Take Epic Hands-Free Fireworks Photos

With the American Independence day holiday right around the corner I thought it would be timely to have a quick how-to post on shooting fireworks. In the first part of this video I share basic fireworks tips and tricks for getting great shots.  

  1. You must have a tripod or something to hold the camera steady or a few seconds. I love the Leofoto Tripod

  2. Use manual mode on your camera - Shutter speeds between 2 and 8 seconds, Aperture f/5.6-8.0, ISO 100-200 if you have a P&S camera use the fireworks scene setting (still need a tripod)

  3. Use a remote release device to trigger your camera- I recommend Intervalometer with multiple connections: http://amzn.to/29xNO3M

  4. Be ready! Some of your best opportunities happen early on, as the smoke builds your shots may get hazy unless you have a breeze removing the smoke. So I suggest you start to setup before it gets dark, frame your composition and take a few test shots - use trees or light poles near the fireworks launch spot to focus on - review the photos watching for stray objects or horizon lines that might distract from the fireworks. If you end up setting up in the dark, use the following tips - set your ISO to MAX and your shutter speed long enough to get a well lit photo, we don't care if it is grainy, we just want to get quick feedback on focus and composition. Once you have those set then use the suggested settings in step 2 for the actual fireworks shots.

  5. Try to time your shots to start just as the rockets head up, longer shutter speeds are going to capture more of the action

  6. Experiment but don't forget to enjoy the show some too

  7. Finally, watch out for the Grand Finale - shorten the shutter speed during that fireworks-heavy period or you will end up with an overexposed image.

Related - Long Exposure Sparklers Photos / Light Painting

Wildlife Photography - Tips and Tricks


A new video with some wildlife photography tips. Get better photos with longer lenses to nail those wildlife shots! 


Tamron SP 150-600mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm

  • Animals are for the most part shy making a 400mm lens your best bet with 600mm getting even closer for great shots.

  • Using a longer focal length brings the wildlife to you, letting them take up more of the shot for an impressive photo.

Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary

Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary

The Sigma 150-600 C is one of the best values in super telephoto, The Tamron G2 is a little sharper but more expensive. Check out photorec.tv/wildlifegear for recommended gear cameras and lenses for wildlife photography at every budget.

Shutter Speeds

When you are shooting with a longer lens you want to watch your shutter speeds. Typically when photographing it goes aperture first, but when using a longer lens and especially when photographing wildlife, it's shutter speed first.

Focal length rule: Focal Length * 2(Times the amount of coffee you've had)

A post shared by Roy McKee III (@roymckeeiii) on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:30am PDT

That means for a 400mm lens you are looking at roughly a 1/800 shutter speed. The rule doesn't account for your subject though, meaning that in cases of faster objects like birds in flight you'll need speeds up to 1/2000 of a second. Going for faster photos first can net you "safe" shots with a higher ISO, meaning more noise, then you can back the speed down a bit for cleaner images. Tripods and IS can help speeds a bit as well keeping things a bit lower as well.

  • Remember - expose properly, don’t underexpose your image because when you brighten the image in post it is going to get much noisier.

  • Focus mode - with static or slow-moving subjects a single point is fine - running or flying - a wider array of points really helps the camera track your subject. And switch to Continuous AF for subjects on the move.

Sony a7R III

Sony a7R III

Gear Recommendations - photorec.tv/wildlifegear

Feel free to post questions about gear here or consider joining my awesome photography community at the Photo Enthusiast Network

How-to: Photograph the Milky Way

Simple tips and tricks for getting the best milky way photos - from when to go, where to go and what gear to use.

When to Shoot


March to October is good but the best times to see the galactic core is late April to late July here in the Northern Hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere February to October with the galactic core best visible during June and July - The galactic core is arguably the most interesting and most photogenic section of the milky - So take a moment and add a calendar reminder to watch this video again in the spring.You also want nights with no moon - this means a new moon or dates when the moon is below the horizon - a quick search online yields lots of helpful info. On iOS and Android, I love Photopills it has at a glance moon info as well as rise/set times for the Galactic core for your location AND a mode that lets you overlay the night sky & milky way on the landscape where you are standing!


Someplace with low amounts of light pollution - to figure out the closest dark skies visit website Dark site Finder - Yellow is eh, Green is ok, blue is good, black is even better. But don’t let this stop you from trying - Your milky way shots might not be the best but at least get out, practice and develop the skills so when you end up at the right time and place you can get THE SHOT.DO include interesting foreground elements - rocks, trees, mountains, something to ground your viewer on earth while giving them a taste of the stars above.


Irix Firefly

Irix Firefly

You need a sturdy tripod - I have my favorites listed below. As for lens choice. Full Frame equivalents of 14 to 30 work well for me. The IRIX firefly is my current budget favorite - I have a review of several lenses perfect for astrophotography linked below. You could go fisheye or shoot a panorama if you have a full view of the sky with little light pollution.

Camera Settings

Get manual focus during the day and then tape or lock your focus ring at that point.

  • Aperture - Use the widest your lens allows - f/2.8 is great wider is even better Kit lenses at f/3.5 are a possibility too.

  • Shutter speed - Probably about 20 seconds but follow the 500 rule and keep that shutter speed as short as possible so stars are pinpoints and not streaks. Taking multiple shots and stacking for lower noise higher detail is an option too - I haven’t done that yet - I have been happy with single shots.

  • ISO You are probably going to end up around 1600 - lower if you have a faster lens than f/2.8 - higher if you have a slower lens.


In Post

Post Processing I typically cool the image - brighten overall image but especially the stars by increasing the highlights and I use a brush to increase the brightness of the milky way and a second brush to decrease the brightness of the darker sections - overall increasing contrast and making the milky way stand out more. 

Beyond the Settings - Manual Mode & Auto ISO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR5JCfqLb-IGet beyond the settings and focus on the image, the key point to a recent article we had on the weekly live show. As photographers when we go to shoot we're balancing the camera settings, composition, timing, not tripping on something, and possibly handling a model. When you're starting out you usually cram learning the camera settings, but what's the next step?

As you move beyond the basic settings and focus more on composition your photography is going to improve immensely.

How we approach a scene usually goes aperture, shutter speed, then ISO. A shallow setting like f/2.8 is perfect for a portrait but a landscape needs something a bit slower at f/8 (btw, video on aperture coming soon!). Next shutter speed comes into play, you need to make sure the shutter speed is 2x the focal length to be safe, the reciprocal rule. You can find out more about shutter speed settings here and here. Once we get that down as a start, then we need to move past it to improve.

 What about AV mode? We've all been at the mercy of a wrong camera setting at some point. The thing is the camera is smart, but it's not you, it just sees pixels and can't interpret a scene. Especially if my subject is moving, dancing, running and even walking - the camera doesn’t know this on AV mode and you'll end up with a blurry subject. Manual puts you in control letting you tell the camera what you need.But AUTO ISO can be good - Compared to aperture or shutter speed, ISO means the least to a shot technically. That it affects exposure and noise only, compared to aperture and shutter speed that drastically alter the look of a shot. With modern cameras, a high ISO setting can mean a bit of noise and has to be extremely high before it is a detriment to a photo. Having AUTO ISO on takes away part of the exposure triangle I have to focus on and lets me concentrate more on composition and timing.If you are starting out get those camera settings down. That way it's secondhand, so you don't need to be chimping (checking the screen) when it counts. Once you understand that then you can let the camera take over, a little bit, giving you room to be creative and focus on more important issues.

Shutter Speed Explained Simply

https://youtu.be/LER6RFkkj68Everything 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

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


DIY Heart Shaped Bokeh How to for Valentine's Day

DIY Heart Shaped Bokeh How to for Valentine's Day | http://photorec.tvShape bokeh is a fun way to add a creative flare to your DSLR photography. You can create shape bokeh with any DSLR camera and prime lens. Many photographers use a 50mm lens for shape bokeh photography (which is what I used for this post), but don't feel limited this option.For the upcoming Valentine's Day, I'm sharing DIY heart shaped bokeh! The first step is to create a heart bokeh filter for your prime lens. Trace the lens you're going to use on black construction paper or card stock. Cut out the circle. Punch or cut out a heart in the center of the circle. If you're using a paper punch, you may need to fold the edge of the circle to center the punch.I cut the circle small enough that I can fit it right on the lens as you see pictured below. I have always used this method for shape bokeh with no problems. Some photographers create a paper cylinder or paper handles to attach to the bokeh filter, which works well, too.Heart Shape Bokeh Filter on DSLR Camera | http://photorec.tvThe second step is to gather your supplies. In addition to the heart filter, you'll need Christmas lights or another light source that will create bokeh. You'll also need a light source for your subjects. The ambient room lighting may work just fine. A speedlite works well, too. I have a couple of DIY Lowel EGO lights I use for blog shoots, which were perfect for lighting my subjects. I use daylight bulbs in my Lowel lights. White light is great for many artificial lighting setups, but it was a little harsh for this shoot. So I kept a regular lamp on as well to bring a little warm yellow light to my images.You don't need a dark background to create shape bokeh, but I found it helpful for creating a clean background for my DIY heart shaped bokeh background Valentine's shots. I wrapped my Christmas lights around a piece of black foam board with a chalked finish, which I keep around for blog shoots, and placed my subjects on black card stock. Finally, you'll need a few subjects! I encourage you to start with objects you have on hand at home to get comfortable with your setup and lighting. I've included a list of supplies I used that you may not already have on hand at the end of this post.The third step is to set up your shooting area. You need to allow some distance between your subject and the Christmas lights or other light source so you can create bokeh. I put a little over 5 feet (1.5 m) between my subject and lights. You may need to adjust your distance slightly, depending on your given subject and the exact effect you're trying to achieve. It may also take some trial and error to determine the best placement for your subjects and lighting.Bokeh Backgrounds Setup | http://photorec.tvBokeh Backgrounds Setup | http://photorectv.comThe fourth step is to dial in your camera settings. Switch your DSLR camera to manual mode. Open your aperture as wide as possible. I shot with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, so I set my aperture to 1.8. Then I set my shutter speed to 1/80. The subject lighting source you use will determine the best ISO for the particular shot. I used a few different lighting setups, so my ISO is not the same for every shot. In some instances, it's as low as 200 while for other shots, I dialed it up to 400 or 800.Attach your homemade heart bokeh filter to your prime lens. Keep in mind when you shoot in portrait orientation, you'll have to rotate your heart filter accordingly. Otherwise, the hearts will be sideways!You're ready to start creating heart bokeh! I recommend trying a few shots of the bokeh alone to get comfortable with your camera settings. Heart bokeh is beautiful on its own. You may create some photos of it that you really love. Try switching your lens to manual focus and experiment with creating hearts in different sizes.Heart Bokeh | http://photorec.tvSmall heart bokeh vs large heart bokeh. | http://photorec.tvOne popular bokeh background technique is to make is look as though the bokeh is coming right out of a glass, jar, or vase. You'll have to position your lights carefully, so the hearts match up with the glass or jar. You can edit a few stray hearts out of the background, but the more you do to position the lights properly, the less editing you'll have to do.I started with a heart mug because it seemed fitting to have the hearts coming out of a heart mug for Valentine's Day.Heart Mug Heart Bokeh | http://photorec.tvA clear glass or vase also works well because it looks like the hearts are right in the glass. In this first shot, I used a clear stemless wine glass.Heart Bokeh Stemless Wine Glass | http://photorec.tvI absolutely love colored glass and have a number of colored Ball jars and other glass pieces around my house. I used a blue Ball jar for a few shots because I love pairing turquoise and red. Green or purple glass would be so pretty, too.Blue Ball Jar Heart Bokeh | http://photorec.tvI added a string of fairy lights to the Ball jar to bring a little more light into the shot and get some hearts right in the jar. I purposely made this shot a little fuzzy to get the fairy light hearts to pop and to heighten the whimsical aesthetic.Blue Ball Jar Heart Bokeh | http://photorec.tvPlaying around with my blue Ball jar was so much fun I decided to create a shot with it with a regular red bokeh background. The fun of a bokeh setup is that there are so many possibilities. If you have an idea for a shot, give it a try!Blue Ball jar with Red Bokeh Background | http://photorec.tvI've seen a few similar images to the book image I've shared below and was excited to try this technique myself. I switched up the red Christmas lights for a pastel strand. I tried shooting with a few different books and liked the results best with a larger book because you can see more bokeh IN the heart. Larger pages also make it easier to get some color on the top interior of the hearts, as you see below. My favorite shot worked best as a square crop, but a wider landscape composition is perfect for a heart book shot as well.You may need to tape your pages into place, particularly if you use a book with glossy pages like I did. Painter's tape is ideal because it's less likely to damage the pages than something like packing tape. I would still remove the tape (carefully!) as soon as you're finished with your photography.Book Heart Pages with Heart Bokeh Background | http://photorec.tvOver the last couple months, I've bought a few new items for photography shoots, including a set of Scrabble letters. I create a lot of styled shoots for different seasons and holidays for my blog and know that I'm going to use these little letters a lot. I wrapped a red lights strand and a clear lights strand around my black foam core board for this shot.Valentine's Day LOVE Scrabble Tile Letters with Heart Bokeh Background | http://photorec.tvFinally, I created a little wedding setup with a couple Playmobile figures. My husband and I used this set for our wedding cake topper, so I'm a little biased in my preference for this shot. BUT I'm really happy with the overall composition and the lighting on the figures.Playmobile Wedding Couple With Red Heart Bokeh Background | http://photorec.tvAgain, a DIY heart shaped bokeh background is so versatile. It allows for endless fun possibilities for creative photography. I've included a couple more red non-heart bokeh background examples. The first one features the Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 lens, which I use with a Canon AE-1.Red Bokeh With Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 Lens | http://photorec.tvThe second one features one of my husband's Warhammer figures. You'll have to make up your own story as to why he's riding a tank with a red bokeh background behind him.Warhammer Model with Red Bokeh Background | http://photorec.tv

DIY heart shaped bokeh supplies:

red Christmas lights | pastel Christmas lights | clear Christmas lights | fairy lights

stemless wine glass | blue Ball jars | Scrabble tiles


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 Instagramhttps://youtu.be/fBofBxH8NiEGear 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  

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.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TSrFKLzsrQShare your thoughts, tips and comments below.   

Lightroom: Guided Transform Tool - Easy fix

There are three ways to straighten horizons and fix leaning buildings in Lightroom.

  1. Use the crop tool to rotate the horizon
  2. Use the level tool to draw a guiding line along your horizon or vertical surface
  3. Use the Guided transform tool to fix both horizontal and vertical lines at the same time - corrects perspective control too.  Options 1 and 2 do not.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErDkU7IzWtU&feature=youtu.be A recent Lightroom update brought a new panel - The Transform Panel with the powerful Guided Transform feature. Learn the ins and out of using the Lightroom Crop tool and the Transform Panel to fix horizons and straighten leaning buildings BUY MY LIGHTROOM SERIES - Save 20% OFF (LIMITED TIME)Visit http://photorec.tv/lightroom/ 

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.

Cleaning your DSLR or Mirrorless Sensor

Disclaimer- Cleaning your sensor isn't risky but does carry risks. If you damage your sensor while cleaning it is not going to be covered by your camera manufacturer's warranty and the only official cleaning method recommended by the camera manufacturers is to send in the camera for cleaning. The information I present in this post and video is based on my own experience, by following, you accept complete liability for any damages that may result.Let’s talk about dirty sensors. It happens, it’s not a big deal.Dirty SensorsDust on the sensor typically doesn’t show up unless you are shooting at smaller apertures. Bigger bits might show up starting around f/8, but it is really above f/14 and up to f/22 where you see the dust. If you are shooting lots of landscapes, this can be an issue. If you are shooting lots of portraits, with apertures below f/5.6 you can stop reading and go back to enjoying life. It is unlikely you will see any dust impact your image.f/22 - can you spot the dust and HAIR!!! Embarrassing. The first step in cleaning is to determine how dirty your sensor is. A quick way to test is to take a picture of a clean white piece of paper at f/8, f/14 and f/22 - don’t worry about your shutter speed - the dust spots will be sharp even if you shoot at slow shutter speeds, but you do want to keep your ISO fairly low to avoid noise confusing the issue. You could also photograph the sky on a clear day.Now pop that image in Lightroom and in the develop module there is a nifty option to Visual Spots located under the Spot removal tool.  Need Lightroom?Screenshot_9_8_15__8_43_AMScreenshot 2015-09-08 08.42.33Rollover the image below to see the before and after Visual Spots with my Sony a7RII sensor at f/22[himage]Dirty SensorDirty Sensor[/himage]If your sensor looks like Sony a7RII sensor does after just a few weeks of use - you probably want to clean it.Many DSLRS and Mirrorless cameras have a sensor cleaning mode - some run every time you turn the camera on or off and some run when selected. This is the first option you should try. With many of the systems, it is recommended to either hold the camera normally or facedown with the lens off so that the dust falls out. The Sony A7RII I have violently vibrates the sensor for a second or two and did absolutely nothing to reduce the amount of dust on the sensor. Hopefully you will have better results. Test again after using the in camera method.CleanSensorGif_animThe next step is to use a rocket blower - NEVER use compressed air or air in a can dust off products. Again hold the camera in such a way that the dust will fall out and give a few puffs directed at different areas of the sensor. They do sell sensor loupes - little magnifiers with led lights that make it easier to judge your progress. I used a tiny LED bike light to help see the sensor but it is clear that a bit of magnification will help too as some of these dust specks are invisible to the naked eye.$17 Sensor Magnification and LED light Sensor Loupe LED Magnification$9.95 Rocket BlowerRocket Blowers are cheap and do a great job of cleaning your sensor.Buy Rocket Blower from Amazon | B&H Photo VideoI was impressed with the results of the rocket blower- it did a good enough job that I would be happy stopping there - but if you want to get your sensor even cleaner you are going to need to touch it with something.Please read and follow all directions carefully for the kit you purchase and consult your camera manual for additional information.You have options - there are the expensive static charged brushes like the Arctic butterfly (see it at B&H) for $130 - you drag a statically charged brush across the sensor and it picks up the dust. In theory this should work fairly well with all but the stickiest particles and you never need to replace any pads etc but your up front cost are quite high. It does have two nice, bright LEDs to see what you are doing.butterflybrushOr you can go with something like the DustAid Platinum DSLR Sensor Cleaner for $26 that provides 6 cleanings - you get these little sticky pads that you gently press on the sensor, the dust sticks to the pad and then you use included “tape” to clean the pad.Dust Aid Platinum - Sticky lollipop for your sensorOr a more traditional kit like this DustAid Dust Wand Kit for $30 - Should provide about 20-40 cleanings depending on your sensor which is what I used in the video. You simply take one of the dust cloths out, wrap it carefully around the wand and apply a few drops of their cleaning solution- The larger your sensor the more drops you apply.Dust Wand Kit ReviewIf you are working with a DSLR you do need to put it into manual cleaning mode which pops the mirror out of the way. The dust aid directions suggest starting in the lower left corner and moving across the sensor. Put a new cloth on and repeat the process from the top left to the right again. Use your light and or loupe to inspect and if necessary wipe again with a clean cloth. Note that the special liquid evaporates fast so you should wipe immediately after applying.I hope this video was helpful. Do you have a favorite sensor cleaning method? leave your suggestions below and if you have any questions - you can leave those too. I’d love it if you hit that subscribe button - that way you can be notified of future videos, tips, tricks and reviews.Follow me on Instagram to see more of what I am up to day to day and all my dirty sensor photos.Make sure you don't miss a future video, subscribe to my Youtube ChannelLearn Lightroom 

How to: High Speed Flash Photography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ntAXVz9tyw Gear List:


Raw Doctor EP3: Perfect Dark Exposure

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0JaNyMHJi8 In this episode Toby takes you through a dark landscape edit, a smoky blue club scene and makes minor edits to a beautiful hummingbird.  Learn about perfecting your black and white points for better contrast and why that is often a better approach than the contrast slide, how to increase certain colors while keeping the overall look of your image natural and loads more tips.Would you like to submit a raw file for a future Raw Doctor Episode? Visit http://photorec.tv/rawdoctor to submit a raw file.  

Squarespace Tips: Easy Blogging & Custom Video Thubmnails

As photographers with fairly static galleries we need a way to add content that provides an incentive for viewers to return to your site- Squarespace's easy blogging tools give you just that AND I show you how to use an animated GIF as a cover image for videos - What better way to grab attention.  Would you like to see how I converted a video into a GIF? Hit thumbs up and I will publish a how-to soonTryout Squarespace for two weeks, no credit card needed: http://squarespace.com/toby

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.


How-to Install Magic Lantern on a Canon DSLR

I walk you through the install of Magic Lantern on a Canon T5i(700D). Add some neat and powerful features to your DSLR with just a few minutes of work.Download Magic Lantern: http://www.magiclantern.fm/downloads.htmlDisclaimer: Magic Lantern is not approved nor endorsed by Canon in any way, and using it will probably void your warranty.We are not responsible for any damages to your camera.