Spring Photography Backgrounds and Props

DIY Pastel Painted Speckled Plastic Easter Eggs | http://www.photorec.tvSpring photography backgrounds and props will take your warm weather photo sessions to the next level. From simple newborn shoots in your own backyard to large weddings in fancy venues, there are spring photography backgrounds and props to fit every budget and shooting style. Don't be afraid to mix and match ideas as they work best for your photography style and your clients' preferences.

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvClean, light backgrounds

I love to use clean, bright backdrops for spring and summer shoots, saving darker backgrounds (i.e. deep red brick, faux black chalkboard) for fall and winter. My go-to floor pattern is light faux wood (I have both vinyl and paper backdrops). My go-to backdrop is light blue bokeh. More recently, I picked up a distressed teal vinyl backdrop and an assorted set of white backdrops with colored dots, both of which are perfect for spring shooting as well.Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tv

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvEaster props

Easter props are great for mini portrait sessions with babies, toddlers, and small children. They are also ideal backdrop elements for styled Easter and spring shoots, such as recipes and DIY projects. I love to scout for seasonal and holiday props in the Target dollar section and at Michaels, where there are always sales and coupons. There are also always a handful of seasonal items, such as plastic eggs, that are cheap everywhere and make for a simple, fun prop in virtually any type of holiday styled shoot or portrait session.


Umbrellas create a whimsical element in toddler and kid portraits, family sessions, engagement shoots, maternity photos, and even spring wedding photos. Consider purchasing umbrellas specifically designed as photo or wedding props, which tend to be more lightweight and fun than traditional rain umbrellas.

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvGarlands and banners

A simple garland or banner adds a festive touch to a neutral backdrop. They are readily available at big box and craft stores or you can make your own. There are tons of easy free DIY tutorials for spring, Easter, and Mother's Day garlands and banners. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will get you started. Garlands and banners take up virtually no space, making them an ideal prop to store and pull out again year after year.


Getting a few shots on or with bicycles is a fun option for couples or families who enjoy biking together. If you know your client enjoys this hobby, simply suggest it as option when they're preparing for the shoot, so they can plan to bring their bikes along.

Picnic spread

A picnic spread is another fun way to capture action shots with couples, kids, or families without feeling too posed. Don't feel like you have to bring an entire meal along for a portrait or engagement session. A small snacks spread or cheese and wine will complete the aesthetic perfectly. If you're planning a golden hour shoot, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores is another great option.

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvSpring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvFlowers

After months of snow and gray skies, we're all starved for the pop of color that flowers provide. Flowers make a great backdrop or prop. There are lots of printed floral backdrops available or you can create your own hanging floral backdrop. Danielle of Lou What Wear has an awesome floral backdrop tutorial.I am not a gardener and have a lot of faux flowers as decor pieces in my house that I can pull as needed for photo shoots. I like to style them in mason jars and faux glass milk and soda bottles. Michaels offers an abundance of faux flowers at low prices. I've also found some surprisingly nice faux stems at the dollar store. If you shoot professionally or are planning to take pictures of kids or family, consider purchasing a few bouquets or gathering fresh flowers from your garden.

Ice cream or lemonade stand

For more ambitious DIY enthusiasts who do professional toddler and kid portraits, an ice cream or lemonade stand backdrop or prop (in which kids can actually pose in the stand) is an adorable idea for spring shoots. Most tutorials are for lemonade stands, but you can easily customize the concept to create an ice cream stand. Check out tutorials from Accessorize and Organize, Fantabulosity, and See Vanessa Craft.

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvOutdoor elements

Whenever possible, get outside for spring portraits, family shoots, and couple and group wedding shots. I know that location, time of year, and the weather on any given day may not be conducive to outdoor spring shooting, especially early in spring. Embrace the opportunities that you do have, seeking out locations to include flowers in your backdrops. Keep in mind many public parks, gardens, and other favorite outdoor locations get busy on weekends, so plan accordingly.

Spring Backgrounds and Props | http://www.photorec.tvWhat are your favorite spring photography backgrounds and props?

Feel free to leave links to the products you love in the comments!

A Quick Fix With Sugru

SugruHopefully, your weekend went better than mine the other day, I accidentally broke my intervalometer's cable... Always fun. So in cases like this, it's where I break out the Sugru, a mouldable glue that hardens into a rubberized silicone. You might remember a few years back in an article, I used this on my tripod plate adapted for Black Rapid making a tighter fit and keeping everything snug. Since I'm cheap and an intervalometer costs about $20 I'll go with the $4 fix.Sugru is basically like Play-Dou for adults so using it is pretty simple. Once opening the package all I had to do was stick it to the cable, shape it, and let it sit for a day. Compared to electrical tape it makes a thorough seal that works great. As it's made from silicone it's waterproof, handles heat/cold, durable, and shockproof... so perfect for fixing a cable. It's great for DIY repairs as Sugru sticks permanently to lots of stuff like ceramics, glass, metal, wood, rubber, most plastics, and fabrics.      Some Tips For Using Sugru:

  • There's a new family-friendly formula that's less messy and the original formula. Personally, I stick with original but it's up to you, I use gloves with the original as its a bit sticky.
  • Store in the fridge to get it to keep longer, 3X! I throw it in the butter drawer honestly and get it to last about a year or more.
  • Make sure everything is clean, including you. Sugru bonds better to clean surfaces and it tends to pick up dust so keeping clean is best. I use a paper plate for a clean area, sugru can stain when fresh and a plate is disposable.
  • Pressing against it with a flat object helps get smooth edges. It's like Play-Dou, just using something smooth rolled against it adds a nice clean finish. If it's sticking apply some soapy water to your object to smooth it out without sticking.

Repairing cords is just the start though really. Add magnets to hold gear, repair a hole in your camera bag, make stands for product photos, make a clip, bond two pieces of gear together for a mount, make a grip, and more.Sugru SaleJust FYI, use the code PARTYHAT at Sugru's site for 40% from now until Sunday, October 8th, midnight PST. Otherwise, if you missed out check out Amazon to get a great deal and get your DIY on today. As a little goes far I suggest the 3 packs (black | white | mixed), just remember to store them somewhere cold to last longer.  

Mastering ETTL and On-Camera Flash Portraits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBiOJCrak88The first part in a series of videos and one of our most requested video topics in the last year - how do I use my flash.  dec_1_popup_flashYou know the popup flash on your camera? (like the image to the right) We don’t recommend using it as the flash being direct and right over the lens creates harsh lighting. While a soft light from a window or daylight would be preferable owning an external flash also called a speedlight - same name, sounds cooler is best. SPEEDLITE 600EX-RT SIDE LEFT ROTATE UPRecommended Features

  • ETTL for automatic flash exposure
  • A speedlight that lets you rotate and angle the flash direction
  • (optional) Built in wireless support instead of optical, easier to learn

 Test ButtonSetup

  • Four AA batteries required, Eneloops (also listed below) are a good rechargeable option.
  • Due to the charge time leave it on and press the test button. That’s the button on the speedlight that looks like the flash symbol. This lets you double check everything is in good order.

 Attach to Your CameraHotshoe

  • To start shooting you can attach the flash to your camera, it slides onto your camera's hot shoe at the top.
  • Make sure to use the locking mechanism on the bottom of the flash by turning it to make sure it is secure.1330701884000_IMG_243258
  • Turn the flash on and check that it started in ETTL mode (setting on the top left).  If not press the mode button until ETTL is displayed.   

 Taking photos

  • For a test, shooting on the camera is a good start with the flash pointed at your subject.
  • Shoot with a shallow depth of field (f/2.0), Shutter Speed (1/125) to avoid shake, and ISO 800. Generally this makes for an underexposed photo. If it’s not underexposed then don’t use the flash.
  • Turn on the flash in ETTL and take a photo. It should provide enough light for a proper exposure.

fix How does ETTL work?fecETTL works like echolocation but with light. The flash sends a pre flash out to measure the required amount of light needed to expose a photo. In the same second after that test the actual flash happens within the same shutter press exposing the subject correctly.Sometimes when you let the camera decide the exposure, it doesn’t always get it quite right and the same can happen when you use a speedlight - that’s why you have flash exposure compensation. As easy way to adjust the power of the flash up or down relative to what the camera thinks is appropriate for your scene and subject.  Now what if, because it does, the metering is off and the photo is wrong?Just like exposure compensation while shooting in aperture priority you can do the same with ETTL. If you get an overexposed image adjust flash exposure compensation down and turn it up if scene is underexposed. You can either do this in camera or manually on the back of the flash by hitting the center button and raising the exposure. Practical shooting with a flash135Now with portrait shooting in mind having the flash straight at the subject creates flat, boring, light. As a start for portraits indoors we’d like to have a bit of depth and we can do that by turning the flash around, 135 degrees around and 45 degrees up. It seems counter intuitive but by firing the flash over our shoulder it will hit a wall or ceiling and bounce back for a larger light source. As you can see below, shooting in ETTL 0 was a bit flat. You can adjust it by stops just like in AV mode to raise the power to a proper exposure as in ETTL +1. Flash ScaleGear OptionsWe are using a Canon 600RT but are happy to recommend the extremely similar Yongnuo 600RT Canon 600RT, available via B&H and AmazonYongnuo 600RT, available via B&H and AmazonAs for other options check out our article on Yongnuo FlashesEneloop Batteries - http://www.amzn.com/B00JHKSMJU/?tag=ptrv_roy-20

Type of Portrait Lighting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjTARHCTntsGear Used:

butterfly lightingsplit lightingrembrandt lightingloop lightingbroad lightingshort lighting

Tips & Ideas: Photographing Fire

MMM Lobster

Safety first, you're playing with fire so take a few precautions.
  • Plan ahead where things are going to go and do a dry run before it gets too dark.
  • Fire is bad, water is good, but water is also bad for a camera. Remember to have a bucket of water to put the fire but don’t fill it so full that it's going to spill everywhere if you accidently knock it over.
  • Wear cotton or wool will burn normally so you can take it off in a hurry if it does catch fire. Materials like polyester and nylon will melt onto you and then you're going in for a trip to the ER.
  • Remember your camera is plastic, don’t get it too close to the fire if possible. If you still want to be close shroud the camera in something that isn’t immediately going to burn up to protect it.
  • Watch where the fire and especially the embers are going. Keep track of your lighter and any gas so you don’t cause any accidents.
  • Finally if you live in California don’t play with fire, it’s the last thing you guys need at the moment.
Composition & ExposureIMG_5720

Just because it's a bit chaotic doesn’t mean fire cannot be composed correctly. Take the time to setup your shot and get the rule of thirds going or break the rules and go for another angle. Remember fire can be very versatile for shooting as a main element to a photo, a supporting character for the subject, a fiery background, or just a light source for another subject.Normally when you look at a subject the default for your camera is evaluative metering. In this case the whole area is used to determine what the exposure should be, which for fire is bad to a degree. Setting up for a center weighted average or spot metering allows for a more accurate method of finding the correct exposure settings, especially in modes such as P, and Av.Shooting fire on its own can be easy as it's a lightsource but shooting multiple elements in low light with fire can be hard as it's not emitting a lot of light. With fire your best option is to underexpose your shot and bring it back in post for the most detail. For those using the automated modes your best bet would be to drop exposure compensation around to -2 or lower, for manual it's a bit trickier. Like always for a low light shot using a tripod would be recommended and a remote also helps remove camera shake.Depending on the amount light the fire is putting out its going to be a low ISO of 100-400 with an aperture of F/8 or so to get plenty of detail, the big issue is speed. As its a lightsource if you are only shooting fire you can go with a faster aperture at the cost of ISO and lock the fire in place. If you're shooting people with fire it depends on the amount of light. If it's daytime you can stick with the above rule but if its night you're going to have to raise the ISO and sacrifice speed. Remember to check your image preview for the “blinkies” aka clipping warnings (for canon hit info while reviewing an image) as your underexposing you don’t want to accidentally lose part of the photo that you need to bring back later.The goal would be to have a fast shutter speed to freeze the fire, but it's not a perfect world, and if you're trying to get enough light for a portrait that's just not going to happen. In low light there isn’t one correct answer to fix your problem but rather three major options. Since the fire wouldn’t be the main subject in a portrait you exposure to get the person with the glow of the fire rather than the fire itself as it would be overexposed. Alternatively get the best of both by using Photoshop to combine multiple exposures (camera bracketing certainly helps). If worst comes to worst and your problem is low light you can always add more and fight the fire with a flash.If you try to shoot with a flash you need to add to the light, not beat it, so its hard to pull off correctly. You need to set a low flash exposure compensation of -2 to -3 which dims it down enough that you're not losing the fire. In the case of a portrait or another subject separate from the fire snooting your flash helps keep it away from the flames as it makes it go from a shotgun effect to a focused beam. While they do sell snoots for speedlights online in a pinch there are plenty of DIY approaches that work. As your flash is set for a daytime white balance you will have an issue with color, a orange gel would be best otherwise you will have to fix it in post.Expoimaging Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit is Available From B&H and Amazon


Try to Think Outside the BoxIMG_4971Lots of things use fire or create fire so try to think of things beyond your standard campfire such as:

  • Hot air balloons
  • Fire starters, starting a fire
  • Firefighting or a wildfire
  • Matches being lit, lighters
  • Tobacco: cigar, cigarette, or a pipe
  • Volcano or magma
  • Making glass or steel

Elementsfire-ice-06While fire is versatile it's also complicated, remember that you’ve got multiple elements of a fire to use and that it's a also an element by itself. Try shooting embers coming off the fire, smoke being lit up by the fire, show heat through the air refracting light, or even shoot through the fire to get the wavy texture. As an element itself try pairing it up with an opposite such as fire and water or another similar element such as fire and steel.For fire and ice shots real ice works but Acrylic ice still looks the same to the camera. With fake ice it can take a bit more abuse and won’t melt screwing up an entire image. As acrylic ice gets quite expensive for professional grade, http://www.trengovestudios.com/acrylicice.htm, you can try to buy something cheap I.E. http://www.amzn.com/B00VZSA5N8/?tag=ptrv_roy-20. Good acrylic ice is hand made while the cheaper variety is mold made, they will have a few bubbles and seams that you will have to edit in post.For something different try adding fire to a water and ice photo for a new look on a overused trick. http://www.diyphotography.net/how-to-photograph-the-perfect-fire-and-ice-cocktail/LightpaintingPhoto by Von Wong, taken with a smartphone if you can believe itAs they put out a lot of light you can draw with fire and sparklers. With Toby’s article below you can try this yourself. You can try drawing words with a sparkler, making lines in the sky of fire, to even complicated effects such as wings of fire from Von Wong.http://photorec.tv/2013/06/how-to-sparkler-photos-long-exposure-light-painting/Abstract FireWant to try a fire and black background shot? If you want a lot of fire in a small spot for abstract fire photos use a ping pong ball. An actual ping pong ball, not the cheap plastic ones,  are made out of nitrocellulose which combined with the large air ratio burn strong for a photo. You won’t have time for a lot of photos with one but being relatively cheap you can go through a few to get the photo you want. With a ISO 100, mid range to high aperture, and high shutter speed as long as it's somewhat dark out your background will become solid black.Colorcolor-Edit Fire is not just one color so you have the opportunity to think out of the box. While the standard flame is nice you can get blue through a torch or alcohol for example. Using chemicals or photoshop you can extend that to many more colors. Not to mention the multiple colors and patterns of a firework you have to work with creatively.You can use household chemicals to make a rainbow of fire or go for just a ethereal green flame. As a bit of a warning some of these can be a bit toxic, others a bit smelly, do it outdoors so you have proper ventilation. Soaking wood in the chemical or adding a bit beforehand to the fuel provides the longest amount of flame but it does take a bit longer to get everything ready. For photos where you just need a small fire using methanol in a small dish provides the best color, commonly found in Heet antifreeze for cars.How to Make Colored FireColored Fire - Where to Find Metal Salts for ColorantsIf you just want something quick and easy they sell rainbow color packets to throw in a campfire (small fire not bomb-fire). They burn up fast but make for a short show you can shoot with a bit of color. They are quite cheap on amazon for a 12 pack so it’s worth a shot if you're interested. http://www.amzn.com/B008LM32QS/?tag=ptrv_roy-20.Another method you can use for constant color is tiki fuel. You can it find at your local Walmart in green, red, and blue.http://www.tikibrand.com/Torch-Fuel-Lamp-OilLike always you have the option of cheating to get your desired result as well. In lightroom reduce the saturation of the photos then use split toning to change the flame to the color you want. Since there is only the fire and black in this case it's a bit easier. Choose a color in Hue for highlights and adjust the saturation to get the desired color.If you have more items and a background it gets a bit trickier. Since you cannot effect the image on a global scale you have to use local adjustments to a similar effect. Set desaturation and a color effect then paint over only the fire. It’s a bit heavy handed of an approach as it requires you to be quite exact in painting and effects everything painted. Painting gets a bit challenging to near impossible if there is background color showing through the flame. Photoshop would do better but if you don’t have photoshop this way will work in a pinch.In Photoshop the process is somewhat the same, just use a hue/saturation layer to accomplish the same effect. Create a hue adjustment layer in place of split toning (layers > new adjustment layer > hue/saturation). Where it's set for the master channel select yellow and drag the hue to the color you want then repeat for red. If you need to only affect part of the image select the layer mask for the adjustment layer (white box on layer panel next to the hue layer name). First turn the effect off by inverting the layer mask with the invert tool image > adjustments > invert. At this point with a white brush you can paint the effect back on where it's needed.ScienceThe PyroboardGet your inner science geek on with a bit of fire!

  • A Fire Tornado
  • Reigniting Smoke
    • Most people don’t realize it but smoke is flammable, with good timing you can actually catch it burning. Get a candle going and blow it out, when the smoke rises light it again with a match and it will relight. With the camera on burst mode you can actually shoot the flame running down the smoke.
  • Ruben’s Tube, Sound + Fire!
    • Not a DIY but ask around, you might find someone in your area with a Ruben’s Tube. If you remember from any science demos this is a pipe using fire to visualize sound. The Pyroboard photo is actually a 3d representation of this demo.
  • Fire in a Bottle
    • Get a glass bottle and add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Shake vigorously. Timing is a bit tricky but if you start a burst of photos while your lighting the vapor you can photograph a explosion.

FireworksIMG_9829With July 4th coming up it’s time again for some fireworks photos. Definitely one of the more colorful things you can shoot it makes for a nice shot and an easy one at that using the the DPR articles below.

  • Fireworks: http://photorec.tv/2011/06/fireworks-how-to/
  • Macro Sparks: http://photorec.tv/2015/06/macro-sparks/
  • Sparks with Steel Wool: http://photorec.tv/2014/02/steel-wool-photography-quick-how-to/
  • Remember the black snake fireworks you used as a kid that grew when you lit them? Well now you can try the same thing, in mass, and its actually pretty cheap overall. Make yourself a army of growing snakes by following the recipe below.
    • 4 parts sugar + 1 part baking soda, add rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid and light. Ammonium Nitrate instead of sugar has a stronger effect but is more expensive.
  • Paper Lanterns & Other Special Eventslantern-fest
    • Check your area to see if they have any special firework events. Using my state of Michigan for example Grand Rapids has a Lantern Fest each year in October.


Backgroundsfire-wall-10Wall of Sparks via Steel WoolUnlike spinning steel wool you can get sparks oriented with your subject which makes for a nice background for a portrait.  This one requires a bit of elevation to get the effect which gets a bit tricky as you're going to end up with someone on a ladder or up in a tree with an extension cord. It makes for a nice effect as unlike the spinning sparks this creates a shower background. You can even add to the show by integrating the background, for example having a couple hold an umbrella that's getting hit by a few sparks that are falling.Take chimney starter (or a pipe with a catch on the end) and add a layer of steel wool, use a 9v battery or lighter to get it started. Now use a hair dryer or even better a heat gun to blow air through the pipe and unlike spinning it this way you can get a wall of sparks oriented straight with your subject. By doing this behind your subject you can use gravity to feed the sparks down while walking left or right to make a complete wall.Wall of FireFor a bit more of a dramatic background that adds contrast to a photo you can try making a firewall. Essentially its the same process as lightpainting but done on a much larger scale. Like the wall of sparks above it does require a bit of help but makes for a great shot overall.http://www.diyphotography.net/how-to-create-a-wall-of-fire/CookingcookingFire and cooking just go together, and it’s an excuse to pull the grill out this weekend. For you foodies it's a nice way to stand out for fire photos and makes for a nice photo overall. As a bonus you get some nice food so its a win-win.

  • Grilling
  • Cooking with alcohol
  • Over a campfire
  • Cooking with a wok
  • Cooking for show, such as the Benihana Onion Volcano
  • Birthday cake

Melinda FireLeave It to the ProsLastly be safe, no unnecessary risks for a photo, if you think it might be dangerous it's best to avoid it. One of the local photographers in town here has a scar on his hand from trying to hold two steel balls while they were on fire. That said if you know someone trained to do it, or have an event in town, take a few shots just be safe doing it.

  • Fire dancing, breathing, eating, swords, poi, etc
  • Holding fire
  • Being on fire
  • Big explosions
  • Flaming aerosol
  • Flash paper
  • Fire arrows

Don’t forget to enter this weeks fire Instagram challenge ‪#‎PRTV_Fire

How-to: Macro Sparks Photography


Safety first, you're playing with fire so take a few precautions.

  • Plan ahead where things are going to go and do a dry run before it gets too dark.
  • Fire is bad, water is good, but water is also bad for a camera. Remember to have a bucket of water to put the sparklers in but don’t fill it so full that it's going to spill everywhere if you accidently knock it over.
  • Don’t wear synthetic material around fire. Cotton and wool will burn normally so you can take it off in a hurry if it does catch fire. Materials like polyester and nylon will melt onto you and then you're going in for a trip to the ER.
  • Remember your camera is plastic, don’t get it too close to the sparks if possible. If you still want to be close shroud the camera in something that isn’t immediately going to burn to protect it.
  • Watch where your sparks are going and keep track of your firesource so you don’t cause any accidents.
  • Finally if you live in California don’t play with fire, it’s the last thing you guys need at the moment.

Materials Neededsparklers

  • Camera
  • A relatively close to macro lens, in my case a Canon 55-250 since I’m not made of money
  • Tripod
  • Sparklers
  • Lighter
  • Bucket of Water to douse sparklers
  • Flashlight
  • Remote, not required but very helpful for taking bursts

In terms of sparklers I use TNT Fireworks #8 Gold Sparklers, $2 for six boxes at Kmart so they are not the most expensive ones. Honestly they are junk, but in our case that actually works out for once. Mainly they are short, so short I’d never give a kid one as they go out in about 30 seconds max. For us though being a macro shot anything outside of the frame is wasted so thats a plus. Being so cheap the material also has a tendency to flake off as it's sparking which is nice as we can catch a lot of secondary sparks as those pieces burn up. I wouldn’t suggest the color changing variety as your white balance is going to be a bit random.Sparks_1Once you’ve got a sparkler in the ground setup the tripod to your lens’s minimum focus distance, or in other words as close as possible for your lens. Getting it as close to the subject and still in focus is the goal but watch out that it's not dangerously close in the case of a true macro lens. In the case of a partial macro shot just keep in mind that you will have to do a bit of cropping later (See Photorec.tv - Super Moon? Super Crop!).SparksYou need to nail the focus perfectly. Use a flashlight or whatever light source you have available to light up the sparkler. You need to be exact as being a macro shot your depth of field is going to be about the same as the width of the sparkler. Since the focus is so shallow we want to catch sparks traveling parallel with our focus plane, the window of focus in front of the camera, so that everything lines up in focus as much as possible.Sparks_3Decide your composition. I don’t think you're going to want a pole(the sparkler) in the center of your photo so adjust as needed to get it to the far left or right so its not in the way. You want to get the middle of the sparkler in frame as the top is a bit of a waste before it gets going. I prefer out of frame personally as it maximizes the amount of frame you have to work with to get the shot even though you lose one side of the sparkler.SparksFor manual settings it’s a pretty simple shot to setup. Being it’s a light source we can use ISO 100 which conveniently blacks out the background if it's not completely dark yet. F/13 aperture to get the depth of field wide as possible. Speed is the tricky part, too slow and you’ve got a massive overexposed explosion, too fast and its dim with tiny lines. For a more chaotic busier photo go 0.3” Sec, to catch fewer straighter lines go 1/25” Sec, and 1/10" Sec for a happy medium.Sparks_6If you have image stabilization turn it off. It’s not doing anything while attached to a tripod and actually induces a slight blur. The system can’t detect any movement and on occasion will inadvertently cause a shake. With the macro shots in this case the tiniest shake is going to blur the photo and you just wasted a sparkler. This isn't a constant effect and will only happen to a few rare photos but its better for this to be a habit now then learn the lesson while your on a expensive vacation.RemoteFor shooting your going to want a burst of photos without touching the camera. A remote is going to be very handy in this case as it can be held down to continuously take photos. Alternatively a self timer set to take multiple shots is your best option sans remote. At this point its the same process as shooting lightning, we want to capture a bunch of shots so we can sort through them later.

With everything set up now light the sparkler, count to three so its in frame, and start taking photos of the sparks.Post processing is a bit tricky in this case. Unlike shooting thunderstorms where a shot with lightning is evident you have to sort through the photos to find the sparks in focus. As I said previously if you can’t get to a 1:1 macro shot you will have to do a bit of cropping for size and composition. Camera’s now take large enough photos that if you have to lose a good portion to get your shot overall it’s still plenty large enough for small prints and displaying online.Quick tip: For editing check your white balance, you may have to bring it back a bit cooler to get the gold color as in some shots they might be a bit warm.Sparks_7 Learn how to Take Epic Fireworks Photos 

Importing Color Negatives into Lightroom

Negative Film Strip

Bill Flynn: I believe that someone suggested discussing scanning negatives into LR....if so could you touch on comparing scanned photos vs same scanned negatives...

At least for most people that develop photos the local drug store was the place for prints back in the day. It also meant whoever was doing the photos at that time meant you would get better or worse quality. By using the negatives it’s similar to a Camera Raw file in that you have a better starting point then using the photo. By digitizing negatives as you have full control of the saturation, contrast, and exposure in post processing over scanning the developed photo.

Tip: A tablet or phone screen (cleaned off) makes for a convenient light to preview negatives.

Three Main Methods of Digitizing

ScannerThe faster method but unfortunately for most of us a scanner from a all in one Epson V600 Scannerprinter doesn't quite have a decent enough sensor or the negative scanner for what we’re looking for in this case for a good result. Now something like a Epson V600 ($209 Amazon | B&H) or the pro Epson V800 ($666 Amazon | B&H) is good at processing a lot of files fast but compared to the next two options they can get a bit more detail out of the negatives. A flatbed does have the ability to scan photos but without dedicated negative scanning like the models above it requires a bit of DIY for a backlight.Failed Negative ScanProfessional Negative ScanningScanCafeBasically get a bigger scanner with a better sensor, unfortunately it costs more money, but on a positive note it is less work. Now compared what you could reasonably get commercially their scanner is a bit more expensive giving you great quality but if you have a lot of photos to process it can get costly fast at 33 cents a scan or 22 cents for bulk. Compared to services such as the professional scanners at Costco they individually edit each photo for better quality.ScanCafe.com | Scan Cafe PricingUsing your DSLRIf you a fan of this page at this point you most likely have a DSLR and its going to be the best sensor you have available for digitizing negatives. By using a lightsource to backlight a negative you can expose the negative properly to get a good quality copy. While they do make slide duplicators that attach on some lenses for the most part they are going to be more trouble rather than speeding up the process.Consistent lighting is key for this to work smoothly, a monitor or tv would work but you get some of the pixelation showing through in the negative if you sit it directly on the screen so you have to do a bit of DIY. A window without a screen would work but you are then dealing with mixed lighting as the day passes making batch editing a nightmare. Either way you need to make sure the temperature of the lightsource you're using is close to white as possible for the best copy of your negative.LightboxUsing something like a light box (Amazon) gives a nice even lighting, you can swap negatives more effectively, and have a fixed setup. Since its more of a craft item you can pick them up at your local store such as Michaels with a 40-50% coupon and get it for about $25.I’m using a 18-135mm STM kit lens in this example to show that while a macro lens is a better choice and would give a better result its not required for this process. Sitting the lightbox with a test negative on the floor set up a tripod with your DSLR like the image below. If you try this and after white balance you image is still off most likely it was not exposed bright enough.

  1. With the lens at its maximum focal length set the tripodNegative Photography Tripod Setup height to the minimum focus distance of your lens for the largest possible copy.
  2. Use can air, or if you have one a Giottos air blower (Amazon | B&H), and remove any stray dust on the lightbox and negative.
  3. Set the camera to a 2 second delay to prevent any vibrations
  4. Turn off image stabilization on your lens
  5. Turn off any lights and close your blinds to darken the room and restrict ambient light
  6. If available use live view with magnification to nail manual focus as auto focus may have issues locking on the negative.
  7. Shooting manual is recommended as you can keep the same settings. You may have to adjust the speed due to your light source but as a starting point ⅕ Sec at F/8 and 100 ISO works for a lightbox setup.
Lightroom Conversion

Buy the Lightroom Tutorial Videos at http://photorec.tv/shop/ or subscribeLighthouse Film Negativebe via https://www.patreon.com/photorectoby and have access to a series of great tutorial videos as well as the Facebook Support group. If you've watched Episode 5 for advanced editing the following will be much easier to follow. Invert The PhotoIn the tone curve panel the first step is to invert the picture to a positive. Using the tone curve hold shift and drag the end points to their opposite ends.Inverse Tone Curve in LIghtroomWhite BalanceUse the white balance selector (W) to select a white point Lighthouse White Balancedto get in the ballpark. Because of the inverted curve above it will be around 2600-2200K with -30 tint instead of what you would normally think of for a photo as in 5500K.  ContrastWhile there are many ways to go about it to get the negative to a decent contrast level the tone curve can also do the heavy lifting for the basic panels fine tuning. Click in the grid and add a point to the top and bottom, close to the edges of the background histogram. This expands your levels adding more contrast and evening out your contrast.Inverted Contrast in LightroomDustAt this point it would be prudent to zoom in to check for any stray dust and use the spot removal when necessary.Flipped SettingsNow due to the inverted tone curve your panels are reversed in Lightroom, up is down and down is up. At this point auto won’t work as its a bit confused by the new setup, while reversed the controls do work normally for the most part. While you can get a perfectly decent copy of your photo from this point, if you export a PSD and re-import it that will fix issues with the controls.Lightroom Basic Panel InvertedWhile the basic panels are affected the colors are as well. When you apply any color changes using the color picker helps find the right color with the shifted palette. Due to the orange cast of the negative the sliders have trouble with the warmer side of the palette. That means if you have a photo with a lot of warmer tones you would like to adjust you will have to re-import the file to have more control over the warmer end of the spectrum.Negative Inverted Color ScaleAnd finally, after a bit of tinkering you're done! Fortunately thanks to Lightroom you can now sync the settings to multiple photos, or make a preset, saving a ton of work in the process. Workflow shown below, as you can see versus the printed photo it was a bit dark and cropped when printed.Final Negative Process

Sample Negative Files via Dropbox if you would like to try this yourself. Last time I shot film I was 12 or 13 so don't expect the greatest photos.


Frozen Bubbles

Frozen Bubbles


  • Get warm clothing on its cold out! With record lows like these you can develop frostbite staying out too long so bundle up. NWS Frostbite Chart
  • Transition the camera from hot to cold and back in a Ziploc bag to prevent condensation.
  • Keep extra batteries inside your coat as the cold drains them faster.
  • Watch Toby’s Quick Tips for Snow Photos. Youtube


  • Just like in the summer bubbles don't like being on dry, dirty, or pointy surfaces so plan accordingly.
  • Watch the wind as anything more then calm will make this much harder as the wind tends to rip them as they freeze.
  • While technically anything under freezing temps will work if it gets under -10F°/-23C° they tend to shatter and above 12F°/-11C° they are more likely to pop before completely freezing. Although slower ice growth does give the chance for some in-between shots.
  • Morning and night for colder temps, higher humidity, and you get nice golden hour light.

RecipeNo need to go buy bubble mix! Its easy to make bubble solution with household ingredients and it works great. The formula is 9:3:1, nine parts water to three parts soap to one parts sugar. By adding sugar it makes the bubbles thicker, last longer, and hold up to the cold better. For better consistency let it sit overnight.

  • Bottled water helps if your tap is hard waterFrozen Bubbles
  • Dish soap works great such as Joy and Dawn
    • Soap labeled Ultra need two to three parts more water
  • Sugar
    • Okay - White Sugar
      • Use two parts instead of one
    • Better - Karo Light Corn Syrup
    • Best - Glycerin
      • Available at your local grocery, drugstore, or Amazon


  • Blowing to form the bubble traps hot air and makes it freeze slower. If you're having trouble getting them to freeze if its warmer wave the wand instead to trap cold air.
  • Ask for help, one person shooting and another handling bubbles is easier than doing it yourself. Take the kids! It makes for a group activity and you get some fun photos with them playing.
  • Don’t let the bubble hit your lens, at these temperatures it will instantly freeze and is hard to get off without warming it up.
  • Clean off any excess foam from the solution, with it being so cold the bubble mixture has a tendency to foam and freeze up which lowers chances of big bubbles.
  • If your having trouble with getting them to freeze, try placing the bubble on something metal as it makes for a nice surface to get one to stick while conducting the cold better.
  • Finally, lots of patience, not every bubble perfectly does what you want and even less will freeze right.


DIY - Black Rapid and Dolica Tripod Plate - Making them work together

One of my readers sent me his excellent solution that allows him to use his Black Rapid Fastener and Dolica quick release plate. Dolica AX620B100 and Black Rapid SportFor a Dolica quick release plate to use it with a black rapid sport requires a few modifications if you want to use both without having to switch. Technically this works on any similar designs with a 5mm or more available space under the quick release plate. I didn’t want to spend the money for a Manfrotto tripod for it to be compatible, and even that has issues with tolerances.Suggested fixes were Black Rapid’s recommended M-plate by Custom SLR is $70 and Really Right Stuff has an L plate for $60. For $17.95 you can replace the fastener with Black Rapid’s FR-T1 Manfrotto RC2 version and skip the adapter plate. Unfortunately while looking up the FR-T1 the same issue pops up with the neck of the screw blocking the inset of the quick release. Black Rapid sent me the specifications and compared to the Dolica fastener everything is relatively the same except for the inset.Black Rapid FR-T1So… Remove the offending material! Really, it’s made out of stainless steel, it’s going to hold either way. No guarantees but if you’re paranoid of the screw coming out or metal breaking you can use an op/tech H uni-loop as a backup to a top connection(more about using the uni-loop as backup). It is the perfect size to connect from behind the Black Rapid carabineer to one of the top points of the Canon Rebels.Black Rapid fastenerGet a grinder, dremel, etc. with a bit that can grind stainless steel. Take the lip down to the hole in your quick release so it can inset for the least amount of wiggle. You can use Sugru to rubberize it and fill in gaps as well so things don’t slide around. Connect it all up and secure the carabineer with gaffers tape (does not leave residue) to make sure the slide does not retract.
Thanks to Roy for sharing this excellent DIY.