favorite things to look out for is the International Space Station when it passes overhead. It still boggles my mind that there are people up there, 200 miles into space. Perhaps they are looking down too. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to photograph an ISS transit – in other words, photographing the ISS as it flies in front of the moon!

For me, this is the holy grail of ISS photographs. I’ve had a few false starts in trying to capture this but finally I’ve got the photo I want, and I’m going to show you how I did it.

The photo you see here is a composite of 22 consecutive frames illustrating the movement of the ISS across the face of the moon:

This whole sequence spanned just 5 seconds!

Viewing The ISS

The International Space Station orbits 200 miles above Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. When the sun is below the horizon and the angle of reflection is just right, it is visible to the naked eye as a bright pinpoint of light moving across the sky.

You can check when the ISS is visible using one of these websites

Viewing the ISS does not require a telescope or any other specialist equipment. Just look up!

Items You Need
  • A DSLR. I use the Nikon D850 but really, any DSLR will do the job.
  • A zoom lens (the longer the better). I was using the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 lens.
  • A very sturdy tripod. My current setup is the Benro TGP17C carbon fibre tripod. (Note: This served me well for this particular shooting sequence, but longer exposures using this combination of camera and lens tend to suffer – a larger tripod would be recommended. However, for smaller DSLRs and lenses, a tripod of this spec is ample.)
  • A shutter release cable or shutter remote control. It is important to keep vibration to a minimum when using a zoom lens.
  • The fastest card you have. You will be shooting in burst mode / continuous shooting. A slow card will cause a bottleneck and you risk missing the magic moment
  • A fully charged battery. If you have one, take a spare too, just in case.
Finding When An ISS Transit Will Happen

Thanks to the incredible work of Transit Finder it is easier than ever to find out when the ISS transits the moon or sun at a viewing location near you. Choose your location from the map, define an acceptable radius (the default is set to 80km) and it will generate a list of passes.

On May 22, 2018, there was a lunar pass which would be visible across the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, and Newport in Wales. This is around one hour’s drive from my home, the weather forecast was clear, so I decided to attempt a shoot.

I arrived 45 minutes early to ensure I had ample time to find a quiet spot to set up where I was unlikely to be disturbed, to take some test shots and have a quick practice run of the real shoot.

Taking The Shot

Firstly, double check the predicted transit time, and ensure the clocks on your camera and smartphone are properly synced. You don’t want to be scrambling to set up the shot because your timing was a minute off!

Make sure your camera is set up for continuous shooting, or “burst mode”. Plug in your shutter release cable or remote control.

Find your focus on the moon’s surface, then once you’re happy, turn off autofocus. Be careful as you move your camera or lens not to accidentally move the focus ring. One tip is to use a strip of electrical tape to hold the focus ring in place once you have manually focused.

The moon moves quickly throughout the frame, so position it off-center, such that it will be moving into the center of the frame when the ISS arrives.

Finally, decide upon your settings. This will vary from camera to camera and lens to lens, but it’s important to have a very fast shutter speed otherwise the ISS will be nothing but a white smudge. 1/1600 seconds is the minimum I’d recommend. Ultimately, the settings I used were: f/8, 1/2000 seconds, ISO 800.

Though I advocate shooting RAW over JPG wherever possible, if you find your camera’s burst mode isn’t very quick, switching to JPG should yield far quicker results.

Putting It All Together With Photoshop

Though it seems daunting at first, it’s really simple to put your images together using Photoshop. Go to

File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack

Select all the images, and ensure the following boxes are checked:

Attempt to automatically align source images

Convert to smart object after loading layers

Reducing Noise

Once complete you will have a stack of images grouped into a smart object. The last image of the series will be on top. Highlight this smart object in the layers panel, then click on

Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median

This will drastically reduce the noise in your image and make your moon much crisper and detailed – check out this before and after comparison:

Before (left) and after (right) selecting Median Stack Mode. Compositing The ISS

Duplicate your smart object in the Layers panel, ensure it is the topmost layer, then click on

Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Maximum

This stack mode selects the brightest pixel from each layer in the stack and therefore shows the ISS most brightly. However it also carries through noise and hot pixels, so we need to mask those out.

Masking For The ISS

There are a few ways to do this, but here is my preferred method.

Click on your ISS layer in the Layers panel.

Next, select the lasso tool from the toolbox. Set the feather to 4px. Holding down the shift key, which allows you to make multiple selections, lasso around each of the ISS spots in that layer. Once complete, it should look something like this:

Click Select > Inverse then finally click the Add Layer Mask button at bottom of the Layers panel.

This creates a mask that only shows the ISS image data, which is overlaid on top of the noise-reduced, sharp moon image that we already created.

Job done!

The Finished Product

I’m so pleased with how this photo turned out. Capturing an ISS transit has been high on my photography “bucket list” for some time but for all the effort and preparation, you still have to rely on a little bit of luck for the image to truly work. As I have learned before, a stray cloud at the wrong time can ruin the shoot, and it’s a huge disappointment to travel a long distance only to return without the photo you wanted.

All those failed attempts fade in my memory though, as I’ve now bagged the image I’ve wanted for months if not years!

About the author: Mathew Browne is a travel photographer from south Wales who specializes in architecture, landscapes, and cityscapes. He’s available for commercial work and portraits in the south Wales area and he also teaches fellow photographers via workshops, seminars and 1-to-1 tuition. You can find more of Browne’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px. This article was also published here.

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Equipment List for Making Better Smartphone Videos

In case you haven’t noticed, smartphone cameras keep getting better and better. Not only do they take better still photos, but they also record high-quality video. Many latest generation smartphones are equipped with image stabilization, focus tracking, and the ability to shoot in 4K.

Smartphone video accessories 03

This is especially notable with the recent release of IGTV and social media platforms encouraging more video creation. With that in mind, it’s worth investigating how to use your smartphone to take better smartphone videos. As usual, it comes down to the tools you use. Here are several accessories worth investing in to take your smartphone videography to the next level.

A Way to Secure Your Phone

Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone - image on a cell phone

Smartphones today are being built tougher, but they still have a sleek body that makes them easy to drop. To keep your phone more secure, consider getting one of these accessories. This will help you take sharper and better videos.

Pop Socket

In case you’re not already hip to the Pop Socket, here’s why they’re so popular.

Image courtesy of Pop Socket.

These little devices look deceptively simple. They’re just a plastic backing that sticks to your phone and pops out to give you a better grip. This helps you hold your phone with one hand while taking selfies or shooting tricky angles. They are especially helpful while shooting video.

But there are some problems with the Pop Socket. For one thing, they’re bulky. Even when retracted, the Pop Socket sticks out just enough to make it a hassle to stick your phone in your pocket or put it into your car’s cell phone holder.

Secondly, Pop Sockets look about as cheap as they cost, at least in my opinion. This can ruin the aesthetic of the pricey phone you’ve invested in. Finally, these suckers are pretty permanent. Once they’re attached to your phone, they’re useless if you remove them. For that reason, I prefer using the next accessory to keep my phone secure.

Black Rapid WandeR Bundle

Image courtesy Black Rapid.

Black Rapid is known for their camera straps, but they also have a cool new product for smartphones. The WandeR Bundle is a nylon tether wrist strap that attaches to your smartphone’s case (above).

You can also use the included TetheR-Clip to secure your phone to a bag or camera strap (see below). It’s a simple concept that is very well executed and will make it hard to drop or lose your phone again.

Image courtesy Black Rapid.

A Smartphone Tripod

Like any other camera, there’s a time and a place to use a tripod with a smartphone, especially when creating videos. The good news is that you don’t need a giant tripod for your smartphone, although you can certainly adapt any basic tripod for use with a cell phone using an adapter (more on that below).

But if you want a more compact setup, consider getting a dedicated smartphone tripod. The Manfrotto PIXI EVO  is a popular option, as is the JOBY GorillaPod Hybrid Mini. Both are small, yet sturdy enough to hold a smartphone or even a small mirrorless camera if needed.

No matter what kind of tripod you end up with, make sure you get a cell phone tripod adapter to properly mount your device.

Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone - Smartphone mounted on a tripod

External microphone

Most smartphones have pretty good built-in audio recording features. But sometimes you need an enhanced audio solution. Note that for both of these microphones, you may need a smartphone audio jack adapter if you have a phone without a traditional audio jack.

One of the best smartphone microphones out there is the Rode VideoMic Me microphone. It’s very compact and comes with a fluffy windscreen (also known as dead cat). To use it, simply plug it into your smartphone’s audio jack. It worked well with my Samsung Galaxy S8 but didn’t work at all with the Google Pixel.

The reason is the location of the audio jack. On the S8, it’s located on the bottom of the phone, on the opposite end of the cameras. The Pixel’s audio jack is located on top, next to the camera. Thus, the microphone was in the shot both with and without the windscreen. So check the audio jack’s proximity to your camera before investing in this mic.

Another type of microphone you may need is a lavalier (or lapel) mic. It is placed in close proximity to the speaker’s mouth to isolate their voice from environmental noise. Lavalier mics are generally wired, meaning they can be difficult to use when plugged directly into your video recording device.

So the most convenient setup is to record your visuals with one camera, and record audio with a lavalier mic plugged into a smartphone. You’ll need an audio recording app to do this. A top of the line lav mic option is the Rode smartLav+, or the more affordable Stony-Edge Simple Lav. Note that sound quality typically corresponds with price, but it truly depends on your budget.

Rode mic on a smartphone - Equipment List for Making Better Videos With Your Smartphone

Smartphone gimbal

Many smartphones come with built-in stabilization that will help minimize or remove shake from your videos. However, you still need an extra tool if you want buttery smooth, cinematic video footage. The simplest video stabilization tool is an electronic handheld gimbal.

There are two main gimbals out there worth considering, and they’re very competitive in terms of features and price. One is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, and the other is the Zhiyun Smooth Q. I’ve been using the Smooth Q for the past few months and have been blown away by how much my smartphone video quality has improved.

Best of all, a gimbal is easy to use and quite affordable for the features it offers.

girl using a gimbal smartphone stabilizer

Extra Power

While smartphone battery life keeps gradually improving, it’s still a good idea to bring a portable cell phone charger with you.

There are tons of external batteries on the market, but Anker is by far one of the more reputable brands. In particular, the Anker PowerCore 10000 is a compact, efficient, external battery. It can charge either your smartphone or electronic gimbal or both at the same time. Just be sure to charge the battery ahead of time and bring the right cables.

Over to You

In short, you don’t need a lot of tools to start using your smartphone to make better videos. However, if you add these tools to your kit, you’ll be well on your way to producing more professional-looking videos.

Do you have any smartphone video accessories? Let us know your essential tools in the comments below!

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Shooting a Sunrise Portrait with a Drone-Mounted Flash

This idea had been rolling around in my head for years. I use flashes a lot in my photography. Whether that is a Speedlight on or off camera or in the studio with some big strobes and modifiers. But this is the first time I have ever used an aerial drone-mounted flash.

The whole point of this shoot was to light the impossible. I wanted to be able to get a flash where it would be impossible using any normal means. While location scouting I found this rock face with the eastern sky as the background. I first thought it would just be an amazing location for an engaged couple or something that I usually shoot. But when I realized that the sun would rise right behind the cliff I knew a sunrise session was in order. Rather than a traditional natural lighting sunrise session with a silhouetted subject I wanted to light the model so they would stand out from the background.

The only way to be able to light the model from this position would be with a light that could fly — so we did just that.

We rigged up a Canon 600EX Speedlite flash under a DJI Phantom 3 (the drone could fly, but the camera was damaged in a crash).

I was using the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite transmitter so that I would be able to control the flashes power while it was flying in the air. We did a few test flights to see how the drone would be able to handle the added weight, and we were surprised that it flew like there was nothing strapped to it.

We woke up at 3:30 AM to be able to get on location, set up and shooting before the sunrise at 5:12 AM. I really wanted to capture the predawn light and the red glow from the rising sun. Luckily on the morning of the shoot, it was a very calm day with little wind, so we didn’t have to fight against any strong gusts while flying and maneuvering the drone.

After I posed our model Michelle (who is also the 2018 Miss NH), I got into my shooting position and launched the drone. Once the drone was in the air I started shooting away, creating the compositions that had been in my mind for such a long time.

A lot had to come together for the shoot, but I am very happy with the results. It was exactly the vision I had in my mind.

Here is a behind the scenes video explaining more about the shoot and my mindset.

After we landed the drone safely I took advantage of the beautiful morning light and did a little fashion portrait session with Michelle.

A big thanks to the team that made this all possible: Model was Michelle McEwan, BTS video by JDM Video, and drone operator was Daniel Cavanagh.

About the author: Lee Germeroth is a wedding, engagement, and portrait photographer based in New Hampshire. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Germeroth’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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The OKO helps to shoot photos and video with your phones at the expense of your dignity

If you thought Google Glass was obnoxious and obvious, you’ve seen nothing yet. Meet OKO (yes, it’s on Kickstarter). Ok, maybe I’m being a little unfair. Actually, I quite like the concept of this, probably because I’ve been using my ZenFone 5 for more VR stuff lately, but it’s kind of a weird way to shoot […]

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Basic Photoshop Tutorial – How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

portraits of 3 girls - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

I’ve been shooting these moody portraits lately and I thought about adding some creative overlays to a few to make them a little different and more interesting.

3 girls portraits with texture overlay - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

Here is a basic tutorial on how to add an overlay using Photoshop. Take your images from simple portraits (top) to textured backgrounds (above) above and finally to incorporating some surreal or artistic elements in the finished portraits (below).

Basic Photoshop Tutorial - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

Getting started

First of all, I wanted my images to have a dark background and look more moody rather than smiling portraits. You can read here on how I have achieved these types of portraits in my home studio using natural light only.

Secondly, in order for you to be able to follow this tutorial, you need to have a good understanding of how to use layers and masks in Photoshop. It is a simple but extremely powerful tool which I believe to be the most fundamental editing technique you need to learn when using Photoshop.

Thirdly, you need to decide on the images that you wish to use as creative overlays. A quick search on Google provided me with some free overlays that have a high enough resolution to use with my images.

Basic Photoshop Tutorial - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

butterfly images - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

leaves - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add a Texture Overlay to Your PortraitsDesigned by Freepik

It is essential that these overlays are in PNG format because it supports transparency. If the background isn’t already transparent (which is indicated by the checkered grey and white boxes), you can extract the image from the background if need be before you can use it as an independent overlay. But that’s a lot more work.

I will walk you through this process step-by-step. You will need to refer to the layers shown on the Photoshop screenshots below to be able to understand the process.

#1 Open your image in Photoshop

Once you open your image in Photoshop it will become the Background Layer. In my case, here I have renamed the layer as the file name “lsp-portraits-13” which appears at the very bottom of the file next to the “eye” icon. This just means it is visible and it is what I am showing you now.

file and layers in Photoshop - Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add a Texture Overlay to Your Portraits

#2 Open your texture image in the same Photoshop file

The texture I’m using is called Chambord as you can see on the layer name. You can easily add a new image onto an existing open Photoshop file two ways:

  1. By dragging your image from its source folder on your computer into Photoshop directly.
  2. Or by opening your texture file in Photoshop as a separate image, selecting the entire image, copying it and then pasting it into the portrait image you are working on.

The latter is the long-winded way. The former is quicker and it is the smarter way too because Photoshop automatically makes the new texture a Smart Object. That means it matches the size of your image yet you can still change the scale without losing any pixels.

Change the blend mode of your texture image layer (Chambord in this case) to Overlay on the Layers tab. Add a layer mask to the Chambord layer and remove the texture from the person on the image by painting on the mask with black using a soft brush.

Your layer should look like the second layer below with the “eye icon” turned on. You can also adjust the opacity of your texture to your liking by moving the layer opacity slider next to the blend mode.

Note: If you don’t mask out the texture, the person will also be covered in texture and would look really odd! You only want the texture to fill the background and nothing else.


#3 Now you can proceed with adding overlays

The set of leaf overlays, however, come as one image, so I’ve had to use the latter method mentioned above. I opened the overlay file separately in Photoshop and used the marquee tool to select the specific leaf I wanted to use. Then I copied and pasted it onto the other file that I was working with the portrait image opened.

It is essential that you set the blend mode for each texture overlay to “Overlay”. You can experiment with various modes but for this type of work, I’ve found the Overlay and Soft Light modes tend to be the most suitable.

You can see that I added a mask on the leaf layer so that I could remove anything else around the specific leaf that I didn’t want to use. I have added four leaves in total to this image, each one on separate layers with their respective masks. I have also played around the opacity for each layer.

You will also notice that three of the leaves have a separate Levels Adjustment Layer on top of them. This is a simple way of adjusting the look of the overlay, for example, brightening it, darkening, increasing the contrast, etc. You just need to make sure that you clip the levels layer to the corresponding overlay it is adjusting by pressing Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+G. The arrow down indicates it is clipped (only applies to that and no others) to the layer below it.

You will also notice that there is a layer called Group 1 with the folder icon next to it. I grouped all four overlays after I have made individual adjustments with the levels layers. This is in case I want to make further adjustments to all of them, I only have to clip the adjustments to the Group rather than repeating myself for each overlay layer. Especially if all the adjustments are to be exactly the same anyway.

You can do this by selecting all the overlay-related layers and choosing “New group from layers” from the drop-down menu at the top of the Layers panel.

Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add a Texture Overlay to Your Portraits

#4 Use adjustment tools to make final changes

Although the leaves are now where I wanted them to be, the leaves are far too saturated for my liking and they stand out too much. Not to mention they do not match the green tone of the entire image.

To correct this, I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and clipped it to Group 1 so that it only affects that group and not the other layers. I played with the sliders to get the green looking similar to the green leaves on the little boy’s shirt. I wanted the overall image to have the look and feel of an old illustrated postcard with subdued tones and muted colors.

Basic Photoshop Tutorial - How to Add a Texture Overlay to Your Portraits

#5 It’s time to save your work!

If you want to keep all the layers and the original image, you need to save your file as a PSD image (Photoshop Data File). As long as you don’t merge or flatten the layers, you will have access to all the original elements used in making your composite image.

This is a non-destructive process but the files can take up a large space on your computer drive. However, if you change your mind later on about some of the elements, you can always go back into it without starting from scratch. Just choose the layer you wish to make changes on.

You must also save a compressed version of your image, usually a JPEG, which is a flattened lossy file. It is much smaller and only contains the final finished image without all the layers that went into creating it.


So that’s the simple process of using overlays! Below are the other two images showing the various layers using exactly the same process as shown above.



I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial.

Have you used texture overlays before? If you have more tips, please share them below.

The post Basic Photoshop Tutorial – How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Why Content Marketing Works for Me and Not You

neil patel content

It’s funny, when I meet people who are leveraging content marketing, they always tell me one of two things…

Either they can’t figure out how to generate traffic (no matter how many blog posts they publish)…


They’ve figured out how to generate more traffic, but the traffic hasn’t turned into any sales or new customers and they can’t figure out why.

Now, I know what you are thinking… there are so many companies that make millions from content marketing that there must be a way to make it work.

But here’s the thing. Because of my ad agency, I am able to talk to thousands of companies each year and dig into their marketing. And of the ones that leverage content marketing, most aren’t able to generate even one sale from it.

In other words, it’s not working for them.

It’s not because content marketing is flawed. It’s that most people don’t fully understand it.

Why doesn’t content marketing work for most businesses?

What most people don’t realize is that all visitors are not the same. And I’m not talking about demographics and income, I’m talking about intent.

When you land on a web page that ranks on Google because of content marketing, your actions are going to be different than if you clicked on a paid listing.

And it’s not because one is paid and one is organic… here’s what I mean.

When you do a search on Google for the term “auto insurance” you’ll see a search results page that looks something like this:

google search

And you’ll either click on a paid listing or an organic one.

Here’s what one of the paid listings looks like:


And here’s what one of the organic listings looks like:


As you can see, the organic listing contains a lot of content… including information about the city where I performed the search, insurance options, and why I should choose Nationwide.

To some extent, it is educational and salesy all at the same time, but I’m not being sold as hard as the paid listing from AAA.

The AAA landing page only has 73 keywords. That’s it… a measly 73 keywords.

In other words, if you land on the AAA landing page you are going to click on one of the two insurance options.

On the other hand, if you land on the Nationwide site (who leverages content marketing), your eyes focus on the text instead of filling out the auto insurance lead form.

And that’s what I mean by intent.

Even though I performed the search “auto insurance,” I’m more likely to buy from the AAA site because it’s a more aggressive landing page. The Nationwide site puts me in a more educational mindset, in which I am going to read and do some research versus just getting a quote.

And Nationwide isn’t doing this because they want to educate. They are doing this because it is really hard to rank organically without providing tons of content.

Google loves content, hence the average web page that ranks on page one contains 1,890 words.

content length

That’s why Wikipedia ranks for everything under the sun.

If you are going to leverage content marketing, you have to keep in mind that when people land on your site it will put them in the mood of reading and learning instead of buying.

So, does that mean content marketing doesn’t work?

Content marketing is amazing, and it still works really well. It doesn’t produce as many conversions as paid advertising, but you can also build up massive amounts of traffic without burning a hole in your wallet.

Let’s look at NeilPatel.com and how I leverage content marketing.

Over the last 31 days, this blog has generated 2,510,893 visits of which 1,609,314 were unique. And those visitors generated 5,890,103 pageviews.

np traffic july

That’s not bad, especially if you consider that I am not really leveraging paid ads (other than the few blog posts I modestly boost on Facebook each month).

And during that time period, we generated 1,942 leads within the United States of which 262 came from companies who were spending over $5,000 a month on marketing.


Most leads don’t turn into sales within 30 days as our sales cycle is longer, but so far those leads have generated $972,860 in contract value (we haven’t collected all of that money yet, but we will over the next 12 months).

The number I shared above is just revenue, it’s not profit. That number, of course, will go up as many more of the leads will turn into contracts but at the same time, my expenses will go up too.

So, can you guess how I generated almost a million dollars in new contracts in just 30 days.

Well first off, it wasn’t me… I have an amazing sales team lead by a guy named Nick Roshan. And we have an amazing fulfillment team that helps the sales team close more deals.

But the lead generation is all me… and that came from content marketing.

In other words, content marketing works… as long as you think about it the right way.

So how should you think about content marketing?

The first part is traffic. You need traffic before you can do anything else.

How do you build up traffic via content marketing?

Well, you need to write blog posts. I won’t go too in-depth on how to write blog posts as I have tons of blog posts already on that.

If you are going to take the route of hiring other writers, make sure you tell them the following rules:

  1. You and I – use the words “you” and “I” to make the blog posts seem like a conversation. For example, “Don’t you hate it when people tell you that some things just aren’t possible? I know I do.” You see how that sounds conversational?
  2. 3 sections – a blog post should be structured with 3 main sections: Introduction, body, and conclusion. By structuring every one of your posts the same way, your readers will know what to expect and it will make it easier to skim your content. (The majority of your website visitors will skim and not read.)
  3. Conclusion – the conclusion should be labeled “Conclusion.” The reason you want to do this is that roughly 8% of your readers will scroll down to the bottom of your blog post to read the conclusion. If they like the conclusion they will scroll back up and read the rest. (The 8% stat is from NeilPatel.com. I’m not sure what the percentage will be for your blog but I used Crazy Egg to figure this out.)
  4. Subheadings – the body should contain subheadings, that way it is easier for people to skim. The subheadings should describe what the section is about and if you can naturally place keywords within it, feel free to do so. Just don’t force it.
  5. Short paragraphs – try to keep the paragraphs less than 5 or 6 lines. It’s easier on the eyes, especially on mobile.
  6. Facts and data – use stats and data to back up your talking points. Feel free to reference other sites and link to them. This will validate your content and also brand you as an authority over time.
  7. Images – use screenshots and photography to help get your point across. Some people are visual learners, so use images when it makes sense. If you are using someone else’s images, look for copyright information and make sure you cite your sources.
  8. 2,000 to 3,000 words – it varies per industry, but if you are in a competitive industry, consider making your blog posts 2,000 or more words. I showed you earlier in this post how Google prefers ranking content that is at least 1,890 words on page 1. If you are not in a competitive industry, you can write content that is less than 1,000 words. Over time you can go back to the blog posts that are gaining traction and expand them.
  9. Headlines have to be amazing8 out of 10 people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will click through and read the rest of your article. Before you hit the publish button, check out these stats from Buzzsumo on writing appealing headlines.
  10. End with a question – wrap up your conclusion with a question. People are more likely to leave a comment when you ask them a question. Make sure you do this as you want engagement.

Now that you have the writing process down, it’s time to come up with topic ideas. The easiest way to figure out what’s hot is to just type in keywords within your space on Buzzsumo.


You just insert a keyword and Buzzsumo will show you all of the articles around the web that are popular related to that keyword.

By doing this you will see what people like in your space. I’m not saying you should copy these articles but instead to use them for ideas. The last thing you want to do is write content that people don’t care to read.

In addition to typing in a keyword, you can also type a URL into Buzzsumo. For example, I typed in Hubspot.com and it shows me all of their top articles.

buzzsumo hubspot

This will give you an idea of what is working for your competition.

Now that you have some topic ideas, it’s time for you to write a blog post (or pay someone to write it for you). Just keep in mind your content has to be better than your competition. If it isn’t better than what they have, it will be hard for you to get more social shares or outrank them.

When I publish a blog post, I like asking myself the following questions:

  1. Is your blog post more actionable than your competitors? (If not, fix it.)
  2. Did you write on something unique or provide a different perspective than your competition? (If not, fix it.)
  3. Would you be embarrassed if a friend or co-worker read your article? (Don’t ever publish something you wouldn’t want others to read… fix your content.)
  4. Would you be willing to ask other people to share your content on social media and link to it? (If not, make your content better.)
  5. Did you come up with 10 headline variations? (Don’t settle on your first headline, try to think of better ones.)

Assuming you passed all of the questions, it’s time to publish your content and generate some traffic.

So how do I generate traffic?

Sadly, there is no quick way to grow your traffic. It’s a slow grind, but over time your traffic will go up.

Here’s the traffic to the NeilPatel.com blog when I first started:

neil patel blog post

As you can see I generated 9,065 unique visitors in my first month back in August of 2014. I generated those visitors from the 4 strategies that I will break down in a bit (they still work).

And if you fast forward to the 1-year mark, I was able to 10x my traffic by August of 2015.

one year

My traffic has continually gone up over time as well, which you can see by scrolling back up towards the beginning of this post (I’m now at 2,510,893 monthly visits, yay!).

So how do you generate more traffic?

Well, first off you need to be patient. Don’t expect the same results I achieved. Marketing is what I do, and I’m willing to dedicate more time and energy than most people.

So here are the 4 strategies I used when I started NeilPatel.com (and I still use them today).

Keep in mind that these tactics work for all types of sites and I’m assuming here that you don’t have a social following, so I won’t be giving you basic advice like “share your article on LinkedIn”.

Strategy #1: Boosting posts

Still to do this day I boost my posts on Facebook. It worked even better when I was starting off, but it still works well today as it helps generate traction.

boosted posts

As you can see from the screenshot above, I boosted my last week’s post. I tend to boost all of my posts, which is roughly 4 times a month.

I spend $400 per post. I pick the regions: United Stated States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom when boosting.

You should pick the regions where most of your ideal customers are (ideally, I should only be boosting within the United States) and make your boost lasts 2 weeks as the clicks will be cheaper than if you spent it all in one day.

If you continually do this your traffic will grow over time and you will also get more organic Facebook traffic by boosting.

If you aren’t, that means people don’t care for your content… which means you need to go back and adjust your content with the tips I broke down above.

Strategy #2: Email everyone you linked to

Within your blog post, you should have linked to other sites. As I mentioned above, you want to cite your sources and link to places where you are finding data/stats.

Every time I link to a website, I will go to their site and try to find the email of the website owner so I can let them know I linked to them.

But before I share with you an email template to send, keep in mind that you will have to modify it for your website. I can’t emphasize this enough.

And I know some of you don’t think emailing works because you get so many link building requests, but if it didn’t work you wouldn’t be getting all of those emails. 😉

I typically send an email that goes something like this…

Hey John,

Thanks for taking the time to come up with stats around XYZ. I know it’s hard work, but bloggers like me appreach it. I just borrowed some of your stats for my latest blog post and of course I linked to you and gave you credit.

[insert link to your blog post]

Feel free and check it out and let me know what you think.


Neil Patel

PS: If you like the post, feel free and share it on your favorite social network. 

PPS: If you ever come up with any other cool research, let me know. I may want to include it in a future post.

You need to customize the email template because the more customized it is, the better it will do.

I’ve found that if I email out 20 people, 4 or 5 usually will email me back saying thanks.

When emailing people, keep in mind that there are GDPR rules. So, you may be better off going through the contact forms on people’s website versus just sending them a cold email.

If you aren’t sure if you are breaking any GDPR rules, check with a lawyer as they’ll know much more than I will.

Strategy #3: Top sharers

One of my favorite features of Buzzsumo is that it shows you all of the people who shared your competition’s content.

All you have to do is type in the URL of your competition and click on “view sharers.”

view sharers

From there you will be presented with a list of people who shared that content.


You’ll want to go to each of their Twitter profiles (or do some Googling) to see if you can find their email address or website.

Similar to the previous strategy, you’ll want to email them something that goes like this:

Hey Amanda,

Hope you are doing well.

I noticed that you tweeted out [insert the title of the article they tweeted] by author [insert author name].

It’s a good article, but it doesn’t discuss [insert what the article is missing].

Because of that, I wrote a similar article that’s more complete and up-to-date.

Let me know if you would like to check it out.


Neil Patel

You’ll notice that I didn’t link to my article. I first wait for their reply as I have found it to produce better results.

Typically, they will email back with something like:

Sure, I would like to see it.

And then you’ll respond with:

Here you go:

[insert link]

Feel free and share it if you like it 🙂



PS: Let me know if I can share anything for you.

It ranges depending on which industry you are in but typically 9% to 30% of the people you email will share your article out as well.

If you are getting a percentage that is lower than that it means that your content isn’t that great or the people you are emailing tweeted the original article out years ago instead of recently (people forget what they tweeted over time).

Again, make sure you follow GDPR rules with this tactic (feel free and consult a lawyer). You can always message people through their website contact form as well.

Strategy #4: Beg for links

The last thing I like to do within Buzzsumo is to see who linked to my competitors. You can click on “view backlinks” to see who links to similar articles from your competitors.

view backlinks

From there you will see a list of backlinks pointing to your competition:

backlink list

And just like the previous strategies you can do some manual outreach and send them an email that goes something like:

Hey John,

Hope you are doing well.

I was reading [insert URL of the page on their site that is linking out to your competition] and I noticed you mentioned [competition’s name].

The problem with the link is that you are pointing your readers to an article that isn’t complete. It doesn’t discuss [talk about why the competition’s article isn’t as useful and thorough].

If you want to fix this, check out my article below as it addresses everything I mentioned above.

[insert link to your article]


Neil Patel

PS: If you want to provide more value to your readers, feel free and link to my article.

PPS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

The email template is a bit generic, but if you modify it, personalize it, and adapt it to your business you’ll see decent results.

If you email out 100 people you should get at least 4 to 6 links.

Again, make sure you check in with a lawyer about GDPR rules as you don’t want to get in trouble for sending off cold emails to people that you shouldn’t be.

You can also send the message using the contact forms on peoples’ websites.

Now that your traffic is growing, let’s focus on building up a community.

How to build a community

A blog without a loyal fan base is tough to monetize. Without this, you won’t do well. This is the big reason that most companies I talk to never do well with their content marketing.

They just lack a community.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to monetize if you don’t have a community, it just means it will be harder.

But before I go into building a community, you’ll want to leverage social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Just remember that as they continually adjust their algorithms, it will be harder to rely on them.

For that reason, I like focusing on the tactics below.

Tactic #1: Subscribers

Some of you may have noticed that every time I publish a new blog post you get a browser notification telling you about it.

Just through browser notifications, also known as push notifications, I am able to generate an extra 42,316 visitors per month.

push traffic

The way I do this is through a free tool called Subscribers.

Once you sign up for Subscribers it will give you a JavaScript or a WordPress plugin to install. Every time someone goes to your website they will then receive a notification through their browser that looks something like this:

push optin

And over time your subscriber count will continually increase:

subscribers dashbaord

As you send out push notifications, you’ll see that people will “unsubscribe” themselves, similar to email, which is fine. But in general, it is the most effective way to boost your traffic.

All you have to do is hit the “send a notification” button within your Subscribers dashboard and you will see a screen that looks like this:

subscribers send

You can even add UTM codes, which will give you tracking within your Google Analytics.

You can pick what image you want to include with the push notification (as well as see a preview of it on the left side) and you can schedule it if you want it to go out at a later time or day.

Once you hit send, your subscribers will get a notification that looks something like this in their browser:

neil test sub

Whether you decided to use UTMs or not, you can always see your stats for each push within your Subscribers dashboard.

subscriber stats

Even though I don’t talk about push notifications much, it really is the easiest way to build a community and get people to come back to your site.

There is only one issue when you use tools like Subscribers, you have to be patient. You won’t have a big list of subscribers from day..

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