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Three Great Uses For A 50% Gray Layer

The whole idea behind editing an image on different layers in Photoshop is to employ non-destructive editing

The whole idea behind editing an image on different layers in Photoshop is to employ non-destructive editing. Any edit you make doesn’t irretrievably change the actual image-forming pixels, but rather these edits happen on layers above the original, unmodified background. A layer filled with 50% gray, when combined with a layer mode like Overlay... Read more

How To Find A Lens’ Sharpest Aperture

There’s an old photographer’s rule of thumb that states the sharpest aperture on a given lens can be found about three stops from wide open

There’s an old photographer’s rule of thumb that states the sharpest aperture on a given lens can be found about three stops from wide open. That means on a lens with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8, the sharpest aperture is likely to be around ƒ/8. In practice, it’s different with every lens, but it’s always somewhere near the... Read more

How To Fake A Ring Light Strobe

Ring lights are popular light sources, especially for fashion and glamour photography

Ring lights are popular light sources, especially for fashion and glamour photography. The strong direction of the frontal source and its unique shadow outline are hard to replicate any other way—unless, of course, you don’t have a ring light, and you want to fake it, as I did here. All you need to create a fake ring light is a round... Read more

Making Multiple Exposures In Camera

Did you know your DSLR might make it easy for you to make in-camera multiple exposures

Did you know your DSLR might make it easy for you to make in-camera multiple exposures? DSLRs are increasingly outfitted with multiple exposure options, and I’d be surprised if sooner than later it wasn’t standard for every camera. In the old days of film, you had to mechanically trick your camera into not advancing the film to... Read more

The Ten Commandments Of Studio Product Photography

I drafted this list of ten commandments to help these young photographers maximize their chances of tabletop photography success

I teach a product photography class, and I’m consistently surprised when fairly advanced students still get confused on some basic do’s and don’ts of camera settings for working in the studio, particularly with subjects that aren’t moving. So I drafted this list of ten commandments to help these young photographers maximize... Read more

How To Up-Res An Image File

I recently sent an image file to a client who had plans to enlarge it to more than five feet wide for a trade show display

I recently sent an image file to a client who had plans to enlarge it to more than five feet wide for a trade show display. Straight out of the camera, my file was more than 5,000 pixels on the long side, and the printer’s specifications said it should be 7,000 pixels, so I fired up Photoshop, used the Image Size controls to increase the... Read more

Give New Life To Old Lenses

As much as I hate to admit it, when it comes to my gear, I can be a bit of a cheapskate

As much as I hate to admit it, when it comes to my gear, I can be a bit of a cheapskate. It’s not that I won’t invest in good gear. On the contrary, I like to invest in good gear and then keep it for years and years and eke out every last drop of usability before I buy something to replace it. Which is why it still troubles me that... Read more

Layer Images To Eliminate Noise

As great as digital camera sensors have become at combating noise, this film-grain-reminiscent interference can still rear its ugly head

As great as digital camera sensors have become at combating noise, this film-grain-reminiscent interference can still rear its ugly head at high ISOs and in long exposures. So, removing excessive noise—literally improving the signal-to-noise ratio—is as important as ever. There are plenty of traditional approaches to eliminating noise—from... Read more

Getting Creatively Unstuck

There’s a technique I preach when teaching students about arranging tabletop still-life photographs

There’s a technique I preach when teaching students about arranging tabletop still-life photographs. Because we tend to arrange things a little too perfectly even when we’re working hard not to, I like to suggest setting up a scene just as you think it should be and then moving the camera 90 degrees to the side. This sideways approach... Read more

How To Future-Proof Your RAW Files

In a back room of my studio we have a half dozen file cabinets jammed full of negatives and transparencies from the good ol’ film era

In a back room of my studio we have a half dozen file cabinets jammed full of negatives and transparencies from the good ol’ film era. The bad thing about them is they take up a lot of space, but the good news is they’re essentially future-proofed. They’re analog, and they’re stored archivally, and I could take one out and print... Read more

Catalog Photography How-To

Sometimes it’s the simplest shots that require the most carefully crafted techniques

Sometimes it’s the simplest shots that require the most carefully crafted techniques. That’s my opinion of simple studio-style catalog photography, in which a product of some sort is photographed on a white background. It’s a clean, clear, straightforward representation. But, as anyone who’s ever attempted making a white background... Read more

Split Toning Three Ways

In the days of the darkroom, smart photographers didn’t settle for simply making a pleasing black and white print

In the days of the darkroom, smart photographers didn’t settle for simply making a pleasing black and white print. They took their silver-halide process one step further and toned prints to make them last longer. This archival processing had an added benefit: the resulting tones—blues from one element, pinks, browns and golds from others—added... Read more
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