For the next several days I will be sharing my favorite panoramas that I have captured in the last few years.

Sharing on Instagram

and using

the multipost trick

 works but I also want to give you an option to see them in one whole piece. I have a

complete panorama tutorial

that you might find helpful to shoot your own -it is much easier than you think.Click to enlarge each photo (more added each day)

Day 1 (

see it split on Instagram


Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park Panorama

Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park Panorama

Grand Canyon at Sunset from Yavapai Point.

Grand Canyon at Sunset from Yavapai Point.

Day 4 (Vertical Pano - stitched automatically in Lightroom)

Day 5 

Apps for Photography

[embed][/embed]You are carrying a mini computer with you all the time, why not put it to use? Check out some of our favorite smartphone apps to get your photography going.Weather Underground

Weather Underground (Free)

Google PlayApple App StoreI like weather undergrounds info and display and they let you set up smart forecasts that can quickly give you an idea of optimal times for various activities including astrophotography.

WU StormSTORM by Weather Underground (Free)

Apple App Store

Along with weather underground, I use STORM for real-time radar that can be helpful to know exactly when that rain is going to stop at your location. I find watching the radar and the movement of the precip is more accurate in the short term than any forecasts.

NOAA Weather InternationalNOAA Weather International (Free, $2.99 Ad Free)

Google PlayApple App Store

AND I sometimes want to know what the weather nerds are saying about the future and the NOAA app gives me a straightforward look at each day and provides an easy click to read the forecast discussion. You can also click to see the elevation of a location on the map. FREE or pay $2.99 to remove the adds.

Tide Charts Near MeTide Charts Near Me (Free, $1.99 Ad Free)

Google PlayApple App Store

I live near the coast and we regularly run workshops on both coasts - knowing the tide is critical to knowing how much beach or rock will be exposed and if the tide is headed out giving you plenty of time to shoot or the tide is coming in when you need to be very careful about getting stranded, Tides- Charts near me is a simple representation of the tides near you - with automatic updating based on your location. FREE or $1.99 to remove the ads.

PhotopillsPhotoPills ($9.99)

Google PlayApple App Store

This is huge and I was pretty happy when they offered an Android app - First I love the widget - at a glance I know sunrise, sunset, moonrise and even the status of the galactic core for my location! Once you dive into the app your find tons of useful info from the planner to the AR that helps you line up for sunsets, sunrises and star trails. Additional calculators further help your planning- tons of useful info and well worth the $10 - you can find most of these items in other apps for free but I haven’t found any that bring them all together in one app.

SquarespaceSquarespace (Free)


The square space app makes it really easy to update your site with posts, photos and even video - The one way to get people to come back to your site again and again and that is to update the content and offer information behind the photos - Squarespace makes it incredibly easy to build a beautiful website and blog and the app makes it really easy to update on the go. Additional apps from Squarespace allow you to track your analytics, keep notes, update your store and more.
It’s fine to put your best work on Instagram but you should have a website where you control everything and display your work professional in a big beautiful way and Squarespace makes it easy to do that - with beautiful custom templates and 24/7 support along with easy custom domains- Get your own website today at and save 10% off your purchase.

SnapseedSnapseed (Free)

Google PlayApple App Store

Still my favorite editor for quick edits of photos captured with the phone or transferred via wifi

Lightroom CCLightroom - Full version (Adobe Creative Cloud Required)

Google PlayApple App Store

If you are smart about syncing Lightroom mobile can be powerful and recent upgrades have seriously improved the capabilities and stability of the app - almost making it my pick over Snapseed for editing... but go watch my Snapseed secrets it is just so quick and powerful once you know a few tricks. Sound good? Click here to sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud.

Later.comLater (Free)

Google PlayApple App Store

I continue to love Later for an easy way to get images and captions to your phone - I hate writing captions and hashtags on my mobile device and recent updates to the paid plan give you the best times to post and suggest hashtags making new posts easy. Sign up today and get started!

MiopsMiops ($30 Dongle or $125 Remote Required)

Google PlayApple App Store

I talked about this on my recent Yosemite trip - with a small dongle you can trigger your camera in several different ways - really useful - I will be posting a separate video about this system soon.Pick up the Dongle or Remote on Amazon

TrackRTrackR (Free, TrackR Required)

Google PlayApple App Store

This little Bluetooth tracker lets me ping my camera bag and set an alert if it moves outside of Bluetooth range - I have only started using this - certainly not a full proof way to protect your camera bag but at least gives me a little more piece of mind.Buy a TrackR Today!

New Way to Upload to Instagram (and Not Get Shadow Banned)

We get asked a lot how to upload to Instagram, I even covered it a couple years back. The problem is that most of the older methods have fallen to the dreaded "Shadow Ban". If banned Instagram hides your hashtags so you don't gain followers, but stealthily so you don't notice. With that in mind, Felix Sun used a recent mobile trick to make a mini Instagram program that lets you upload via Mac or PC for free.Recently Instagram allowed mobile uploads, using the browser on your phone you can upload to Instagram without having the app installed. Using this trick you can tell your desktop's browser to pretend it's a mobile device and upload away. But it's a bit of a clumsy trick that is more advanced. Felix's program is a mini version of chrome already set to mobile, just log in the first time and upload. A dialog box will pop up to add a file then the rest is like normal.Head over to and check it out. Upload an easy way, or at least until they ban this as well. Our official and Instagram friendly uploader of choice is You can check it out in Toby's video here and it lets you schedule posts.If you were wondering how to do it in a browser anyway:In Safari

  • Enable the Develop Menu. Click Safari, Preferences, then Advanced. Check 'Show Develop menu in menu bar'.
  • Now while on Click the new Develop button in your menu, user agent, then iPad. You may have to refresh the page.

In Chrome

  • You can install User-Agent Switcher, the new button in the top right when clicked lets you tell Instagram you are a mobile device. Just remember to turn it off when you leave Instagram.
  • Without using an extension, press F12 for Developer Tools. Click the phone icon at the top left of the new panel or press Ctrl+Shift+M. The top left option to the left of dimensions lets you choose iPad, then reload the page.

Croatia Photo/Video Gear I just finished a fantastic trip in exploring the coast and islands of Southern Croatia. Beautiful country, friendly people. My goal on this trip was to produce video first and photos second. With video being my primary goal I am calling this the

Videography Travel Bag


Bags & Holster

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]MindShift BackLight 26L[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Mindshift Gear - Backlight 26LAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]SpiderHolster SpiderLight BackPacker Kit[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Camera Holster - Spider Backpacker KitAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Mindshift Multi-Mount Holster 30[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Secondary Bag - Multi-Mount Holster 30Amazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Panasonic LUMIX GH5[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Panasonic GH5Amazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Lumix F2.8-4.0[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Lumix 12-60 f/2.8-4 LensAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Lumix 42.5MM[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 LensAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Lumix 45-200[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Lumix 45-200 f/4.0-5.6 LensAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Rokinon 7.5mm mft[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 lensAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"][/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Rode Video Micro ProAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 RII[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Sony RX1R IIAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]DJI Mavic Pro - Fly More System[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]DJI Mavic Pro - Fly More SystemAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Hoya Circular Polarizer [/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Hoya Circular Polarizers for each lensB&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Hoya .3 ND Filter[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Hoya ND Filters 0.3 for each lensB&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]MeFoto Carbon Fiber Road Trip[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]MeFoto Carbon Fiber Road TripAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/4"]Olympus TG Tracker WP Camera[/vc_column][vc_column width="3/4"]Olympus TG Tracker WP CameraAmazon | B&H[/vc_column][/vc_row]  

Backup your photos!

I hope you have a backup plan in place for ALL your important photos and documents, but if you don't! Take a few minutes to look at some options.Readers and viewers share their sad stories of losing ALL of their photos! Please back up your photos, Don't think it won't ever happen to you!  I recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy.  A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different devices, and at least 1 copy offsite or in the cloud.Example: You have captured a nice family photo and downloaded it to your computer. That copy on your computer is ONE copy.  Now you need to back up to a second device in the home- an external HD is an easy solution and Amazon has excellent deals on BIG hard drives.I currently recommend - WD 4TB RED for just $102!You now have TWO copies, but both are local and if anything happens to your house ... to be safe you should have an offsite copy. Google Photos, Dropbox and Amazon Prime Photos are all systems that can help.Amazon Prime - $10.99 a month - Free 2-day shipping, Movies & TV Shows and Unlimited Photo storage to backup on ALL your devices.Amazon Prime Photos Storage

Your Prime membership comes with free unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos, which lets you securely save as many photos as you like and see them on your phone, computer, or tablet. You can share this Prime benefit and give free photo storage to up to five family members or friends. Collect photos together with your invited family and friends in the Family Vault and store memories from everyone in one safe place. New photo search technology makes it easy to find specific photos by searching for things like “sunset” or “Seattle,” and your photos are organized automatically so it’s easy to find and enjoy them.


Shutter Speed Explained Simply you need to know about Shutter Speed | The basics of Shutter Speed Explained. The importance of shutter speed in the exposure triangle, making sure you shoot fast enough to get sharp pictures, and how to use it creatively with techniques like panning to improve your photography. Crop factor calculator

Delete Your Photos!

Delete Your PhotosWatch me now at  A few weeks ago I released a video to tell you your photos suck! I then followed that up with a few tips to help you suck less. This is a more detailed look at tip#1 - share fewer photos and shares my Lightroom workflow for quickly deciding which photos to reject(trash) and which to keep. And my star rating system in Lightroom for keeping things simple. Do you delete your photos?And don't forget to watch part 1 of "Your Photos Suck" here if you missed it:

HACK: Sharing Panoramas on Instagram

I have a quick hack for using the new instagram multi image feature to actually just share ONE giant panorama. Scroll down for video on how-to share a giant Panorama on Instagram.

Here is the Panorama I want to share

Posting it to Instagram results in this VERY limited view 

But with this trick you can share the WHOLE image in a big, Panorific way



How to Shoot and Edit Panorama Photos

Make Photos EP #002 - Long Exposure Light Trails with Seattle Skyline

I walk you through the capture and post processing in Lightroom of one a recent Instagram photo -  Using a popular vantage point of the city of Seattle - Dr. Jose Rizal Park, a conveniently placed hole in the fence and a long exposure to get light trails creating this image - Follow me on Instagram used in this videoSony alpha a7r iiCanon 24-70 f/2.8 II LNisi Filters CPL (part of the kit)MeFoto Travel Tripod CFGear used to MAKE this videoPanasonic GH4Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 Lens  

Make Data Driven Decisions!

What lens should I buy next? That's the second most common question we see here at Can you guess the first most common question?Lightroom users I have two tools that can help you make sense of all your metadata and provide some insight as to how you shoot which you can use to make smart, data driven purchases that fit your way of shooting.

Method #1 - Lightroom Dashboard

Access at - drag and drop a backup of your LR catalog and the browser based tool returns a simple graphical display with plenty of information - what was your favorite ISO of 2016? I bet ISO 100.

Method #2 - Jeffrey’s “Data Plot” Lightroom Plugin

Access at and install Jeffrey's plugin (I show you how to install plugins in my Lightroom for Beginners)Once installed you can find the options under File > Plugin Extras jf Data Plot  From there you have the option to view graphs and even create collections based on your data - want a collection of all your shots captured with prime lenses? It's possible.

Method #3 - Lightroom's Metadata Tools

No plugins, no drag and drop - just use the tools already built into Lightroom to make some sense of your data.In the Library Module(1) Grid View > Click Metadata(2)You can now add columns and change the data in the column simply by clicking on the header (3) Which method do you like best? Any surprises in your findings?  What gear do you hope to add in 2017 to your camera bag?Have you ever had someone audibly lose their breath when they see one of your photos? It's an amazing feeling and I want to help you get there - Become a PRTV member Today!

Canon 5D Mark IV Tips and Tricks- Custom Button Setup

Recommendations for custom buttons with the Canon 5D Mark IV

Shutter Button: Metering start (more about back button focus)AF-On: Metering and AF start (default)AE Lock Button: One Shot - ServoDOF preview button: Depth of Field preview (default)Lens: AF-Off (default)M-fn: FEL (default)SET: MagnifyMain Dial: TV shutter speed (default) - this is the front dialQuick Control Dial: AV aperture (default) - this is the rear dialMulti-controller: Direct AF point selectionAF area selection button: Selected AFpt - Cent/Reg AFpt  - I personally want to call this button the nub.(default means I haven't changed it from camera's default setting)   

How-to: Photographing the stars and star trails

 Tips on capturing the stars and star trails.

  Sony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm 25 secSony a7RII w/ Rokinon 14mm - 34 MINUTE Exposure When taking star photos you can end up with star trails or no star trails. It all depends on your focal length and shutter speed and whether or not you follow the 500 rule. Over view for Star Trails (or stars as points of light if you follow the 500 rule explained below)You need a camera with bulb mode - all modern DSLRS and mirrorless cameras offer this - Bulb mode lets you shoot as long as you are holding down the shutter button. that could be 31 seconds to 3 hours!! Now you don’t actually want to hold your shutter down so you need an intervalometer or even better - the Triggertrap dongle and app - I have separate videos about this but it has a mode specifically for star trails and the default settings work so well, plus it does so much more  I highly recommended it. You also need a lens - the kit lens at 18mm with f/3.5 will work but if you can get a hold of something wider with a faster aperture it will be even easier with better quality results. The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 is great. So is the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. And you need a sturdy tripod. Depending on the time of year or location you could also use hand-warmers and a rubber band - if you have dew on the grass in the morning it would be a good idea to rubber band the hand warmer to the end of your lens - it helps prevent your lens from fogging up during the shoot.So gather your gear and head out to your selected spot. Setup and decide your composition - if you have picked a nice dark spot it’s probably really hard to see -SO I RECOMMEND YOU DO A LITTLE TRIAL AND ERROR... EYEBALL THE COMPOSITION AS BEST YOU CAN AND RAISE THE ISO TO SOMETHING RIDICULOUS 4000, 8000  THE GOAL HERE IS NOT TO CREATE A NICE IMAGE BUT TO SIMPLY GET AN IMAGE QUICKLY AND JUDGE YOUR COMPOSITION.You typically want some of earth in the shot, trees, water, buildings can all add a nice balance to a big starry sky. Set 8-10 seconds on the shutter, ISO very high 4000, 8000 and fire a shot. Use the resulting noisy image to adjust your composition and repeat. You also should be checking focus at this time - setting your lens on infinity. Not all lenses focus marks line up perfectly with true infinity so it may also take some trial and error.  This can be something to figure out during the day - use AF on a distant object and make note of where the focus mark lines up.  Or at night find a distant light, radio tower, something you can see to focus on - either carefully by magnifying live view or using autofocus if it is a large enough and bright enough target.So you have focus and the desired composition- Now we need to test our actual settings. Plug in your intervalometer or triggertrap - The default in triggertrap is 2 minute exposures with a 5 second break - You can get decent start trails from just 40 minutes of shooting these 2 minute exposures. Why not just leave the shutter open for 40 minutes? You get heat build up and additional noise, light pollution builds up too and if anything goes wrong during that 40 minute exposure the whole thing is ruined. If something goes wrong during one of your 2 minute exposures it is likely salvageable.So 2 minute exposures, I usually set aperture as wide as possible and star at ISO 800. One more tip - set your WB to tungsten for a nice blue look to the night sky and you should be shooting RAW. Try one exposure at these settings. Wait 2 minutes and review - The stars won’t be points of light but short streaks - you should still be able to zoom in and judge focus but you are really looking at exposure - adjust ISO accordingly and review again if needed, otherwise start the app - as I said 20 frames at 2 minutes each will give you decent results- longer will be better so get comfortable - a great time to watch for meteors or just listen to the sounds of night. Be careful if you are out there with a flashlight you want to avoid splashing that light around and haphazardly lighting the landscape. I use a headlamp with a little red mode that doesn’t ruin my night vision and isn’t bright enough to light up the landscape but you still want to make sure you don’t shine it into or across the lens.  You can do some fun light painting or purposefully lighting cool buildings or trees too. At the end of your sequence take one shot with the lens cap on for a dark image reference - helps the StarStax program deal with hotpixels.So you should now have 20 or more images- import those into Lightroom and let’s do a little post processing - I don’t have any hard or fast rules about editing - I usually just play around until I see something I like. Some tips - Cooling the WB more, boosting exposure, contrast and clarity- adding more clarity really helps the stars pop! Once I have an image the way I want I will sync all of the images in the sequence. I also take a moment to inspect the images for annoying plane trails or anything else that you might want to fix/clone out. now export all of these at 90 JOEG, full resolution. We could take these into Photoshop but there is a free program for mac and windows called StarStaX that works even better. It’s linked above and while free you should donate a few bucks if you find yourself using it more than once. We have exported the shots, open StarStaX and import the images, import the one dark frame and leave everything set as default except the blending mode - change that to Gap Filling. Have fun and be sure to share any shots you get on my Facebook Page or tag me on Instagram.

500 Rule for Star-trail-less Photos

The 500 rule states that your shutter speed needs to be faster than your focal length divided by 500.  Some places you see 600 used but safer is 500.  So if you are shooting at 50mm you take 500/50 and get 10 seconds.  BUT that only applies to folks shooting with full frame cameras, if you have a crop sensor camera like the Canon Rebel Series of the Nikon Dxxx series you need to multiple your crop factor times your focal length and then divide that by 500.   Nikon crop factor is 1.5 and Canon is 1.6.Here is a handy chart to use as a starting guide- Numbers are your maximum shutter length in seconds before you will start to see the dots of the stars turn into streaks.500 Rule Star Trail ChartColumns B through D give you the number of seconds before you will probably start seeing star trails. You can of course go shorter, longer and you will start to see star trailsFor a starry sky you often want to go as wide as possible. 18mm if using the kit lens but if you have access to anything wider- use it.  Starry skies look great with a wide angle lens like the 14mm Rokinon. You can go even wider if you want. See my Rokinon 14mm post for budget friendly suggestions of wide angle lenses.

A good starting point

8 second shutter

Aperture f/3.5 (wider if possible with your lens)

ISO 4000

The trick is focusing and composition.  It is often helpful to include some of the landscape in your composition but judging if you have a straight horizon and focus in pitch black is difficult. A solution is to take some test shots using a VERY high ISO and a shorter shutter speed - these will be very noisy images but you can, without waiting a full 10 seconds at a time, judge your composition and probably your focus.Focus Tip - If your lens has any type of distance indicator you want it set near infinity, that is not a guraguaranteet the stars will be in sharp focus but it is likely. Use the test shot suggestion to judge focus and make adjustments as needed.   If there is a silhouette or a building, anything in the distance you can use that to manually focus, radio towers with their little blinky red lights can also be helpful.  Anything further than a 1/2 mile away is going to give you a target that will set your camera on infinity focus and that should give you sharp stars.Keep warm and keep shooting.Recommended Gear-Sturdy Tripod: Dolica Proline Tripod |MeFoto Travel Tripod (Review of both Tripods)Intervalometer or TriggerTrap for using Bulb Mode or just firing your shutter without shaking the camera.Wide Angle Lens:  is one of the best and most affordable lenses for photographing stars. 

 Photographing Meteors

When photographing meteors you want to avoid any star trails, you want the little streaks left by the meteors to stand out so follow the chart.First task is to find a suitable location with a clear view of the source or radiant. In the case of the Perseids you want a dark sky to your north east, in the direction of the Perseids meteor shower.  I intent to use the the Google Sky App on Android | iOS options.   You really want to make sure the sky is dark, these longer exposures quickly pick up any light pollution and are going to blow out the bottom of your image.Picking a focal length and focusing - You want to go fairly wide here, under 50mm but not really wide as that will likely give you puny little streaks that take up a very small percentage of your image.    Focusing is tricking.  If you have a light tower or something contrasting against the sky, like a mountain, in the far distance you can use that. If you have a distance scale on your lens you can set it just shy of the infinity mark.   Neither of those work for you?  Raise your ISO to the highest possible and take a few shots, a very high ISO will allow you to take a shorter longer exposure so you aren't sitting around for 30 seconds wondering if you have focus.  Take a series of test photos until you are sure you have nailed focus.Camera settings - You have your shutter speed from the chart above, your aperture should be close to wide open and your ISO should be as low as possible.  You might be better off with even shorter exposures, longer exposures will dim any streaks you get. I hope to use my Triggertrap long exposure (star trail) feature to automatically take photo after photo, their star trail feature lets me specify a long exposure and the gap between images.  You can use a standard intervalometer too but that isn't quite as elegant. You could also use a remote and have the camera set for the desired shutter speed and least desirable you push the shutter button - if you use this method make sure you use the 2 second delay so that you pressing the button doesn't jiggle the camera creating blurry images.Your Camera must be sitting on a sturdy tripod.Sit back and enjoy the show.(this is one reason I am going to let Triggertrap do the work, I want to be looking at the sky, not the back of my camera all night. More about the PerseidsThe best budget lens for astrophotography. your thoughts, tips and comments below.   

Looking for a New Lens? - Canon 55-250 STM

EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS STM _no cap_FRA_tcm13-1086694The best budget telephoto lens! After getting your new camera and kit lens you may want to look for another lens. As lenses are the best investment one suggestion would be the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. After the 18-55 or 18-135mm kit lenses this covers the other half of your range allowing you the focal length and distance you need to get your shot. For the price and sharpness it's the best in the market, and a far better choice than the older Canon 70-300mm usm that's still packaged with camera bundles. [gallery td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="11917,11933,11915,11922,11920,11934,11931,11932,11929,11928,11919,11914"] amazon-logo_transparentBH-logo-480x250 

Buy it today at Amazon or B&H!

Optional lens hood ET-63 can be found on Amazon here or B&H here to prevent lens flare and glare from other lights.

Merge Multiple Fireworks Using Photoshop

IMG_0921Typically for smaller firework shows or shooting fireworks off at home you're going to run into having only one or two fireworks in a shot. Other times for larger shows you might run into that problem as the smoke builds up. Otherwise instead of flooding Facebook with 30 pictures you’d just like to have one photo that has a few of the best fireworks. Best part of this? If you took your photos right it’s super easy to do as well. normalThere is a function in Photoshop called blend modes. Typically this is how one layer effects the layers under it. In this case we need the brighter part of the photo to stay but to get rid of the darker background. This is done with lighten. Lighten takes whatever it’s layer has that is brighter than the layers under it and displays only that information. It can be found by clicking the normal blend mode in the layers panel and scrolling down.lightenIn a bit more of a basic example here is a white, 50% grey, and black firework. When turned to lighten blending mode on 30% grey the two darker colors disappear while the white stays. What we’re doing is the same to hide the background and only show the firework. While it's commonly skipped over blending modes can do a lot to improve a photo if you put the time in to learn them. Multiply for example combines the active layer with the layer under it and multiplies the colors. This results in a added contrast and/or color change making things darker. This is useful for example when you'd like to effect contrast in a photo or lower exposure. Screen is it's opposite adjusting colors to get their lightest between them making your photo lighter by multiplying the inverse of the color below. Useful for effecting exposure or dodging.  Click here for more info on blending modes in Photoshop.As for a practical example. Take a photo you have that you like and want to add more fireworks to as below. Typically I start with an early one as you still get a bit of sky in your photo. Copy your extra firework to the photo. Then apply the lighten blend mode. And your done. As for fireworks that have a lighter background than their host you can adjust the shadows and blacks before hand and it will transfer over fine. pasteOnce you get that down you can do something like below. This is actually 3 photos for a composite. One with a higher ISO and slower speed to get lit trees. A blank sky exposed correctly to level it out. And a decent firework overlaid as the subject with its background darkened significantly.  The same method as above with just a bit of cloning to remove any leaves that moved between the two shots. IMG_8795-Edit

Random Presets with the Lightroom Preset Creator

featuredSomething a bit different for today is a site by Allen Serhat for random Lightroom presets.

This isn't going to be anything your going to use on a day to day basis for editing. For those starting out though it'll be a nice way to learn and experiment with features that are usually skipped over by those starting out. Something simple as adjusting the tone curve can add drastically different looks to your photo without much work. Using this creator you can make a series of presets to experiment with just that. Unless you magically strike gold your going to end up with a lot of Instagram like filters but this is mainly for learning not editing. You always have the option though of fine tuning your preset and re-saving it if you hit something you like.


Once you've selected your choices and hit create go download your new preset. Then in Lightroom's develop module under presets you can right click and import your preset file. Then it's ready to use. Also you can right click to delete the preset when your finished with it.

IMG_7519For example with HSL you can effect colors globally. In this preset all of the red, yellows, and oranges have been turned a shade of bright red while all the other colors have been heavily muted. This is caused from red's hue being pushed to orange, orange to red, and yellow to orange. Forcing everything to turn red. While in saturation every option bar red, orange, and blue has taken a massive drop leaving the muted color scheme.

As for proper learning about Lightroom sign up to our patreon service for your one stop place to get special perks, behind the scenes postings, after show videos, access the private support group, get our Lightroom preset package, as well as our Lightroom tutorial videos. Alternatively the video and tutorial package is also available with the presets at

Shooting Reds

featuredIf you're shooting there’s a hidden little guide most people skip called the histogram. This tool while a bit scary looking provides a lot of information on light levels in your photo. Toby’s already covered this much in a helpful video you can watch below. with the histogram you have what’s called clipping. This is where the camera has maxed out the sensor and that area is a solid color with no data. As with the eagle to the right if exposing to what the camera thinks is a decent exposure due to the dark wings the head will end up clipped and solid white (red is the highlight clipping warning from Lightroom). canonAs an example using Canon’s live view and pressing info you can get a live detail of your histogram and where your photo is currently standing. In the case of a lot of contrast such as baby Groot to the right the histogram is showing that the highlights are blown out. On the right side of the histogram it has spiked at the end due to the light coming in from the window. While purposeful in this case for the most part it's what we're trying to avoid if that happened to be the subject of the photo. Most today's camera's have a clipping notification in review that you can turn on as well for a quick warning. A good way to practice shooting without clipping highlights is to photograph the color red. Typically a DSLR the red channel is the most sensitive and the first to be blown out by the camera. Since that's the case it's also the best to practice with to avoid clipping highlights. Anything red will work but the brighter it is the worse it will photograph, actually useful in this case. It’s a bit of a preference but many cameras allow a RGB histogram in the settings. For shooting red switching to this setting allows for seeing clipping in the three channels vs an overall representation via luminosity. For shooting red this is going to be quite useful if you set your camera to this mode this way you can follow the individual color channels to see where red is peaking.ExposureTypically the camera is going to know what to shoot and you can follow the meter. Which can be true for reds, but it can be wrong, by a lot in certain situations. Reviewing your photos at points while shooting is a good habit to do just to make sure you're not losing a shot. Typically for a brilliant red this is going to end up underexposing a photo from what the meter is displaying to keep detail loss from clipping to a minimum. In reality though, you're not underexposing as it’s a correct exposure of your photo. Alternatively your other options could involve bracketing or a blue (cyan) filter. While bracketing would work we’re trying to go for a correct exposure so for the most part it’d be cheating. A blue filter would work by shifting your white balance then correcting, shifting red to a point it would be easier to photograph. While a cyan filter does work it’s better to know how to do this without more gear and effort. IMG_6411 IMG_6430-Edit 

So with that a good setup for me is tabletop photography in practice. It eliminates clutter and gives you a blank canvas to test photography skills. As you might have seen the sneak peek of me at the flower shop cut flowers are a good subject to shoot and they don’t seem to complain. Most flower shops if you ask nicely will sell individual flowers and let you pick them out yourself for the camera worthy ones. You can always use something around the house but overall a few flowers are an easy subject and not horribly expensive.

As you can see above I opted for a black background and flash lighting but the setup is up to you we’re just focusing on reds. If you have one available setup your camera on a tripod as it helps keep you focused on exposure since the composition is locked in already. At this point use your camera meter for exposure and take a photo like normal. Review the image and look at the histogram’s exposure. Typically the photo will look exposed correctly but the red’s will be bright or blown out. To fix this just underexpose from your first photo and try again, there’s no rush to get this right the first time.Exposure to a big degree is going to go by eye and histogram rather than the meter. After you take your first photo and adjust try again and judge the look. If you did listen and shoot in RAW there is going to be enough wiggle room that you don't have to get it spot on your first try. Take a few attempts at it then review on the computer as your subject's not going anywhere. You don't need to underexpose by a large amount, just enough to avoid clipping, once you've reached that point you can work as normal.IMG_6409-EditHaving a computer nearby or even tethered makes reviewing your images easier. As we’re not running around outside you can have it close for a quick edit to see if the photo will work. Dropping red saturation by a small amount in post for brightly lit subjects also helps nullify some of the highlights without having to underexpose as much. Then fine tune your exposure on your test images and see what you think. If the histogram is still showing it's too bright you might want to try lowering or softening the lighting hitting it for an easier time. Quick tip for small tabletop projects, one part glycerin mixed with two to three parts water for “wet” photos.  The glycerin mixed with the water and sprayed on your subject will freeze water droplets in place. Water would work obviously but this method keeps every drop in the same exact spot while you're shooting. Now take if we take it outside, cut roses or whatever your shooting with still photographs outdoors and you get nice bright light. Albeit quality of light is just as important as a portrait shooting red subjects. Just as with a portrait bright sun on red will leave harsh shadows and overly bright colors. Which to be fair still can work, but it’s then about what style of photo you're going for at that point. Just remember you are working with the wind now so smaller objects will be harder to shoot.IMG_6527 IMG_6554

Beyond that, have fun with it! Try other items beyond flowers there’s a ton of red to photograph out there.


Lighting 101 - Basic 3-point lighting setup 

Lighting 101: 3-Point Lighting

  For this setup you will need:Key Light -  The Key Light defines the most visible lighting and shadows on the subject and acts as the primary source of illumination.  You can use just about any light source as your Key Light, whether it be the sun, a window, a lamp, or a video/photography light. For this video, we’ll be working entirely with constant lights for portrait lighting. Fill Light - The Fill Light softens and extends the illumination provided by the Key Light, making the subject more visible and softening the harsh contrast and dark shadows cast by the Key Light. Your Fill Light can simulate natural light from the sky, or secondary light sources such as a table lamp. A lamp or video light can be used, or one can use a reflector to do this as well.Rim Light - The Rim Light creates a bright line around the edge of the subject, to help visually separate the subject from the background and bring them further into the foreground of the photo. This too could be a carefully positioned reflector or another light source.Let’s get started:Step 1: You will want to set up or turn on a work light to establish your subject and frame. Bear in mind, this setup can be completed within 15 minutes but can take up to half an hour or longer depending how much adjusting you do, so you’ll want to make sure your subject is comfortable before you begin or use a stand in for practice until your talent arrives. Once you have your subject and frame established, you want to block off any natural light in the room that will add a glow or ambient light to the room.Step 2: Now we’ll set up our Key Light. You will want to position your Key Light 15-45 degrees to the right or left of your camera, to illuminate your subject. This will create a strong contrast between the light on the near side of your subject, and the dark shadows on the far side of your subject (away from your Key Light). You will want to elevate your Key Light a foot or two above the height of your subject, until you just begin to see a Rembrandt Lighting pattern (link to video/show short clip of the pattern). Your Key Light should be your brightest and strongest lighting source, and the additional lights will work to soften and shape the base light from the Key Source.Step 3: Next, we’ll add in the Fill Light. This is the point where you’ll begin to shape the light on your subject. The position of the Fill Light will be 15-45 degrees to the side of your camera, opposite the placement of your Key Light. So, if we placed the Key Light on the right side of the camera, our fill will come from the left side. Your Fill Light will be about half as bright as your Key Light, to soften the shadows cast by the Key source, without beginning to cast shadows of it’s own, which will often look unnatural and draw attention away from the subject.The Fill Light may be raised to the subject’s height, but should remain lower than the Key Light. Adjust the height of the Fill to see what appeals to you aesthetically. Alternatively, you can also bring in a reflector or bounce to act as your Fill Light, reflecting light from the Key Light back onto the subject to fill in the darker shadows.Step 4: Lastly, we’ll bring in our Rim Light. The Rim Light will be placed behind your subject, across from the camera, just off frame, and raised above the subject at level with the Key Light. Adjust the Rim Light to give you a bright outline, highlighting the top or side edge of your subject. The intensity of your Rim Light can be as bright as necessary to achieve the intensity of the highlight you want around the edge of your subject. The positioning of your Rim Light and the focus of light behind your subject is key, to ensure the light falls only on the subject and does not illuminate the background. You want to keep your background darker, so the Rim Light around the edge of your subject pulls the subject forward and away from the background.And that’s it. Three Point Lighting can be a great starting point for lighting just about any subject, person or otherwise. With this basic setup, you can adjust the height, positioning, intensity and source of lights to create your own look and feel for any lighting setup. For a darker, moody look, pull back the intensity of the fill to give the shadows a darker contrast. For a mysterious look, focus on backlighting your subject, and lower the intensity of your Key and Fill Lights. There are many options for you to customize the look and feel of each setup you want, but don’t feel like you have to have professional lights at your disposal to accomplish the looks you want. This setup can be implemented with basic table lamps, or even outdoors using the sun and a reflector.

Mastering ETTL and On-Camera Flash Portraits 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 -