Friday, May 29th, 2015

Stop iPhoto from Importing your Photos

How to stop iPhoto from launching when a camera card is inserted into your Mac

Disclosure: I hate iPhoto like the plague.  It isn’t that I just have no need for it but it tends to grab your photos and hide them where you can’t find them and, every time I put a camera card into my Mac it used to insist on grabbing the photos from it.

Now I use Lightroom so I have reason to want iPhoto to do anything at all with my photos. So to save having to close it down each time I put a camera card into the Mac, I stopped it from launching at all. If you’d like to do the same thing, here’s how to put iPhoto in its place:

1.    Launch iPhoto

2.    Choose iPhoto > Preferences > General

3.    From the Connecting Camera Opens dropdown list choose No Application

4.    Click the dialog’s Close button

5.    Exit iPhoto



Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Rev Up Your Photo workflow – Part 3 – Organizing, Fixing and Sharing images

In this final part of our workflow series we look at organizing and selecting images, fixing and sharing them.


Organizing and selecting images

Once you’ve imported your images, you’ll need to determine which of those you want to work with and which you will not. For this you will need to use a system that is supported by your software – it needs to be quick and easy to use so you can quickly identify the best of your photos.

If you have already backed up your images, you may determine that your master file of images will contain only the best of the images, so you might give a low rating or mark as reject any images that you don’t want to keep so you can later find and delete them. Whatever the case, you need to determine what your process is going to be and then work within this process to get the task done as quickly as possible.

For example, in Lightroom you can use the flag feature to pick or reject images as you move through them – you can do this using the letters P and X. If you use Reject (X) for images you want to delete you can later choose Photo > Delete Rejected Photos to remove them. Then you might work through the picked images and allocate a star rating to them to indicate their relative value.

In Bridge you have various options for managing images and one is to select a folder of images and choose View > Review Mode to view the images in review mode. Here you can drag and drop images from the panel to select or reject them. As you rotate around the images only those you haven’t dropped off the screen will be left in this view. This feature allows you to quickly move through your images, previewing them at a good size and determining which you want to keep or reject.

Depending how you are working, when you exit the view the images you had visible will be selected. If they are the worst images you can now delete them. If they are the best, you can, while still in Review Mode click the New Collection button in the bottom right of the screen and create a new collection for them. Back in Bridge you can right click the selected images and chose Label and then add a label or star rating to them.

In other programs such as Photoshop Elements and Picasa, you can apply star ratings to your images – in Photoshop Elements you can use 1-5 stars and in Picasa just a single star. In Picasa, click on an image or select multiple images and click the star button in the middle bottom of the Library window. When you apply a single star to an image in Picasa you can filter out only those starred images later on by clicking the star icon at the top of the program window.


Fixing Images

In many programs, you can apply basic fixes to multiple images at a time. For example, in Lightroom’s Library module if you are in Grid view you can select a series of images and apply one of a range of fixes to the images from the options in the Quick Develop panel. The Auto-Tone option, for example, automatically adjusts every image that you have selected with the appropriate fix for that image’s particular needs. You can also adjust the relative Exposure and Brightness and the White Balance.

In Photoshop Elements, you can select multiple images and click the Fix panel. Click Auto Smart Fix and the selected images will all have a basic fix applied to them. Here too you can choose Auto Color, Auto Levels, Auto Contrast or Auto Sharpen.

In Picasa, you can select an image and double click it to move to the edit module. When you have fixed the image you can choose Edit > Copy All Effects and then move back to the Library view. Select one or more images to apply these same changes to and choose Edit > Paste All Effects. The changes that you made to the first image will be pasted onto the other images.

Sharing images

When it comes to sharing your images some programs include built in tools that let you upload images direct to sharing sites from within the program. These integrated tools save you time – you don’t have to export the images and then upload and you can do it all in one step.

Lightroom, for example, is integrated with Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug allowing you to connect direct to your accounts with those services and upload images direct from inside Lightroom. If you are working in Picasa, you can upload direct to your web albums and you can send an image to your blog. In Photoshop Elements, you can share images in a number of ways including Flickr, Facebook and SmugMug.


In some cases, you may need a plug-in to integrate your software with an online site. For example the Picasa2Flickr plug-in for Picasa lets you send images direct from Picasa to Flickr. You’ll find this at

If you cannot link your software direct with a sharing site, look out for a download from your sharing site that lets you upload bulk images at a time such as one of the Flickr tools. While these aren’t a single step solution they can save time when you have a lot of images to upload and, if you make sure to include captions, titles and keywords in your editing program you can save having to do this when the images have been uploaded.

When it comes to managing your images, in most cases you have a choice of workflows – one that gets things done and one that gets things done efficiently and effectively. If you design a workflow that does things more quickly and more efficiently, you’ll get your shoots processed much faster and you can get back to taking more great photos.


Helen Bradley

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Rev Up Your Photo workflow

Learn some tips and techniques to speed up your photo workflow.

When you return from a shoot or vacation with hundreds, if not thousands, of photos you need a smart workflow in place to process them. The more effective your workflow is, the less time you’ll waste on processing your images and the quicker you can get back to shooting. In this column, I’ll show you some techniques to use to streamline your workflow from downloading your images to adding metadata and keywords and then fixing and sharing the best of them.


Before you begin to download any images from your camera you need a plan for storing and working on them. You should have a plan for how you will organize your images and how you will name your folders and whether the images will be renamed or not.

When it comes to structuring a system, be aware that what works best for someone else may not work best for you. You need to develop a system that you understand and that you can work with. Once you have a plan, it will help to write it down so you have a step by step process for working with the images from any shoot at any time. Any software that you use today or in future should be chosen so it supports this workflow.

Start by downloading images from your camera cards. How you do this can impact how easy it is to do other things later on. For example, if you’re using Lightroom and you have multiple cards from a shoot, you might consider downloading all the images from all your cards into one folder on your computer before importing the images into Lightroom. This way you will have all the images in the Current/Previous Import folder in your Catalog panel allowing you to isolate all these images to deal with them as a group.

In any application you will need to set the import dialog so that the downloaded images are handled in accordance with your image handling workflow. Programs like Photoshop Elements include a special photo downloader and if you accept its download defaults then your images will be stored subfolders by date. If this isn’t what you want to happen you need to change the settings before downloading so you don’t have to fix the problems later.

So, in Photoshop Elements Photo Downloader dialog, select the source location for your images and the place to store them in. While the default is your My Pictures folder you can change this as necessary. Select a subfolder for the images and then determine how to name this – either by date or a custom name. If your workflow calls for your images to be renamed then you can do so as you import them – there are options in this dialog to name files by date, or to apply a custom name and sequence number.

Taking the time to not only get your images into the right place the first time and to rename them on import will save you hours of work later on.

In addition, in Photoshop Elements for example, if you select the Advanced dialog, you can add creator and copyright metadata to the images as you import them – something that you can’t do later on. This Advanced dialog is the same dialog that you would use if you are importing images via Adobe Bridge but in the case of Bridge it is possible to edit and add metadata  later on.

Whichever program you are using, check the program’s import options carefully to see what features it includes for renaming files, organizing images into folders, applying simple fixes and adding metadata as you import the images. Anything that can be done automatically as you import your images will save time later on.

Making backups

If you store all your images on just one disk there is a risk that you will lose them if your disk crashes or something happens to your computer. As a precaution and as part of your import process, and before you do anything more to your images, you should create at least one backup copy of them.

Some programs like Lightroom make this easy to do. In Lightroom’s Import dialog you can chose to backup your images to a second location as part of the import process. This is only the case if you choose Copy, Move or Copy as DNG as the import option, if you choose Add this option is not available. In the File Handling panel is a checkbox you can select to make a second copy of the images to a different location.

In other programs, you may need to back up the images manually. For example, in Picasa you can select the images to back up and choose Tools > Back Up Pictures. This opens up a set of step-by-step panels from which you will first select a Backup set or create a new one. The you can choose the folders or albums to back up and then click to Burn these to a series of CDs or DVDs or copy to an external or network drive.

A  benefit of using this Picasa backup tool is that it will take note of which files you have backed up so that you won’t have to back them up again. This will reduce the time involved in backing up new downloads in future and will save you unnecessary duplication of effort.

Whatever your program offers, backing up is a task that should be done routinely whenever you download your images so you’ll be protected if your computer crashes or if you make mistakes while editing and need to restore an image from the backed up version.


In the next part of this series: Keywording and Copyright Metadata

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

JPEG vs RAW – what’s the difference and what should you use?


Learn the difference between capturing in jpg and raw and when to use each.

One key decision that every photographer needs to make is whether to capture images in jpg or raw formats. With newer and more advanced tools on the market for processing raw images, the incentive to move to capturing in raw is attractive. However, raw images will require additional processing and they are very large so, to help you understand the issues behind the question “jpeg or raw?” I’ll explain the difference between capturing in jpg and raw and why you might choose one over the other and when to do so.

What is in a format?

Before exploring when you might want to capture an image in jpg or raw, it’s worthwhile looking at the differences between these two file formats. The raw file format is a format which is a camera specific so the format of raw images from a Canon camera is different to the format of a raw image from a Nikon camera. The reason for this is that a raw format image contains the data captured by the camera’s sensor and it is unprocessed. Because each camera’s sensor is different, the basic raw format is proprietary to that camera manufacturer and it may even vary from one camera to another within a camera manufacturer’s own range.

Before you can use a camera raw image in a program such as Photoshop, you need to process it using either your camera manufacturer’s raw processing application or a tool such as Adobe Camera Raw. One downside of  capturing images in the raw format is that you need to do this preprocessing before you can use your images. If you capture in camera raw, you will be reliant on special software to be able to read your raw images in future in, say, 10 or 15 years’ time.

As a move away from the notion of a proprietary raw formats that are created by each camera manufacturer, Adobe recently released the dng or Digital Negative file format. This is an open format which can be used by camera manufacturers as an alternative to their own proprietary raw formats. It frees photographers from being tied to a specific manufacturer’s raw format and offers protection for the future simply because of the sheer number of people who will have images stored in this format. The format’s popularity should ensure that there will be programs available in future for most operating systems that can read and process these files.

Camera raw images, when captured in the camera manufacturer’s own format such as crw, cr2, nef or pef cannot be written to and can only be read from. For this reason, if you make changes to a camera raw image in a program such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, then the changes that you make to the image cannot be written to the original image file. Instead, they’re written to what is called a sidecar xmp file which stores details of the changes that you’ve made to the image. Camera raw image processing applications read the original camera raw file and the sidecar xmp file and display the image with the changes you have made to it. However you need to be careful that you do not move a raw file to another location and leave its sidecar xmp behind – if you do, you will lose any changes that you’ve made to the image. The Adobe dng file format avoids this problem as it is a file format that can not only be read from but also written to so changes can be stored in the original file.

Differences in data

The advantage of recording all the data captured by your camera’s sensor in a raw file whether it be your camera manufacturer’s own raw format or Adobe dng is that you have a wider range of image data than you would have if the image was saved as a jpg image. When an image is saved as a jpg image by your camera, it is scaled down considerably so that it is no longer a 32-bit image but is now a 8-bit image with only 256 levels of brightness.

Other changes that are made to the image include sharpening the image and the camera will also apply any white balance setting you have selected to the image. If you have other “in camera” settings configured such as variations to the image saturation, contrast and brightness then these adjustments will be made to the image before being saved as a jpg file. In addition because the jpg file format is a lossy and compressed file format you will lose some detail in saving the image even if you opt for saving at the highest quality.

In contrast, a dng or raw image is not adjusted and all the data that was available from the camera’s sensor will be in that file. Situations in which this can save you some grief is where you have under or over exposed the image or configured an incorrect white balance setting. If you capture in a raw format then you have a larger range of exposure adjustments available to be made inside a camera raw processor than you would have with the corresponding jpg image. In addition, because the white balance setting is not applied to a raw image, you can change the white balance setting later on without compromising the image.

The tools in Lightroom make it easy to apply changes to a range of raw images all at once.

File size differences

Because jpg images include only a subset of the data that the camera captured and camera raw images contain it all, there are significant file size differences between images captured in the jpg and the raw format. For the equivalent pixel size image, a raw image might be around 20MB in size where the corresponding jpg image would be around 5Mb in size. The reason is, of course, that the jpg image has less data in it and the data is also compressed.

One drawback to capturing raw images in the past has been the difficulty of processing these images. Many programs simply couldn’t read the wide range of raw image formats in use by the varying camera manufacturers. This meant that you were either limited to using your camera manufacturer’s own software to preprocess raw images or you needed to purchase an expensive application like Adobe Photoshop to do so. These days the dng format and many proprietary raw formats can be read by a number of applications including the free applications: Picasa and IrfanView.

IrfanView is one of the popular free programs that can display and edit dng and some other popular raw format images.

However, operating systems like Windows Vista and Windows 7 still do not include native support for dng or other raw formats so, when viewing a folder full of dng images you will see icons instead of thumbnails. There are some downloadable codecs available from but they have limited application.

When to use which format

Now that we’ve investigated the difference between capturing in jpg, raw or dng, it’s time to look at when you might opt for one in preference to the other. If you already use a program that includes built-in support for camera raw images such as Picasa, Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Corel Paintshop Photo Pro then you may opt to always shoot in raw or dng because of the ease at which you can work with your images – this is particularly the case with programs like Lightroom and Picasa.

On the other hand, if you typically shoot images to share online on sites like Facebook or Flickr and you don’t usually do much, if any, processing then jpg may be the best option as the files are smaller and you can quickly download them and then get them uploaded to your sharing site. For example, Flickr will let you upload full size jpg images but you can’t upload raw or dng images.

One advantage of capturing in jpg is that you have the flexibility of being able to determine the pixel dimensions of the image you will be capturing in the camera. Most cameras have varying size options available when capturing in the jpg format and also different compression options. If you’re only shooting snapshots for uploading to the web, then you don’t need very big images and you may find smaller jpg format images work as well.

That said, you need to accept that if you are capturing jpg format images you’re reducing the amount of image data that you have available and, if in the future, you decide that you want to do something special with a particular image, you won’t have the full range of image data there to do anything with..

If you’re shooting to sell images for stock, then you absolutely must capture images using the camera raw file format so that you have all the data in the image available to you. Many stock agencies will not accept images captured as jpg images because of the processing that’s applied to those images by the camera including the image sharpening. Stock agencies prefer unsharpened images so that the purchaser can then determine the amount of sharpening they want to apply in each specific case.

There is a way to “have the best of both worlds” and you can capture in both jpg and raw formats. Most cameras can capture jpg and raw or jpg and dng so you’ll get both files for each image that you shoot. You can then download both formats – use the jpg images for your day to day use and store the raw originals in case you ever need to work with those images in future.

 Picasa supports many raw formats so you can view and work with raw images in the same way as jpg images.

Helen Bradley

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Depth of Field – how to use it in your photography

Once you  know how to achieve  different depths of field, the question then becomes when would you use this in your photography?

Once you understand how you can achieve different depths of field in your photography – the question then becomes when would you use this knowledge to craft better photos?

Portraits and a shallow depth of field

There are a number of situations where it is a good idea to have a shallow depth of field and one of these is for portrait and pet photography. In this case you will want to remove any distracting background from around your subject. When the background is cluttered or distracting, a shallow depth of field helps you to isolate the subject from the background.

To achieve this effect, you would do one of these things or a combination of them:

1    Use a zoom lens and zoom in to your subject,

2    Get closer to the subject, and

3    Set your camera to use a large aperture, such as f/2.8 – f/3.8.

When you do this, take care to focus carefully on the subject. One disadvantage of working with a very shallow depths of field is that the amount of the area in the image that is in focus is very small so if you don’t get your focus right, your subject will be out of focus. You need to make sure that what you want to see in focus is the area you are focusing on.

Photographing flowers and products

Another situation in which you may want to use a shallow depth of field is when photographing flowers. The closer you get to the flower the more likelihood the background will be attractively blurred.

In product photography, you may also want to get a shallow depth of field and you’ll find that in many cases, the shallower the depth of field, the more attractive the image is. The difference between a shallow depth of field and a deep depth of field can often be the difference between an attractive photograph and one that looks more like a snapshot.

Landscapes benefit from a deep depth of field

While a shallow depth of field is extremely attractive for portraits and many other types of photographs, when you’re shooting landscapes and cityscapes you will typically want the opposite to be the case and you will want a deep depth of field. For landscape photography, you’ll typically want everything in the image to be in focus.

When photographing landscapes photographers often talk about hyper-focal distance. The hyper-focal distance is the point at which you point your camera at to focus the shot so that everything from that point to infinity is in focus and, in addition, an area halfway from the hyper-focal distance to your camera is also in focus. The image shows you how this hyper-focal distance affects the depth of field.

For landscape photography, you’ll typically want to use a small aperture such as f/9 – f/11, a short focal length such as 17mm and be a good distance away from your subject. Calculating the hyper-focal distance then becomes the issue. In many cases, people simply opt to focus the camera at infinity as this typically gives good results without needing technical calculations.

Too much of a good thing

If you’re tempted to increase the depth of field by simply dialing down your aperture to the smallest possible size such as f/35 or so, think again. While it may seem that this will give you a very deep depth of field it can be counterproductive. At very small apertures an effect called diffraction kicks in and this can cause a decrease in quality in your images. Instead you need to find the sweet point at which the smaller aperture gives you a good depth of field but stop short of where it gets so small that light is diffracted decreasing the image quality.

DSLR vs Point and Shoot for controlling Depth of Field

When you’re looking to achieve different effects with different depths of field, you’ll find that a digital SLR will give you much better results than a point and shoot camera. The reason for this has to do with the relative sensor size of the cameras – the larger the sensor size – the more control you’ll have over the depth of field.

Understanding depth of field and how it impacts the images that you take is a key way that you can impact the quality of your images. Choosing the right option for each shooting situation and knowing how to set your camera to achieve the desired result will enhance your photos.


Helen Bradley

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Controlling Depth of Field in your Photographs

Learn what depth of field is and how your camera settings affect it

Some subjects need to be fully in focus to be shown at their best and others need dreamy out of focus backgrounds to create the right setting. The feature that is key in both situations is called depth of field – it gives you both that ‘everything in focus’ look and it also gives you soft out of focus look. Depending on what you are photographing getting the depth of field right is often the difference between a snapshot and great image.

I’ll explain what depth of field is and how to control it with your camera settings.

What is depth of field?

At its simplest, depth of field is the zone of sharp focus in front of, around and behind the subject in your photo when you are focused on that subject. When you have a shallow depth of field, only a small area around the subject will be in focus and quite often only a small part of the subject will be in focus. Everything else in the image will be out of focus with things further away from the subject, either in front of or behind the subject, being more out of focus the further away they are. This image has a shallow depth of field – it’s a great way to shoot flowers:

When the depth of field is deep, nearly everything in the shot is in focus. You control the depth of field in your images by adjusting the camera’s settings for aperture, adjusting the focal length of the lens and the distance you are from the subject. This image has a deep depth of field – that’s important as we want to see everything in this scene from the grass in front of us to the horizon miles and miles away.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Control depth of field with aperture

One way that you can control the depth of field in an image is to change the aperture that you are using. For this, you will need to have your camera set to Aperture Priority or Manual mode. Selecting an aperture that is very large, such as f/1.4 to f/2.8 will give you a shallower depth of field around your subject. The aperture used for this image was a huge f1.4 so only a small portion of it is in focus:


If you shoot with a small aperture, such as f/9 to f/11 or more you will find that more of the image will be in focus, which gives you a deeper depth of field. If everything else stays the same, the difference in the aperture setting you use can result in a very different image. The aperture used here was a small f11:

One benefit of shooting with a large aperture, such as f/1.4 to f/2.8, is that a lot of light is getting into the camera so you can use a fast shutter speed. Conversely, a down side of shooting with a small aperture such as f/9 to f/11 or more is that less light gets into the camera so you will need to use a slower shutter speed  or a higher ISO value. In some cases you will be shooting with such a slow shutter speed that you will need to use a tripod.

Control depth of field with focal length

The focal length of your lens can also have an impact on the depth of field when you use this to make a subject bigger. So, if you are shooting with a 50 mm lens, you will get a much deeper apparent depth of field than you would if you were capturing an image with a 200 mm lens at the same aperture and if, in both situations the subject size is the same. The depth of field is actually not significantly different but it looks different because there is more background in an image when you capture it with a 50mm lens than you will get when you capture it with a 200 mm lens. So a rough rule of thumb is that the more zoomed into the subject that you are, the shallower the depth of field will appear to be. This giraffe was shot at f5.6 which isn’t a particularly large aperture but it was shot at 300mm zoom so the giraffe is quite sharp and the background is nicely out of focus:


If you are shooting landscapes you will get best results when you use a short lens such as a 28 mm lens as the image will appear to have a much deeper depth of field. On the other hand, a zoom lens can be a good lens to use when shooting portraits because the further you’re zoomed in to the subject the less background will be in the image and the shallower depth of field you will appear to have. This image was shot at f11 with a 28mm lens so everything from the lamp post to the building is in focus:

Control depth of field by varying the distance from your subject

The distance between the subject and the camera is another way that you can impact depth of field. So, for example, if you photograph a subject close up, such as in the region of up to 10 feet away, then the depth of field will be much shallower and more of the image behind the subject and a little in front of the subject will be out of focus. On the other hand, if you move the subject further away from you so that the subject is 20 feet away then the depth of field will be much deeper and there will be a lot more of the image in front and behind the subject in focus. This image was shot with a 200mm lens – the singer was relatively close to the camera  and the background was some distance behind him so the musician is in focus and the background nicely out of focus:

Whenever you’re considering depth of field, you should also note that, when the subject is in focus, the amount of the image that is in focus behind the subject will be greater than the amount of the image that is in focus in front of the subject. The ratio is approximately one-third to two-thirds, so the depth of field will extend roughly one-third in front of the subject and two-thirds behind the subject.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The simple secret to photographing silky smooth water

Fall in love with silky water photography – it’s so easy when you know how

You have probably seen images like the one above that feature impossibly smooth water.

You might have even asked yourself how it was done? Or perhaps you think it is something that can’t be done without expensive equipment and lots of know how.

Well that’s not true. I shot this image with no extra equipment and I’m going to tell you how.

The secret is to shoot really slow. This image took 10 seconds to shoot.

Now I can’t stand still for 2 secs, much less 10 and neither can you so start by finding somewhere to put the camera. I found a place for it at ground level and took a test shot to see it would work, which it did. I backed off the zoom and the composition was pretty good.

So, I had a sturdy place to shoot from. Now, how to easily slow everything down?

You see, slow shooting is what you need for this image. In this night shot the only thing that will be moving a lot is the water. If you can capture the image over a long enough time the movement of the water will blur deliciously and the buildings will remain sharp. That’s the secret to the shot – a long exposure that blurs the water but leaves everything else nicely exposed and sharp.

One option for a long exposure is to use Tv mode on the camera – fancy speak for controlling the speed of the camera. I opted not to do this as I really wanted to use a small aperture and I didn’t want to let the camera choose the aperture size – it would have chosen too large a size resulting in a smaller depth of field – I wanted a deep depth of field so everything would be in focus.

I could have used Manual mode but then I’d have had to make calculations for the shutter speed – too much time and effort to get this right.

So, I selected Av or Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture to f/11. That is a very small aperture so the shot is going to take some time to capture – especially after dark. So far so good. But I wanted it to be slower still and I didn’t want a lot of  noise messing up the image.

The next setting was for ISO which is sensitivity. You use small values like 100 in the daylight and 6400 at night. I set it to 100 – totally the wrong setting for shooting at night because it makes for long shutter speeds but remember we want silky water so it works here. Also a small ISO like ISO100 means less noise than higher ISO values. Don’t get me wrong, I love noise in my images but in its place – I didn’t want it for this image.

So ISO100 both slows down the shot and reduces noise.

So, now the camera is set up, it is nearly time to shoot.

The final camera setting is to set it up for continuous shooting. Ideally you need to take a few shots at once so you want to press the shutter down and hold it and have the camera take a few shots in a row without you having to repeatedly press the shutter. The problem with pressing the shutter is that it moves the camera and movement = blur which is so not what  you want.

Continuous capture means you sit with your finger on the shutter so you don’t move much except on the first and last shot – that’s why you take a few – the first and the last will probably have movement because of the shutter press and release – the shots in the middle should rock!

Now place the camera in the place you already determined it is secure and steady. Steady yourself – I sat down beside it – press the shutter and hold it.

Wait through at least 3 shots (remember the first and last in the sequence are probably ruined so you need at least 3 and preferably more).

When the sequence is complete, review the shots, correct any issues and try again. I took about 4 series of 4+ images to get a couple that were great.



Helen Bradley

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Capturing Photos of reflections – Pt 2

Let’s look a little deeper into how to capture great reflections

In the previous post we looked at the basics of capturing reflections. Here we’ll look at some additional tips and tricks.

Frame the image

When capturing a reflection of a building in a lake, for example, you have two choices for framing the image. You can capture the reflection alone or you can capture the original object and its reflection. The choice is yours. If you’re shooting digital, capture both shots and see which you like best later on.

If you opt to capture both the original and the reflection, consider where the line where one ends and the other begins should be. You can shoot with the ‘line’ across the middle of the photo but this can be distracting as the eye doesn’t know exactly which image to focus on.

A better solution is to place the ‘line’ along the top one third or bottom third of the image – so the reflected area is double the size of the original or half its size. This will balance the image better and give a more restful image. Make sure the line between the reflection and what’s being reflected is very straight, if it is not, it will be very distracting.

Here the buildings are much more interesting as a reflection than they were right side up!

Capture the imperfect

When you’re looking for reflections, don’t always look for perfection. There are interesting photos to be taken where the reflection is bent or rippled because of the characteristics of the reflective surface.

For example, try shooting a reflection captured in a car windscreen. The reflection will be bent and distorted because of this and all the more interesting.

Here the wake of the boat I was travelling on broke the reflection in a very visually rich way:

A sudden shower of rain will open up new adventures in capturing reflections as you will see the surrounds reflected in puddles of water on the ground. Even a storm-cloud laden sky will look more threatening if captured reflected in a puddle.

Focus on the point of focus

When you’re shooting a reflection, check your camera is focusing correctly. You want it to focus on the reflected surface and some cameras may not do this correctly and may, instead, focus on the objects behind the reflective surface.

If you’re using a digital SLR, you can switch to manual focus and focus the lens yourself so you can make sure that the area you’re most interested in is  nice and sharp.

Once you start looking for reflective surfaces to shoot images from you will be surprised at just how many there are and what great effects you can get from them with not
much effort.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

How to photograph reflections

Reflections make for great photos so here’s how to capture them

Reflections occur all around us. When you’re driving, the road behind you is reflected in the car rear vision mirror and your car will be reflected in the chrome on the car next to yours at the stop light.

Other reflections are more obvious and often constructed to be so, for example, the Reflecting Pool at the War Memorial in Canberra reflects the surrounding buildings and beautiful houses are often constructed with lakes in front of them to reflect their beauty.

Capturing these objects and their reflections can lead to some wonderful photos so here I’ll show you want to look out for and how to capture a great shot.

Axe the Polarizer

The first thing to do when shooting reflections is to remove the polarizing filter from your camera. This filter is designed to reduce reflections which, most of the time is a good thing, but not when it’s the reflections themselves you’re interested in.

If you leave the filter on and photograph something reflected in a window, chances are you’ll capture an image of what’s behind the window instead of what is reflected in it.

Ideas for reflections – sunglasses

While a beautiful building reflected in a lake makes for a great shot, there are reflections you’ll come across every day that will often be more interesting because they are not staged or expected.

For example, the lenses in sunglasses will reflect the scene around them. By positioning yourself so you can see something interesting reflected in the lens you can capture a mini scene within the glasses themselves.

Ideas for reflections – rear vision mirror

Car rear vision and side mirrors are great for capturing interesting reflections.

Hold the camera at an angle to the mirror so you don’t capture the camera in the shot (unless you actually want to) and frame the shot in the mirror. You’ll need to frame it very accurately because anything outside what shows in the mirror won’t be captured.

Ideas for reflections – city buildings

If you live in a city there will be reflection opportunities in the buildings around you. For example, capture a busy streetscape in the glass front window of a shop. Look out for an interesting shop to use for this purpose such as a fruiterer or bakery or some shop where what is in the window is as much of interest as what is reflected in it.

When you’re shooting reflections in shop windows, there’s a good chance the final shot will be a mix of reflection and what shows through the glass.

Tall buildings with mirror glass will reflect the buildings around them and the sky too. Look for opportunities where the sun is right and the reflected image an ideal one to compose and capture.


Helen Bradley

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

How to photograph bluer skies

If the skies in your photos are a lighter blue than they should be here is how to capture bluer skies in your photos

If you find that the skies in your summer photos look less vibrant than they should consider investing in a polarizing filter.

A polarizing filter cuts out reflected glare and the result is that colours look more saturated so your skies look bluer. The polarizing filter will also allow you to capture, for example, fish in a pond rather than capturing the glare from the sunlight bouncing off the pond.

When purchasing a polarizing filter, make sure to select the right polarizer for your camera – some won’t work on a camera that uses a through the lens metering system. The polarizer is a glass filter that simply screws onto the lens on the camera so its diameter needs to match the size of the thread on your lens.

If you are using a point and shoot camera then you may need a special attachment to be able to add a polarizer to the camera.

When you are using the polarizer, screw it onto the camera and then turn the ring on it to find the position that gives the best results before capturing the shot.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Photography quick tip – find an angle

Do you always capture photos face on to your subject? If so, add some variety by finding a different angle to shoot from

To add interest to your photos, find a new angle to shoot from.

Instead of always shooting face onto your subject, get down low or get up high to capture something more interesting.

If your point and shoot camera has an adjustable LCD screen you can even get underneath objects like flowers for an even better result.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Fix and perfect a portrait of Mum – Part 2

Image credit: UglyHero at

Once you have captured a great image of mum it’s time to fix it before sharing.

In a recent blog post I talked about how to take great photos of mum for Mother’s Day or any other occasion. Today I am going to explain how to process them.

Once you’ve downloaded and chosen the best shots – it’s time to fix the photos.

Start out with adjusting the white balance if the images need this. You might also want to warm the image if it is too cold so add a slight yellow/orange color cast to it to warm it a bit. This image is a little bit too blue for my taste and it will look better a bit warmer.

You can do this in Photoshop Elements – a good fix there is to adjust the skintones as explained in this blog post Photoshop doesn’t have this fix but whenever I use Photoshop Elements I find it really useful. You can fix skintones and warm the image all in the one step.

I will then fix any skin blemishes – if you’re using Photoshop Elements do that with the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The process is as simple as painting out the problem areas and the uneven skin tones will be smoothed.

To lessen the effect of wrinkles a good fix is to make a duplicate of the image background layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer) and to blur this duplicate layer with a small radius Gaussian blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur).

Then selectively erase the top layer to reveal the sharper features underneath leaving the blur over the wrinkles. You will want to erase pretty much all but the area under the eyes. Finally, reduce the Opacity of the top layer to blend the two layers together if desired. If you’re handy with using masks do it with a mask instead of the eraser.

If the fix is not enough, use the Spot Healing Brush Tool on the top layer to blend out the wrinkles and dark areas under the eyes even more.

I like to use the Photoshop Elements Lightening Brush to lighten a person’s teeth slightly and I’ll often use the Saturation Enhancing Brush to brighten their eyes. Err on the side of caution though, the edits you make should be subtle and gently enhance the photo – you’re not applying Halloween makeup!

If your mum gets just one photo that she loves of herself from those you’ve taken – you’ve given her a wonderful gift. Best of all, you can bet she’ll be happy to pose for you again next year.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Portraits of Mum – Part 2 – select and fix

In my last blog post I talked about how to take great photos of mum for Mother’s Day or any other occasion. Today I am going to explain how to process them.

Once you’ve downloaded and chosen the best shots – I use Lightroom because it is so simple to use, it’s time to fix the photos.

I will adjust the white balance – in the series of images I shot the white balance was a little too warm so I cooled the images down and adjusted the Exposure in the Develop module.

I will then fix any skin blemishes either in Lightroom or, if you’re using Photoshop Elements, for example, I’ll do that with the Spot Healing Brush – it is as simple as painting out the problem areas and uneven skin tones.

To lessen the effect of wrinkles a good fix is to make a duplicate of the image background layer and to blur this duplicate layer with a small radius Gaussian blur filter (Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur). Then selectively erase the top layer to reveal the sharper features underneath leaving the blur over the wrinkles. You will want to erase the blurry eyes and mouth and perhaps some of the blurred hair. Finally, reduce the Opacity of the top layer to blend the two layers together for a great result.

If your images are a colder blue color then use a warming filter to give the portrait a warm pink glow which is very flattering to skin tones. In Photoshop Elements, to do this, choose Filter > Adjustments > Photo Filter and choose a Warming Filter (85). You can set the density of the filter to control how strongly it is applied. In the Lightroom Develop module, you can drag the Temperature slider a little to the right.

I like to use the Photoshop Elements Lightening Brush to lighten a person’s teeth slightly and I’ll often use the Saturation Enhancing Brush to brighten their eyes. Err on the side of caution though, the edits you make should be subtle and gently enhance the photo – you’re not applying Halloween makeup!

If your mum gets just one photo that she loves of herself from those you’ve taken – you’ve given her a wonderful gift. Best of all, you can bet she’ll be happy to pose for you again next year.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Photography quick tip – get up close

You can instantly add a something extra to just about anything you photograph if you get up close

For portraits and pet photos you can get more detail in your shot by getting closer to your subject.

Take a few steps forward to get in close to your subject or use the camera’s zoom if you can’t get physically closer. Fill the viewfinder with your subject and then shoot. Not only will your subject look great but you will remove excess background from the image which generally removes unnecessary and unwanted detail.

Helen Bradley

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