Photography Tutorials

Image debrief from the Canon 5D Mark IV Review

We take a closer look at the images captured during the Canon 5D Mark IV review. I share some of  my thoughts, vision and feelings from the shoot.

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Landscape Photography - Two strong images is better than none

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Composition, settings and images from Vlog 8.

Here we unpick the images from my landscape photography vlog in Haweswater Reservoir in the Lake District. I share camera settings, compositional considerations and discuss the ups and downs of the shoot.

If you missed the vlog you can catch up with it here - https://youtu.be/muuiNNPRfsA

The day was very wet, very windy and I faced some very challenging conditions. I came home with five shots, two that I am really happy with. There have been too many days to remember now when I have been out to capture a great landscape and came back empty handed. Most often this is due to weather and the light not performing as hoped. Clouds can make or break a landscape photograph and often the difference between a great shot, and no shot is a knife edge.

One shot = Success

Long ago I decided that coming home from a day with at least one great shot counts as a success.

This video is designed to give some insight into how I compose the images from my vlog, the camera settings used and general thoughts. Hopefully you can see the composition techniques I employ and the process I go through when capturing my landscape photography. I also some of the filters I have used including and neutral density filter and a circular polariser.

Please let me know if you find the video useful and would like me to do a similar photo de-brief on all my future vlogs.

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Landscape Photography - Unpicking the images from the Ullswater vlog

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Image debrief from my latest landscape photography vlog.

Here I go through the images I captured during my last landscape photography vlog near Ullswater in the Lake District. I share my techniques on composition, camera settings and my thoughts generally.

If you missed the vlog you can catch up with that here - https://youtu.be/1k5l5Eu1vWg

Many of you have been asking me to go into more detail about each image that I capture during my vlogs, including camera settings, compositions and photo editing techniques. I have been reluctant to include this because I fear it could detract from the story of the day and slow down the pace and enjoyment of the film.

However, I am not hiding anything, I want you to have all the information. So I created this video where I discuss each image and include, settings, composition tips and my thoughts generally.

Please let me know if you find the video useful and would like me to do a similar photo de-brief on all my future vlogs.

There will be another landscape photography vlog coming this week so please subscribe to the channel.

PhotoPills Photography App - The Swiss Army Knife of Photography

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The PhotoPills app will take your photography to the next level

In this video we take a look at the PhotoPills photography app. We explain what it is and go over a few of the features to see how this app can really help you capture some amazing images.

Photography Planning App

I have talked before on my vlog about how planning and preparation is key to photography. PhotoPills is an amazing tool to do that. If you you shoot landscapes, sunsets, astro photography, long exposures, star trails or time-lapses then this app is a must for you. Essentially it is a collection of tools that makes planning your shoots easy. It includes things like an exposure calculator, a time-lapse calculator and tools to let you know where the sun, moon and Milky Way will be at certain times of the year and in a given location.

Sadly PhotoPills is not available for Android yet. They are currently in the process of making an android version now that should be out by the end of the year.

Augmented Reality

The app has some excellent features and including an augmented reality mode. If you find yourself in a beautiful location that you think might make a nice shot, you can launch the augmented reality mode and it will show exactly where the sun will be at a particular time and where it will set.

I couldn't live without this now. It saves me so much time and basically all my research and planning for a shot can be done in the app. If you spend some time getting to know the app, follow some of Photopills own excellent tutorials you really will see your photography move to the next level and you'll be capturing amazing images that no one else has.

What it doesn't do is control he weather though.

Cost

It costs about £7.99/$9.99 but that is he most straightforward £7.99/$9.99 you will ever spend. Check it out now.

PhotoPills website - http://www.photopills.com/

Download from the app store - Click here.

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What is the Difference Between Photoshop and Lightroom?

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One of the questions I have been asked the most is what is the difference between Photoshop and Lightroom?

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This is a very understandable question considering both programs now do many of the same things. These powerhouses of photography are now the stablemate of pretty much every photographer. If you are just getting started on your photography journey, understanding the difference between Photoshop and Lightroom will really help you progress and use the strengths of each application at the appropriate time.

For the rest of this post and video I will be assuming you are shooting RAW.  You should be in almost all circumstances.

Photoshop is your all out image editing application. It is a beast. It has multiple tools that allow you to edit and manipulate photographs providing a powerful suite of post processing features. It also allows you to create striking graphics, text effects and artworks from scratch that are used to create so much content everyday both inside and outside the world of photography. Lightroom lacks many of these features.

Lightroom on the other hand is purely designed for photographers. The program is designed to organise, edit and enhance your photographs and makes this extremely easy. Unlike Photoshop, it provides a workflow for your post processing from start to finish and includes a mobile app allowing you to work on the go.

Photoshop generally works by opening and editing a single image. Lightroom, on the other hand, lets you to flick through a catalogue of images allowing you to quickly edit and process a series of images. When working with RAW files both use the powerful features of Adobe Camera Raw. In Photoshop this appears as a standalone window where as it is deeply built into Lightroom.

Both applications work seamlessly together. If you start an edit in Lightroom you can move over to Photoshop to make more complex edits, for example, using layers. Save it and the image links back to Lightroom again for export and viewing. Lightroom has powerful export features allowing batch exports of multiple images saving photographers valuable time.

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So which is best for you? Nowadays that is a pointless question. With the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan you can have both for around £8.50/$9.99.  Just hit the link below and you'll get a 30 day free trial.

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3 Steps to Better Photo Storage and Backup

Save the heartache and properly backup your photos.

It is astonishing in this day and age that the idea of backup is still just an afterthought. When you ask someone if they back up their files they casually say, 'no'. Then, noticing your astonishment, try and placate you saying, 'I've been meaning too'.

This is a serious problem. People are not just storing a few Selfies. People are failing to back up documents and files that, on many occasions,

their livelihoods depend on. For many photographers, enthusiasts and professionals alike, their photos and body of work is everything to them. For me, my photographs are my most valued possessions, unique pieces of work that are irreplaceable.  Losing them is unthinkable but sadly stories of such disasters continue to surface regularly.

All this potential heartache can be avoided by following the 3 steps to better photo storage and backup.

1. Camera Backup 

The first and very simple step is to backup the images on your camera. Many new camera's offer dual card slots offering a level of in camera backup but you will still need to transfer the images to a computer or laptop so do it as soon as possible.

If you're using good quality cards corruption is unlikely but theft and physical damage is still a risk at this stage.

There are numerous ways of transferring your files to a computer but I prefer to remove the card from the camera and plug it into a card reader. This removes the camera from the process and offers faster transfer speeds saving time.

2. External Backup

The key to this stage is to ensure you have two copies of all your files. If all your files are on your computer or laptop then you only need to back this up. However storing large numbers of photos, videos and other files takes up a lot of storage. It therefore becomes necessary to store your files on an external drive to free up space on your computer. If you then delete the files from your computer you need to backup the external drive. Ideally on another external or backup hard drive.

With a dedicated backup HD you minimise the risk to all your files stored on various other physical drives. Programs like Time Machine on the Mac and Acronis True Image make the process of backing up your files very easy. Point them to your Backup HD and they will backup your computer/laptop and all external drives. When you first do this, depending on the number of files you have, it could take a long time to transfer the files. However once complete continued backup will be much quicker as they only backup newly created files or those you have worked on and modified. Both programs give you access to previous versions of modified files offering a very powerful backup solution.

Also be sure that your Backup drive has the capacity to store all the files from your other drives combined. I use the Seagate 8TB External Hard Drive to backup all my files. This excellent and very large drive has the capacity to store more photos than you are ever likely to take but as we all start to shoot more video bigger drives, like this Seagate 8TB, are required.

Seagate Backup Plus 8TB – UK

Seagate Backup Plus 8TB – US

That takes care of drive failure but what about the horrendous situation of fire or theft?

3. Offsite or Cloud Backup

The third step is about ensuring your files are not only backed up but also stored for a third time in another physical location entirely. Now if I return from a holiday to find my house burned to the ground my files will not be lost entirely.

It now seems every tech company going is vying for our business in this space. Services like iCloud, OneDrive and Dropbox do a good job of backing up your mobile devices but can become expensive when backing up your entire computer. Services from Flickr and Amazon offer to backup  all your photos at a reasonable price but this can still leave your other files vulnerable, such as your Lightroom catalogue.

I am now using Backblaze after switching from using CrashPlan. It also offers encryption of your files and if you use your own encryption key even Backblaze themselves cannot read the files.

Backblaze is easy to use and is managed through a small, secure application that is installed on you Mac or PC.

Get a 15 day free trial of Backblaze now by clicking the link below.

Try Backblaze Free for 15 days

Your files are now digitally secure. There is however secret option number 4.

4. Print Them

Recently father of the Internet vint Cerf warned that the world is at risk of losing a massive piece of it’s history because it is all stored digitally. Whilst this would likely come about with some world ending catastrophe it is a good excuse to print more of our work. Do it, you won’t be sorry.

I have created the flow chart below as a reference when planning your backup solution. Feel free to download and share it.

backup

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Camera Filters - Do We Need Them on Our Lens?

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The Truth About Camera Filters

In this video we take a look at various camera filters and whether you actually need them.

There are many kinds of filters in photography from those we put in front of our lens to software effects in Photoshop and filters on Instagram. They all in some way manipulate our images so accusations of 'cheating' from purists about filters added in post-production I find tiresome. Here we look at the most popular physical filters, talk about how they are used, whether they are needed and discuss any software alternatives.

UV Filters

These are probably the most common type of camera filters and screw to the front of your lens. They claim to block out UV light that can be detrimental to your image. The truth is they are a relic of the film era where film was susceptible to UV light and caused your image to appear hazy. Digital sensors on the other hand do not suffer this problem so the filter may only serve to worsen your image through a slight reduction in contrast. The main reason they are still used however is to protect the expensive piece of glass it is attached too. This is really a personal choice so if they bring you piece of mind, go ahead and use them.

Neutral Density Gradients (ND Grads)

It is possible that ND Grads and filter systems such as those from Lee and Cokin were designed purely to give landscape photographers a sense of superiority and smugness that would intimidate other photographers into never taking another landscape shot again. In reality they are used to balance the exposure between the sky and the rest of an image as the sky is generally much brighter than the ground. The difference is usually anywhere up to around 2 stops. There are hard gradient versions and soft gradient versions and which one you use will depend on how defined your horizon line is.

Whilst the effect these camera filters produce is essential in the majority of landscape photographs, the physical filters themselves are not. They are generally large, clunky and difficult to use along with being expensive. Although you can attach them to different lenses with an adapter, they do not scream versatility and ease of use. With the ever increasing dynamic range of modern cameras it is rendering ND grad filters pointless. The effect can be added very quickly in Lightroom bringing out all the detail of a bright sky or darkened foreground as a long as you shoot in RAW.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density camera filters are used to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera by allowing us to use a longer exposure time, or a wider aperture, where otherwise it would be over exposed. ND's are used in video to allow large apertures in very bright conditions to ensure you still get a nice blurred background for you shot.

With stills they allow us to use long exposures to smooth out water or show movement in the image.  They vary in strength and filters like the 10 stop 'big stopper' allow for some extreme long-exposure photography. There is currently no way to imitate the effects of these filters in software so they remain vital in many photographers camera bags.

See how to shoot long exposure landscape photography.

Circular Polarisers

Circular polarisers are used to darken and saturate skies and remove harsh glare from water. It does this using science that you can read about elsewhere but the intensity of the effect can be controlled by rotating the filter.

It is a pleasing effect that is not easily added in post-production so remains useful in certain conditions. If there is no blue sky and no reflections or glare then it will serve no purpose other than reducing your exposure by about 1 stop.

Many of these filters can be combined and screwed together to achieve several of the effects in one shot. Just be careful when using extremely wide angles though as the camera might 'see' the edge of the filters creating a very harsh vignette in your image.

Filters can be an expensive addition to you camera bag. Before buying, decide what type of effect you want to achieve and tailor your purchase to this. Personally I shoot a lot of long exposures so ND filters spend a lot of time on my camera. I use circular polarisers now and again and increasingly leave the ND grad system and UV filters at home.

Buy a Big Stopper now - Hoya 77 mm Pro ND 1000 Filter

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Prime Lenses vs Zoom Lenses: Which is Better?

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In this video we decide which is better: prime lenses or zoom lenses?

Before we answer this question let's first discuss the difference prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses are common on all compact cameras and have the ability to optically zoom in and change the focal length, getting you zoomed in and close to your subject. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of situations.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed. They are less versatile on their own but because of the more simple design they are sharper, cheaper and often have a bigger aperture.

Physical size and focal length does not define it as a zoom or a prime lens as there is a misconception that primes are small and zooms are big.

prime lens vs zoom lens

So which is best? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this and it is really a matter of both personal taste and what you will be shooting.

I love to shoot with prime lenses because the restriction on focal length can often force you to think more about your shot and the only way to zoom is to use your feet to get closer or move further away from your subject. They are great for portraits and low light shooting due to the large apertures and they can create creamy bokeh. This makes them a common sight in the camera bag of a wedding photographer.

Videographers also swear by prime lenses as they are generally lighter and more portable, easy to use and they give that traditional film look. For DSLR video, zooms will often come with image stabilisation that is essential for hand holding video although there are several prime lens on the market now that also have image stabilisation.

Zoom lenses on the other hand are getting better and better all the time and the difference in sharpness is not as pronounced as it used to be. A lens like the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is such a versatile range that it is suitable for almost all situations and you really have to start pixel peeping before you see the difference in sharpness.

tamron 24-70

The only way to truly know which is best for you is to try them out. If you nailed me down ands asked which is better? - I think I would have to say prime lenses. If you ask me which spends most of the time on my camera then it is definitely the 24-70mm zoom.

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Removing People With A Long Exposure

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Expose for longer and the people will definitely leave.

Often as a photographer you are faced with a scene that would be absolutely perfect were it not for one thing. People. The selfish people simply do not appreciate your artistic vision and understand that they are not required in your shot. This is particularly the case at a famous landmark, nature spot or city scene in front of a beautiful old building where you have no chance of keeping everyone out of your shot.

Not the sort of people to give up easily, we must consider our options for removing people.

Photoshop them out

The tools available in Photoshop to remove things from our images are becoming evermore sophisticated and effective. However in a many scenes this will detract from the overall quality of your final image so we turn our attention elsewhere.

Exposure

We are not talking the indecent kind, although that could potentially work too, it is probably not recommended. No, we are talking about slotting your camera into Bulb mode and cranking the exposure right up to 11. With a nice long exposure you will very effectively remove anything from your shot that is moving. The longer the exposure time, the more chance you have of taking the slower moving, and temporarily stationary, people out.

Last year whilst in the Lake District I headed over to Castle Rigg Stone Circle with a solid plan. Thanks to it’s ancient history it is a very popular site and people are free to climb on the stones. It is always especially busy around sunset just when us photographers are trying to capture the best light. On my arrival, there were a lot of frustrated photographers trying to catch that tiny moment when no one was in shot. I knew it was not going to happen so I doubled up my 10 stop and 6 stop ND’s and went for an 8 minute exposure to remove even the most stubborn spoil sports who insisted on staying still for a good few minutes at a time. My relaxed attitude seemed to cause a few of the other shooters there some confusion as I stood back removing people with my long exposure. It turned into a bit of an impromptu workshop on how to capture long exposures and everyone would have gone away happy if only they had brought their tripods.

removing people with a long exposure

How to capture long exposures will be the next major video tutorial to be released here soon.

This article was first released on Medium at https://medium.com/@AdamKarnacz/removing-people-with-a-long-exposure-e25a5b859f8c