Three Filters For Making Better Photographs

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These three filters will help you make better images.

Polarizing filter. Benefits: Reduces reflections on water (and glass and foliage), but it can also make your pictures look sharper by reducing reflections on atmospheric haze.

Variable ND filter. Benefits: Lets you shoot at slow shutter speeds in bright light to create the "beautiful flowing water" effect.

Topaz Labs filters. Actually, Topaz offers many plug-in filter sets for creative and corrective image making. Topaz Black & White Effects is just one.

Speaking of three: These 3 books will make you a better photographer:

Explore the light,

Don't Be a Dummy When It Comes to Studio Lighting

One easy and affordable method for honing your home studio lighting skills is to practice lighting techniques with a mannequin, which you can easily order from

When working with a dummy, you can place lights in different positions for different effects – without a live “model” complaining and for charging you overtime - and without wasting a client's time.

Here you see in my mannequin photos, clockwise from the top left, the effects of using:
- one main light;
- main light, background light set to 1/2 power and a hair light;
- main light, a background light set to full power and a hair light;
- and main light and a light behind the subject pointed at the subject.

For my mannequin photos, I used Canon Speedlites and Westcott diffusers for this series of images. I fired the Speedlites with my Canon wireless transmitter.

My "Girl with a Pearl Earring" photograph was taken with a Canon Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo Softbox. Click here to read about the shoot.

Remember, when a subject shows up in your studio, you can’t waste time. Otherwise, you may look like a dummy.

My next lighting workshop will take place in NYC on November 4th.

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Deal of the Week!

Get a 41% discount on Photoshop Artistry: Fine-Art Grunge Composition.

Create the M.C. Escher Effect

The work of M.C. Escher inspired this image.

Here’s how you can create this type of mirror image in Photoshop.
-       Open a file.
-       Select All and copy the file.
-       Create a new document and drop-in the file.
-       Now you have two images that are exactly the same opened on your monitor.
-       On the newer file, go to Image > Rotate > Flip Horizontally (or Vertically).
-       On the newer file, double the Canvas size in one direction: Image > Canvas size. Now you have a document that is half blank and half filled with your image.
-       Go back to your original file and copy and paste it into your newer file. Align the images so the inner edges match up for a perfect mirror image.
-       Try rotating the image, as I did, for different effects.

M.C. worked in black-and-white. Try converting your image to black-and-white. I used Tonality Pro from MacPhun to create the above black-and-white image. Read about this cool plug-in, and all the plug-ins I use on my Play & Save on Plug-ins page.

And speaking of plug-ins, this is an HDR image created with Photomatix. Save 15% on Photoshop on my Play & Save on Plug-ins page.

We shoot here on my Digital Delray Workshop.

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Today's Guest Blogger: Linda Cullivan

I met Linda Cullivan – and her husband, expert Maine lobster chef and boat captain Mike – a few years ago at a seminar in Plymouth, MA. Since then this dynamic duo have participated (and I use the word participated because they really participate) on my Alaska, Iceland, Bosque del Apache and Florida workshops  – and they are coming to my "Croton Creative Workshop" this fall.

Like many of my workshops participants, Linda and Mike have become my friends. These guys are not professional photographers, but they sure do make professional-quality images.

When Linda casually showed me the last photograph you see in this post, I asked her to write a guest blog post – because I wanted you to see her work. Here goes and thank you Linda!

My friend Rick Sammon asked me to write about an image I recently took of a pileated woodpecker family.  I love birds, and pileated woodpeckers are one of my favorites.  

In the seven years I have been photographing, I did not have any good images of this beautiful woodpecker. 

When a friend called to tell me of a pileated woodpecker family two hours south of where I live, there was no hesitation.  I hopped in the car and drove down to find the nest.   

The directions were good and it didn’t take long to find the site.  I set up my tripod with my camera and Canon 500mm lens with a 1.4x extender and waited. 

There were three young woodpeckers in the nest, and I took a number of shots of them. The day was bright although there were plenty of trees for shade.  I set my ISO to 400 and shot in aperture priority at f/8.  I wanted to make sure I had all the birds in focus and those settings gave me enough of a shutter speed to accomplish that.

It wasn’t long before one of the parents flew into the seen to feed the young.  I managed to get a nice shot of one of the parents flying in to the nest, as well as a nice image of the father feeding the young birds.

There was a group of about a dozen photographers and we "chimped" and showed each other our best images.  It was a great way to spend a few hours.  It wasn’t until I got home and downloaded my card that I found what turned out to be my best image of the day – the image you see below, which is the image Rick "flipped out" (his words) over. 

I’d been happy with everything that I had taken but this image really made my day!

Here is my advice:  Learn from the best, shoot as much as you can and follow your passion.  Combine practice and hard work with a bit of luck and you can get an image that makes your heart sing. It happened to me!

• • • • •

Thank you Linda for sharing your work. Until the next lobster dinner!

Explore the light,


P.S. Here's a photo of Linda and Mike that I took on my Iceland workshop. Great couple and great fun!

One Photograph - 24 Photo Tips!

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I love teaching photography and sharing my photographs. So, I thought it would be fun to see how many photo tips I could give that apply to this photograph - which I took with my Canon 5D Mark III camera and Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Also: Tiffen polarizing filter and Black Rapid strap.

Here goes.... but first, this image was taken on the Death Valley Photo Workshop that I teach with Hal Schmitt. We hope to see some of you in February, 2015.

1 Never underestimate the importance of a good subject.
2 Never underestimate the importance of a good location.
3 Watch the background.
4 Expose for the highlights.
5 Focus on the face.
6 Pay attention to light on the face.
7 Shadows are the soul of the picture.
8 Props Rock.
9 Composition is the strongest way of seeing.
10 Play with plug-ins.
11 Direct the subject.
12 Frame the face.
13 Separate the subject from the background.
14 Chase and catch the light - you snooze you loose.
15 Placement of the horizon line is important.
16 Burn and dodge carefully.
17 Cropping gives us a second chance at composition.
18 Be prepared with the right lenses.
19 Don't skimp on a filter.
20 Master technique, but.... (see number 21)
21 The most important thing about a picture is the mood/feeling.
22 Make pictures, just don't take pictures.
23 Explore the light.
24 Have fun!

Like landscape photography? Check out my class on basic landscape photography on Craftsy.

Explore the light,