Lightroom: Create a Custom Keyboard Shortcut Display

Struggling to remember all those awesome Lightroom keyboard shortcuts? Here’s an easy trick to display all your favorite shortcuts in the Develop Module:

  1. First, in Photoshop, Illustrator, or another image-editing program create a text document (250px wide) with your favorite keyboard shortcuts.
  2. Save the document as a PNG
  3. Copy the PNG document to Lightroom’s Panel End Marks folder
  4. In the Develop Module, right click in the empty space below all the panels and you should see your custom PNG available as a custom end mark.
  5. Celebrate the awesomeness!

Download my custom keyboard shortcuts PNG here.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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6 Tips for Better Seascape Photos

In large part I built my photography career on seascape images and harbor a deep love for them. Yet as beautiful as the ocean is it can be a surprisingly tricky place to shoot. What can you do to take your images to the next level?  Here are 6 simple steps you can use to start producing some killer coastal photographs.

1) Get Proper Support

tripod-helps-seascapes1A good seascape starts with some essential gear, and a solid tripod comes in right at the top of the list. If you are getting serious about nature photography then you’re probably familiar with the upsides of using a tripod, the benefits of which go doubly for coastal photography. Not only does a tripod give you a stable base to photograph from to achieve tack-sharp details, it also allows you to use longer shutter speeds. Some of the best seascape images are taken with shutter speeds of 1/2 second to 30 seconds or longer, and if you’re trying to pull off hand held shots at those long exposures, your photos are going to be blurry disappointments. So slap your camera on a tripod and you’ll see an instant improvement in your images.

Top tip for tripods: push your tripod legs deep into the wet sand at the ocean’s edge, and if a wave wraps around the legs, push them deeper still. The wet sand will “cement” around the tripod legs and give you an awesomely stable base to shoot from, even if waves are rushing around you. And always always always make sure your tripod is level. The last thing you want is for your camera to take a dip in the ocean because your tripod was off-balance and fell over.

A tripod gets you 90% of the way to having sharper photos, but to bring out the best in your shots use a remote shutter release as well. The remote release lets you pop off shots without actually touching your camera, so you can eliminate the camera shake that comes from physically pressing the shutter button. Remote releases come in many different styles from wired to wireless, and basic push-button types to fancy intervalometers. In the beginning the kind you buy is less important than the fact that these little gizmos help add extra crispness and detail to your photos. 

2) Learn to Love GND Filters

Graduated neutral density (GND) filters are a must-have accessory which will bring your seascape photography up a few notches. Because these filters are dark on top and clear on the bottom they allow you to balance bright light in the sky with darker foregrounds, letting your camera capture the entire dynamic range of a scene. While it’s true that in this digital age many photographers are avoiding GND filters, choosing instead to bracket exposures to combine later in Photoshop, this practice will get you into hot water when photographing the ocean, for one simple reason: the ocean is moving. If you bracket exposures at the coast, the water will look different in each shot, and your exposure blend stands a good chance of coming out funky. Using GND filters ensures you can capture everything you want in a single frame.

But be aware that GND filters are like magnets for salt spray, which is one of those unique annoyances that comes with photographing the coast. Every time a wave crashes it sends tiny droplets of salty water into the air. If it’s windy this salt spray can become a photographer’s nightmare: an ever-present mist that blows into your face and onto your lenses and filters. It’s a terrible feeling to think you’ve nailed a shot, only to find out later your photo is covered with water drops. To combat this problem keep a lens wipe or shammy cloth handy and be vigilant about wiping down your lens and filters.

Lens wipe tip: Paper wipes or absorbent shammy cloths are better than microfiber wipes, which can smear salt spray, leaving behind a residue on your lenses and filters. Always bring more than a few wipes with you because sooner or later you’re going to drop one into the ocean and you’ll need a backup.

3) Get Close to the Action

get-closerThe number one thing you can do to improve the content of your seascape images is simple: get closer to the ocean. Don’t be afraid to get into the surf zone and get a little wet. By getting up close and personal with the ocean you will dramatically increase the impact of your photos. You’ll also be in a better position to show off ocean dynamics like wave action, crashes, splashes, whooshes, and cascades. The photos at left show the exact same subject matter and yet one is clearly more interesting than the other. The photo on top was taken 20 feet above the surf zone, whereas the photo on the bottom was taken in the surf zone and is consequently more dynamic, engaging, and full of impact. The simple act of walking 20 feet closer to the ocean improved this photo immeasurably.

Safety tip: Never ever turn your back on the ocean and be aware that rogue waves can occur at any time and can be much larger than other waves, so always keep one eye on the sea. This is especially important when you are shooting in the surf zone. Always have an escape route planned and keep your gear handy in case you need to make a dash for safety. If you do get hit by a wave, don’t try to run as you will most likely trip and fall. Instead, stand your ground and turn sideways to reduce your profile.

4) Experiment with Shutter Speed and Wave Timing

Back to back shots taken at ISO100, f/20, 1/2 sec. By changing the timing of the shots, the waves look different in each.

Back to back shots taken at ISO100, f/20, 1/2 sec. By changing the timing of the shots, the waves look different in each.

One of the great joys of seascape photography is the ability to dramatically alter the look of your images simply by changing your shutter speed. Playing with shutter speed lets us shoot “into the 4th dimension” by capturing visuals that our eyes can’t see.

Whenever there is motion in a scene, shutter speed can be used to capture that movement. Pick a fast shutter speed like 1/100th of a second to freeze crashing waves in mid-air, creating tension and drama in your images. A longer shutter speed of around 1 second can be used to create silky streamers and soft curls in ocean waves. And a very long shutter speed of 30 seconds is useful for creating a completely smooth, misty look to the water.

But what’s really fun about shooting the ocean is not just that it’s moving, but that it’s constantly changing. Unlike shooting a waterfall where back-to-back exposures at the same shutter speed will look identical, back-to-back exposures at the ocean can exhibit entirely different characters and moods, even if the camera settings remain the same. Depending on whether a wave is just beginning to crest, or rushing up the beach, or flowing over some rocks, or washing back out to sea, when you press the shutter button has a remarkable effect on the outcome of your image. So once you’ve found a shutter speed you like, experiment with timing your shots while the ocean is doing different things, and you’ll surely notice some fantastic elements being added to your photos.

5) Create Leading Lines with Water Movement

Top: a foamy curve is used as a line to draw viewers into the scene. Bottom: out-flowing water is captured with a 2-second exposure to create silky, flowing lines.

Top: a foamy curve is used as a line to draw viewers into the scene. Bottom: out-flowing water is captured with a 2-second exposure to create silky, flowing lines.

Compositionally, one of the most important elements in a landscape photo is leading lines. Leading lines are natural pathways that move your viewer’s eye through your image, connecting your foreground to your background. The ocean does a wonderful job of creating leading lines for us, if you know where to look. One of the most obvious lines you can use in your seascape compositions is the line of foam a wave creates as it comes up the beach, as you can see in the top left photo.

But perhaps even more interesting lines are created by the motion of the water itself. By stretching your shutter speed out to 1-2 seconds you can capture the movement of a wave as it moves up and down the beach, creating beautiful running streamers of water that pull your viewer’s eye into your image, as seen in the image on the bottom.

Top tip for creating wave streamers: set your shutter speed to 1-2 seconds. Wait for a wave to crash, rush up the beach, and pause at the top. Just as the wave begins to flow back into the ocean, trip the shutter. Your 1-2 second exposure will capture the movement of the out-flowing water and create beautiful streamers.

No matter what you use as leading lines for your image, make sure that they flow into your photo. Lines that cut horizontally across your frame or flow out of the shot create visual roadblocks which lead your viewer’s eyes out of the image.

6) Switch to Full Manual Mode

Aperture priority produces inconsistent exposures. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, from L to R: 1/6 s, 1/1.3 s, 1/10 s

Aperture priority produces inconsistent exposures. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, from L to R: 1/6 s, 1/1.3 s, 1/10 s

Many landscape photographers like to shoot in aperture priority mode because it’s easy: you pick an aperture to get the depth of field you want, and the camera decides the necessary shutter speed in order to get a proper exposure. However, when shooting seascapes your camera can be easily fooled into creating bad exposures. As waves are crashing and splashing through your scene, your camera will constantly be adjusting exposure to try to keep up with these changing conditions. And unfortunately, most of the time the camera will fail miserably and produce wildly varying results. Despite being taken back to back, the exposures at left shot in aperture priority vary by as much as 3 full stops!

By switching to full manual mode you will lock in an exposure which doesn’t change from shot to shot, meaning you get consistent and repeatable results as seen in the three bottom images.

Manual mode produces consistent exposures when shooting seascapes. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, 1/2 sec

Manual mode produces consistent exposures when shooting seascapes. 3 shots, back to back at f/22, 1/2 sec

For a similar reason it’s important to use manual focus when shooting seascapes. When photographing a moving subject like the ocean your camera’s autofocus can search around a bit before it locks focus. If you are photographing a sequence of wave shots nothing hurts more than having a shot or two in the middle be blurry because your camera was hunting for focus. Use manual focus to avoid this issue. A good trick is to use autofocus to nail your focus initially, but then switch to manual focus and be assured that the rest of your shots will be tack sharp.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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5 Tips for Better Fall Color Photos

Fall is upon us throughout much of the northern hemisphere, and photographers are buzzing like moths to their favorite fall color hotspots. Want to take home fall color photos you’re proud of? Here are five simple tips to elevate your shots.

1) Make colors POP With Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

For most landscape photography you get the best lighting conditions around sunrise or sunset when the sun is low in the sky and much less harsh than at midday. But when shooting fall colors you will see an amazing glow in the leaves if you photograph them under direct sunlight. The effect becomes all the more intense when the leaves are backlit by the sun.

2) Create Complementary Color Contrasts

The golden leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

The golden color of the leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

Glowing leaves are fantastic in their own right but one way to make them stand out dramatically is to utilize complementary color contrasts. Set up your composition so that yellow leaves contrast against a blue sky or red leaves contrast against dark green trees and you will really see your colors come to life.

3) Enhance Colors and Reduce Glare With a Polarizer

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Another way to enhance the colors of your fall shots is a simple gear fix: use a polarizing filter. This will cut glare off the foliage, increase color saturation, and help the hues of your photo become richer.

4) Find a Focal Point

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

Forest interiors are often visually chaotic spaces. One way to help simplify them is by finding an obvious focal point to attract your viewer’s eye. A particularly colorful splash of foliage can work well, but one of the easiest and most powerful focal points is the sun itself. Pro-tip: use a small aperture like f/16 and you will create a sunburst, making the sun even more of an eye magnet.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

5) Get Creative in Tough Light

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene.

If you’re shooting in light that isn’t doing your scene any favors, try shaking things up with intentional camera blur. Stop your aperture all the way down and consider tossing on a polarizer as well in order to increase your shutter speed to the 1/4″ to 1″ range. Then try zooming, panning, or even shaking the camera. These techniques cause harsh highlights and shadows to blur together, creating softer tones as well as funky abstract forest impressions. It takes a bit to master, but shooting like this is incredibly addictive and no two shots are ever alike!

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space. 1/4 sec.

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens. 1 sec.

Got any of your own favorite tips for shooting fall colors? Let us know in the comments below!

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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How to Create Raw Panoramas in Lightroom CC

Lightroom CC (and ACR CC) now have the ability to create raw panoramas directly in the program. The resulting panoramas are DNG files and are completely editable in Lightroom as raw files. Learn how to use this powerful new capability, as well as some best practices and finer points of the tools.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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How to Process a Landscape Photo in Lightroom

In this Lightroom workflow tutorial learn how to beautifully develop your landscape photos in less than 10 minutes. Learn to effectively use the tone curve, spot removal tool, graduated filters, and more.

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Create Long Exposure Streaks When Photographing Waves at the Ocean


The ocean is a wonderful place to photograph. Its constant moving and grooving makes it an endless playground to experiment with all kinds of long exposure effects. And it’s obvious why so many photographers love turning these crashing waves into silky ribbons of water, because it totally rocks! So wave hello to a new era in your photography, as we sea how it’s done.

Titles1
First, you want to use a shutter speed roughly in the 1/4 – 2 second range. With faster shutter speeds than that you won’t see enough motion in the water, and with slower shutter speeds you risk your water starting to enter “The Oatmeal Zone,” where it becomes an undefined, gloopy mess. That sweet spot between 1/4 and 2 seconds gives you a good amount of motion while still retaining detail and coherency in the water, which is vital for see strong streaks.

In order to achieve those desired shutter speeds you’ll either need to use an ND filter during the day, or shoot during sunrise and sunset when the light levels are low. In any case, be sure to use a tripod for sharp results.

Titles2
Next, the timing of when you actually trigger the shot is critical. Personally I find I get the best results when a wave has come up the beach, paused at the top, and is starting to flow back out. That’s when I trip the shutter for silky goodness. And definitely make sure you’re using a remote so that you can trigger the shot at just the right time without having to touch your camera.

Titles3
You’ll see the strongest possible streaks when the water your photographing is being funneled in some way. Whether it’s flowing around a rock, through a chute, or even around your own legs, when water is channeled in this way it gives the most dynamic look.

Titles4
You may notice that your tripod has a tendency to sink when you’re shooting in the sand. In order to prevent this push your tripod legs 4-8 inches down into the wet sand and this will give you an amazingly stable platform for those long exposures.

And there you have it, the three simple steps you need to take to create those beautiful streaky wave shots, now get out there and practice!

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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Through The Lens: The Making of "Jurassic Monkeys"

monkey-creek-fiordland-national-park

Monkey Creek, New Zealand. f/11, 1/2 sec, ISO64, 23 mm

In April of 2015 when I was photographing the sunrise at Monkey Creek in Fiordland National Park in New Zealand I found myself in a tricky situation that’s very common in landscape photography: the sky was lighting up brightly with vibrant colors, but the surrounding mountains were still in deep shadow, creating a massive range of bright and dark tones in the scene. And not only was I trying capture this huge dynamic range but I was also intent on photographing the movement of the creek rushing by my feet. I knew I wanted everything in focus as well. So this meant that in my exposure I had to solve four major problems: capturing all the details in the shadows, capturing all the details in the highlights, obtaining sufficient depth of field, and targeting my shutter speed to capture the motion I wanted in the creek. It was a lot of variables to juggle, but by applying some fundamental principles of photography I was able to solve all four problems to create this shot. Here’s my process:

1) Compose and Dial In Initial Camera Settings

Using my wide angle lens to capture a good chunk of the sky, the mountains, and the creek, I found that I got the most pleasing balance to the composition and minimized some distracting elements by zooming in to 23mm. Next, because I knew I’d need as much dynamic range as I could squeeze out of my camera I set my ISO to its lowest setting, 64 in this case. Then, because I had somewhat zoomed in my wide lens and was fairly close to my foreground I guessed I’d need an f-stop of around f/16 to get sufficient depth of field. I dialed that in, set my focus roughly 1/3 into the frame, and used Live View to check my sharpness. I needed to fine tune the focus position a little bit but after a minor tweak everything was indeed sharp from front to back, great!

2) Compress Dynamic Range of the Scene

Because the shadows were quite dark and the highlights so bright I knew my camera would have a tough time capturing the details in both tonal ranges. So I used a graduated neutral density filter to help compress the dynamic range of the scene. Placing the dark part of the filter over the top half of my frame I was able to darken the sky with respect to my foreground. Of course, this had the unwanted side effect of further darkening the already-dark mountains in the top half of the frame. However, digital cameras have incredible abilities when it comes to capturing shadow detail, so I knew that I was better off darkening the highlights to a capture-able level. Even though this meant the shadowy mountains got darker, it was very unlikely they’d get so dark I couldn’t recover their details in post. Whenever I’m faced with a situation like this my mantra is: expose for the highlights, recover the shadows.

3) Test Exposure and Salt to Taste

With my dynamic range compressed, and my f-stop and ISO set, the next step was to find a shutter speed that would give me a good exposure. I used the exposure simulation histogram on my Live View to dial in an initial shutter speed of 1.3″ and hit the button. Since this preview histogram is just a guess made by the camera I couldn’t be sure my exposure was correct until I checked the “real” histogram (along with the Highlight Warning) displayed via image playback. In this case, both showed some slight overexposure and blown highlights, although the histogram showed my shadow details were all intact. So I reduced my shutter speed to 1″ and tried again. This time the playback histogram showed no blown highlights and no clipped shadows. Yes! A perfect exposure!

However, there was still a problem: at a 1″ shutter the water in the creek was too smooth for my tastes: a soft, silky blur. While I often love that creamy look, in this case I wanted to capture a little more action in the lively movement of the stream. I couldn’t simply shorten my shutter speed to freeze the water, because then I would start to severely underexpose the image. So to shorten my shutter I needed to compromise somewhere else. The easiest place to start was aperture; if I opened it up at the same time as I shortened my shutter my exposure would stay the same. However, I didn’t want to risk losing depth of field, so I took baby steps. From f/16 I moved to f/14 and found everything was still sharp. Then f/13, and even f/11 were still good. But below that the foreground and distant mountains began softening. So I stayed at f/11, which allowed me to change my shutter speed from 1″ to 1/2″, resulting in a dramatic change in the way the water looked. It kept the smooth parts of the creek silky and sinuous, but that shorter shutter froze more of the action in the bubbling and rollicking parts of the stream. It was a perfect sweet spot in my mind. So then I fired off a final shot, again checking my histogram and highlight warning to make sure I’d nailed the exposure.

Side note: If you aren’t sure how to use the histogram to perfect your exposures and create an in-field workflow like the one I just described, please check out this great video course, Histograms Exposed, from my friends Varina and Jay Patel. In the course they discuss what a histogram is and what it represents. They tell you how to view it on your camera along with the highlight exposure warning. They break down the different kinds of histograms and which is best to use. Varina and Jay also fully explain the most important part of a histogram: what it’s telling you about the exposure and contrast of your photo so you can get great exposures. And they also provide their in-field workflow to give you a system to analyze a scene and to use your histogram to get a good exposure every time.
Histograms Exposed

4) Bonus: Post Processing

Monkey Creek - Before and After

Left: Straight Out of Camera; Right: After Processing in Adobe Camera Raw

Of course, the raw file that my camera produced was very flat and boring. It had all the shadow and highlight detail, but it lacked the color, the punch, and the drama I felt while photographing the scene. So the next step was to bring the image to life in Adobe Camera Raw. And while the before and after results may look dramatically different, the processing was fairly straightforward. I boosted the exposure and shadows, then reduced the highlights. I warmed up the white balance and added a kiss of magenta. I added some clarity for local contrast and made increases to the saturation and vibrance. I then used the tone curve to increase the global contrast of the photo, along with a graduated filter to further brighten the foreground and add contrast and punch. Et voila! The final image.

Another side note: If that last paragraph sounded like Greek to you, check out my 2-hr video course, The Complete Guide to Adobe Camera Raw. I teach you how to do everything I just said and lots more in super easy, bite-sized chunks.
The Complete Guide to Adobe Camera Raw

And there you have it, a step-by-step explanation to the thought processes behind this image. Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

~Josh

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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The Rule of Thirds – Improve Your Photography Composition

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most widely known and fundamental ideas in composition. And while it’s often thought of as basic composition, understanding where it comes from means knowing when to use it, and knowing when to break it.

If you haven’t heard of the rule of thirds, here’s the 10-second version: Divide your frame up into a tic tac toe board, then place the important elements of the composition on those thirds, either horizontally, vertically, or on the intersection points. It’s a simple way to start making effective compositions, but what’s the real reason it works?

Well, the rule of thirds effectively accomplishes two main things. First, it allows you to unambiguously direct attention in your photos, creating visual flow from one side of the image to the other. If your subjects were more centered, your eye wouldn’t know which way to travel.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, the rule of thirds lets you tell people what the most interesting and important part of a scene is. This is why landscape photos often put the horizon on the top third, because it’s saying “this photo is about the landscape, so I’m giving it most of the weight of the photo, and the sky, while it may be beautiful, is less important to understanding this specific place than the landscape is, so it only gets 1/3 of the weight of the photo.”

So what happens if the sky IS the most interesting and important part of the scene?

Ah ha! Well here’s where things get really cool, and where you realize the rule of thirds has actually very little to do with thirds at all, and lots more to do with what you find interesting.

Say you do have a brilliant sky, and a bland landscape? Then give your sky most of the weight of the photo. That’s you saying: look at THIS. The more interesting you think something is, the more weight you should give it in your photo. Even to the point where the sky or the landscape might become a teeny sliver in the photo.

Or if you have two things of equal importance in your photo? Then give them equal weight. This is why reflection shots work so well with the horizon smack bang in the middle of the frame.

Because the rule of thirds is not about actual numbers, but rather about balancing the proportion of interesting elements in your frame. And once you realize that, then your compositions will begin to follow your artistic vision.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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Convert Photos to Black and White in Photoshop – A Powerful, Easy Method

In the latest video from Pro Photo Tips, learn a unique, easy-to-use, and powerful method to convert your photos to black and white in Photoshop. No need for the clunky built-in B&W tool or expensive plugins.

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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Levels vs Curves: A Photoshop Showdown

In earth’s history there have been some truly monumental matchups, the Greeks vs the Trojans, Gandhi vs Rambo, and a Tyrannosaurus against, uh, a bigger Tyrannosaurus. But there is one match up, and I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this, that eclipses them all: Curves vs Levels. Which is the best tool and which one should you use? Read on to find out.

The two most common tools for adjusting brightness and contrast in Photoshop are levels and curves. But is there a different between them, and is one better than the other? The answer to both questions is a resounding YES! but in order to understand why we need to take a look at how the tools work. Let’s start with levels.

Key Points of Levels:

  • Displays RGB histogram
  • Allows you to set black, white, and gray point for the image
  • Lets you adjust the zero point for color intensity, as well as the max point for color intensity
  • Can do contrast / brightness / color intensity adjustments
  • Can set max black and white values for image, creating a limit to the deepest blacks and brightest whites
  • Presets for quick adjustments.

That seems pretty robust already! What about Curves?

Key Points of Curves:

  • Displays RGB histogram
  • Allows you to set black, white, and gray point for the image
  • Lets you adjust the zero point for color intensity, as well as the max point for color intensity
  • Can do contrast / brightness / color intensity adjustments
  • Can set max black and white values for image, creating a limit to the deepest blacks and brightest whites
  • Presets for quick adjustments.

Hmmm, seems awfully similar to Levels! In fact, up to this point the two tools are essentially identical. But here’s where Curves stomps levels into the ground:

  • There’s no limit to number of control points you place on the curve and individual tonal ranges you can subsequently adjust
  • More user friendly with the hand tool, and a more intuitive interface (drag up to make brighter, drag down to make darker)
  • But the biggest on of all: unlike Levels, Curves preserves the white and black point of your image, allowing for tonal and color adjustments without clipping data

So since you can do everything and more with curves, use curves! Really the only reason reason to use levels is if you find the curves interface initially intimidating.

Do you know of a reason to use levels over curves? Let me know in the comments!

Got another question? Check out our Landscape Photography FAQ here:
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Anatomy of a Landscape Photo

What goes into a great landscape photo? See how the four critical elements of any good image -Subject, Technique, Composition, and Light- are used to craft this photo from the Peruvian highlands.

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The Top 5 Most Common Mistakes in Landscape Photography

Contrary to popular opinion, mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They help you learn, they keep Hallmark in business, and sometimes they go hand in hand with really excellent tattoos. And in landscape photography identifying some common mistakes can help you improve your photos by leaps and bounds. Mistakes are a controversial topic in the very subjective world of art. After all, one man’s mistake is another man’s mistook. Nevertheless, I’m going to plunge right in and tell you what I think are the top 5 most common mistakes made by landscape photographers.

Image 5 - sky

Our eyes automatically home in on whatever is most interesting about a scene, so it’s only natural to take our cameras and point them straight at whatever we’re looking at, like say, this fantastic vista. The only problem is, this tends to put our subject smack dab in the middle of the frame and fills half the photo with boring, blue, emptiness. BlueSky001vidTo fix this, pan down, zoom in, or get closer in order to fill your photo with more goodness, and less emptiness.


BlueSky002vid

Image 4 - Poorly Exposed Photos

Your LCD will lie to you. Depending on the lighting conditions you’re shooting in, as well as the brightness of your camera’s display, looking at the LCD alone makes it difficult -if not impossible- to tell if your photo is actually well-exposed. So instead of relying on the LCD, learn to read the histogram in order to get better exposures.

Image 3 - Laxy Fieldwork

Part of the reason that the previous mistake happens so frequently is the idea that any mistakes made in the field can be fixed in post. This far-too-prevalent concept also leads to all kinds of lazy photography, from not using a tripod to making careless compositions. But this approach limits your photography in a serious way. Instead, if you take pains to capture the best possible photo in the field, then rather than making a bad photo good in post, you’ll be making a good photo great.

Image 2 - Bad light blues

Ok ok, before I give mother nature low self esteem, I should say there’s really no such thing as bad light. There is however, light that doesn’t do anything to beautify the particular scene you’re photographing. And the common mistake I see is photographers trying to shoehorn this non-ideal light into a photo where it doesn’t belong.Bad Light

So for any scene you’re shooting, think about what kind of light will make it look the best. For landscape photography an easy place to start is shooting at sunrise or sunset, when the light is generally softer, more colorful, and more even.Good Light

Image 1 - Complexification

And the number 1 mistake I see in landscape photography is this: not showing the viewer what your photo is about. Whether that’s because there’s too much stuff in your photo, there are distracting elements on the edges, or you’re simply not close enough to your subject, the problem is one of obfuscation, or of obscuring the message. And the way to fix it is simple: simplify.

Personally, I approach the issue like I’m making a caricature of the landscape: I figure out what the photo is really about, then I simplify and exaggerate those elements as much as possible, removing distractions and making it clear exactly what I want the viewer to see. Check out this article for more.

And there you have it, my top 5 mistakes in landscape photography. If you have your own common mistakes, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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