Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

The Practicing Photographer: Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings

Published by | Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Expanding your collection of lens filters is a relatively inexpensive way to expand your creative options. A polarizer reduces glare and adds pop to clouds and skies. A neutral density filter reduces light so you can use slower shutter speeds to add blur to waterfalls and waves. An infrared filter lets you explore the surreal world of invisible light. And a close-up attachment lets you get closer without having to buy an expensive macro lens.

In the ideal world, you’d be able to buy each type of attachment and use it with all of your lenses. But that world doesn’t exist, at least not in this universe. The problem is that lenses often have different-sized threads for screwing filters into place. Some lenses have larger diameters than others, and that means they also have larger filter-thread diameters.

For example, my walk-around zoom lens has 72mm filter threads. My macro lens has a thread size of 62mm. My 50mm prime uses 52mm filters. And my ultra-wide zoom lens uses 77mm filters. So if I want the flexibility to shoot with a neutral density filter on each of the lenses I use most, I need to buy four ND filters—at about $75 apiece.

But there’s an alternative, and it’s the subject of this week’s The Practicing Photographer. Ben Long shows how to choose and use step-up and step-down rings—simple adapters that screw on to a lens and let you attach a filter that wouldn’t otherwise fit.

Using step-up and step-down rings to expand your filter options

The Practicing Photographer: Compositing Street Photography Images with Photoshop

Published by | Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Practicing your photography skills also means practicing your post-processing skills. Almost every photo can benefit from some refinement later, whether it’s to optimize exposure, crop for better composition, or to retouch and remove unwanted subject matter. Back in the day, post-processing happened in darkrooms and at light tables. These days, it more commonly happens in Photoshop or programs like Lightroom and Aperture. Regardless of the tool, post-processing is an important part of the photographic process.

In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long dives into Photoshop to examine the process of combining, or compositing, two similar photos to obtain the best parts of each one. His subject is a street scene in San Francisco. Ben shot a photo of a bicyclist entering an intersection, but just as he pressed the shutter, a pedestrian intruded into the edge of the shot.

Compositing two images together

The Practicing Photographer: Let a lens reshape you

Published by | Friday, June 14th, 2013

The Practicing Photographer - Exploring Lenses

In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long explores the fact that the photographic tools you use ultimately change the way you see. This is an important point to recognize as you get new gear—and subsequently struggle to get the best results out of it. The name of this week’s installment, “Let a lens reshape you,” is inspired by philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who wrote, “We shape our tools and our tools shape us.” What does that mean? It means that the tools we create—whether for painting, making music, or taking pictures—change us by expanding our abilities to paint, make music, or take photographs.

Deke’s Techniques: Correcting an underwater photograph

Published by | Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

A side effect of shooting underwater is that colors are filtered away by the water between your lens and the subject. A flash can help, but there will still be some color loss. You can bring back the full-color glory of sea life, though, by using the tools in Photoshop. In this movie, Deke McClelland shows you how.

To get the best results from this technique, you need to make sure you have enough color information in your image. But you can’t gauge this with the naked eye. Instead, go to the Channels panel in Photoshop and isolate the Red channel. If the channel appears too dark, this technique probably won’t work, but if your image detail is still clear, you can proceed.

FIgure 1

The Practicing Photographer: Using a reflector to add fill light

Published by | Friday, May 31st, 2013

A great way to improve your photography is to begin bending light to your will. That means going beyond ambient light and employing tools and techniques that enhance the light in a scene.

At an advanced level, it might involve using multiple strobe lights along with gizmos like gobos and snoots—the sort of thing David Hobby does in his Lighting with Flash series.

But at a basic level, bending light can be as simple as reflecting it. Working with a reflector is the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer. A small reflector like the one Ben Long shows this week costs less than $10 and fits in any camera bag.

Ben Long demonstrates a reflector

The Practicing Photographer: Light as a subject

Published by | Friday, May 24th, 2013

To state the obvious, you can’t photograph a subject without light. Part of growing as a photographer involves learning to recognize “good” light—for example, light that has a pleasing color or angle, or that accentuates or softens textures in ways that complement your subject.

Learning to look for the right light is important—but it’s also fun to look at light as a potential photographic subject in itself. That’s the message of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, wherein Ben Long urges us to “go out and look for light as the subject of an image.”

Ben shows several examples in this installment. Here’s another, this one from my collection of Polaroids.

“19,” ©Jim Heid

“19,” ©Jim Heid

When I shot this, what caught my attention wasn’t the motel staircase; it was the beam of sunlight—its width fits perfectly within the span of those stairs and its angle complements the other geometry in the scene.

Ben also discusses the idea of light as a subject in his Foundations of Photography: Composition course. In Chapter 8, photographer Connie Imboden leads a workshop aimed at teaching students exactly this concept.

The importance of practice

Ben brings up another important point in this week’s installment when he reminds us, “This is an exercise. You don’t have to come back with great pictures.” That’s something that a lot of photographers sometimes forget. Taking photos isn’t always about getting great shots—just as picking up an instrument isn’t always about delivering a recital performance. Musicians practice scales to build dexterity and strength, and they “noodle” or play experimentally, with the goal of exploring their art and their tool.

So with all this in mind, check out this installment of Ben’s series and, if you like, Chapter 8 in Foundations of Photography: Composition. Then pick up your camera, look for some interesting light and shadows, and start noodling.


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Oh my, how Flickr has changed!

Published by | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

We’ve been busy updating our Flickr Essential Training course, including three chapters on the Flickr mobile app alone. However, after this week’s announcement that Yahoo has released a better, brighter Flickr, it appears there’s more work to be done.

The old Flickr user interface.

The old Flickr user interface.