10 Common Bird Photography Mistakes and Their Solutions

Do you commit mistakes in photography?

I bet you do. I have made mistakes. As a matter of fact I have committed many. But we all learn from our mistakes. What you don’t have to necessarily do is to re-invent the wheel. Instead of learning about these common mistakes the hard way, why not learn from other’s mistakes? That sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Sandhill Crane Family Flying on a Beautiful Autumn Morning in Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville in northwestern Indiana. Every year around 10,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate to this location during Autumn. The calls of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that reaches several miles is an experience that is next to none. It is one of the best locations to photograph them as they fly past the Autumn trees at the Sunrise to feed in the close by farms.

Sandhill Crane Family Flying on a Beautiful Autumn Morning in Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville in northwestern Indiana. Every year around 10,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate to this location during autumn. The calls of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that reaches several miles is an experience that is next to none. It is one of the best locations to photograph them as they fly past the autumn trees at sunrise to feed in the nearby farms.

Here is the list of 10 common bird photography mistakes and their solutions. If you learn and apply these bird photography tips you would see the results immediately in your images.

#1 BAD EXPOSURE

This is the biggest mistake. A bad exposure would ruin the photograph. Most common is overexposed (blown-out) highlights.

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Overexposed – highlights blown out.

The issue is that your camera has much less dynamic range than your eyes. This means you can see the details in both brighter and darker regions of a scene, but the camera doesn’t.

You have to make a choice whether to keep the details in the brighter or the darker region. Your choice would almost always be to keep the details in the brighter region. Because our eyes are more sensitive to brighter areas (or highlights).

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Correctly exposed for the highlights.

In short – always expose for the highlights.

#2 BAD LIGHT

Photography is painting with light. If you underestimate the light, then you are bound to get bad photographs. It’s not an exaggeration to say most photographers seem to ignore it.

More the time is spent debating about equipment, than studying the light. No equipment can save your photograph if the light is not favorable. Look how boring this silhouette of an India peafowl is.

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Just before minutes, it was like this.

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Isn’t it evident? Learn to see the light. It’s all about light.

#3 BAD COMPOSITION

Bird photography is not demanding in terms of composition. Even so, a lot many bird photographers don’t seem to understand simple techniques. All that you need to know is the rule of thirds, the rule of spaces, and fill the frame composition techniques.

How many times have you seen a photograph like this? A subject in the center!

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Just by following the rule of thirds, this is what I got.

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Next time you are out in the field, remember to compose well.

  • Place the bird off-centered and give enough it breathing space.
  • Or, fill the frame with the bird.

That is as simple as it gets.

#4 BAD FOCUS

Blurry bird photos are everywhere. Birds are always active, making it harder to achieve sharp focus. But that doesn’t mean you don’t recognize it. If you rely heavily on your LCD monitor, this is what happens.

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Nothing seems to be wrong in this photograph, right?

Wrong. It’s a blurry photograph. Can you see the out of focus eye now?

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Fixing it is easy. Check for the critical focus by zooming in on your LCD monitor. If it’s not sharp, make the adjustments until you get the focus perfect. The initial focus was on the bird’s body. By shifting the focus point to the eye of the bird, I got this tack-sharp image.

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#5 WRONG POINT OF VIEW

How do you see your world? From your eye level…isn’t it? But, how does the bird see its world? You got the point. But more than 90% of the bird photographers do not seem to understand this simple concept. They shoot from their eye level. Can you believe that?

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If you are doing it too…stop it right now. It’s not your portrait but the bird’s.

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Get down and shoot from a bird’s point of view, and see the magic unfold.

#6 WRONG HEAD ANGLE

Your eyes follow the lead. You will follow the line of sight of a bird. If the bird looks left, your eye will move in that direction and vice versa. If your eye is lead in an interesting way, then your image works.

What doesn’t work is when the bird looks away. It’s not uncommon to see such photographs everywhere on the web.

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Wait for the right head angle. Take photograph when bird is actively looking for its prey. Or, when it is sensing an impending danger.

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With just the right head angle, the image became more interesting. The Great Egret is actively searching for its prey. The head angle is diagonally inclined adding dynamism to the photograph.

#7 WRONG BACKGROUND

Do you care for the background? Most often bird photographers just don’t care about anything other than the bird. Why? Are you saying because it’s a bird photograph after all! Do you know it’s the background which makes the picture?

Okay, take a look at this bird photograph.

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That’s a fantastic action shot of two Indian Darters or Snakebirds fighting. But, is it amazing? Take a look at this one now.

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You see how beautiful the action is. It just couldn’t get better. Here’s the best bird photography tip I can give you – put more importance on background than the bird and you’ll make great bird photographs.

#8 BAD PROCESSING

Is post-processing good? There’s probably a hot debate around every corner about this topic. If you do post-process here’s what you shouldn’t do.

Here’s a simple and useful post-processing tip for bird photography. Don’t over process your image. Over sharpening and extreme noise reduction are typical mistakes of many bird photographers.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

This one has too much noise reduction

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

This one is over sharpened.

It destroys your image. It makes it either look like a wax statue or a wired toy.

Take it easy. Keep your processing to a minimal. Just do enough processing to bring back the details and colors in the bird. Reduce noise only in the background. Sharpen only the bird with just enough to bring out detail.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

Rose-Ringed Parakeet displaying all its color in soft Sunlight in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. I sm so lucky to have been able to capture this beautiful parakeet. I love it!

#9 WRONG PLACE

Do you know that location really matters? In fact, it can make or break your image. It’s a very important bird photography tip to remember. If you end up photographing a species in a wrong place, then you’ll end up with bad results.

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Find the right location where there are enough birds, good light, good feeding ground, and a good background. Assuming that you know important bird photography tips, you’ll most certainly make the best bird photographs.

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#10 WRONG EXPECTATIONS

Not many photographers talk about this. But here’s the thing: If you think that a professional or experienced bird photographer goes to a place, points their expensive gear at the birds, and take home loads of amazing photographs, then you are wrong.

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This is far from the truth. The truth is they are the ones who go to the place before anyone. Stay there until there’s no light. Come back to the same place again, and again, and again until they get what they want.

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My friend, it’s not magic. It’s bird photography. Everyone needs to pay their due respect. Birds never differentiate.

CONCLUSION

Bird photography is fascinating.

Birds attract us like crazy. They make us forget about the world around us. But, you have to get over this. You have to see beyond the bird. You have to pay close attention to everything in the frame – the bird, the background, the placement, the light, exposure, etc.

It’s easy to be a bird photographer. Not that easy to be a good bird photographer.

These 10 bird photography tips should give you a fair idea of what makes a good bird photograph. Understand them. Practice them. Your bird photographs are bound to improve.

Let me know if you have any questions. I would love to answer them.

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Microsoft Surface Pro as a Travel Companion

Within the next few weeks, Microsoft will be releasing the new generation model of its successful laptop for professionals, the Surface Pro 4. Having been using the Surface Pro 3 for the past few years, I have taken my SP3 all over – from the dusty Race Track playa of Death Valley to the red sands of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Being light and portable, it has been in my camera bag pretty much everywhere I go. I have always been a PC guy (although I recently bought an iMac), so I have had quite a bit of experience using all kinds of PCs for my needs. And although I have never had issues with PCs, my biggest struggle has always been laptops. Having tried everything from expensive Dell Precision models to lightweight ultrabooks, I pretty much hated them all for one reason – the amount of heat they generate, particularly when using them on my lap.

Overtime, I had to find various solutions to make it comfortable to work – I started out with a few different kinds of boards with built-in USB fans and ended up with small tray tables that would accommodate those laptops. And the larger the laptop was, the more ridiculous the solutions were getting. The idea of using a workstation-class laptop as a primary machine faded away over the years, as I was not particularly interested in carrying a monstrous and heavy laptop anymore. Then I tried out the iPad, which at first sounded like a good idea. But aside from reading emails and browsing the web, it turned out to be a joke (and still is, including the new iPad Pro) for any serious needs. No USB ports, no mouse, no full version of Lightroom or Photoshop. No, thanks! I then ventured on to ultrabooks and tried a few Dell XPS, HP, Sony and Acer models. They were certainly better for travel, but they were still designed as the good old laptops, making them terrible lap buddies. Still the same issues with heat generation, even those with carbon fiber chassis and special heat dissipation vents. Some would need periodic dis-assembly and cleaning of vents, or they would slow down to a crawl.

And then one day I saw the Surface Pro 2. After playing with it for a few minutes at a local Best Buy store, I decided to give it a try. I was instantly in love! No more lap heat, silent operation – all in a very compact and lightweight package. And best of all, no custom crippled operating systems! The thing ran a full version of Windows, which meant that I could run anything I wanted on it. After a month-long trip to England with the Surface Pro 2, I was blown away – I wrote my thoughts in a detailed review of Surface Pro 2 back then. And then came the Surface Pro 3, which was even faster and more capable than its predecessor, particularly for running Photoshop and Lightroom. I ended up upgrading to a higher-end Core i7 version, which was a great decision that I certainly have no regrets for, since the Surface Pro 3 has been my companion for not only travel, but also working from home. After using the machine for a while, we shared our happy thoughts in our detailed review of the Surface Pro 3.

Being a touch-screen display, I have also been spoiled by the fact that I can just grab the screen and use my fingers to click on things or navigate through websites. I don’t have to think about using the touchpad all the time or an external mouse! I got so used to doing it, that sometimes I find myself accidentally touching my monitor on my workstation PC and wondering why it is not responding.

I am currently finishing up with the last group in our Colorado fall colors workshop and although it has been a pretty intense last few weeks, I am happy to be back again at writing content for the site and working on processing the many photos I have captured during this wonderful trip. There is something special about sitting outside in a beautiful campground, working and seeing aspen leaves fall – that’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back over and over again to this truly magical place… It is hard to keep any concentration here, as the natural beauty makes me want to put everything away, sit back and just relax in happy thoughts. But work is work and I cannot enjoy all this too much, or nothing will get done 🙂 Which means I am back working on my travel companion for a couple of more days, until I have to pack up and leave…

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

ILCE-7RM2 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 197mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/5.6

If you have been on a quest to find a solid machine for your photography needs with a great balance of performance and features vs weight and size, check out Microsoft’s Surface Pro, particularly the upcoming fourth generation model, which is supposed to be released sometime next week. If Microsoft uses Intel’s Skylake architecture, 16 GB of RAM and a much faster GPU (these are the rumored specs), it could become the next dream machine for many photographers, including myself. I am pretty happy with what I can do on my Surface Pro 3, but Adobe’s apps can be pretty demanding in terms of processing power and memory usage, so faster performance would certainly be a good reason to consider upgrading.

The Surface is a very interesting machine, because it kind of reminds me of an Apple MacBook in some ways. MacBooks have been praised for years for being very stable, reliable laptops and one of the reasons in my opinion has been software and driver support – using a limited number of hardware parts is always easier in terms of support and you don’t deal with stability issues. Microsoft’s Surface does exactly the same, since Microsoft delivers all the firmware and driver updates automatically. Having been running Windows 8 and now Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3, both have been rock stable. Didn’t have to deal with any drivers at all – everything just works out of the box, which I am sure Apple fans can relate to.

What do you think about the Surface Pro? I know it might not look appealing for Apple fans, but for us PC users who often travel, it seems like the best choice around, at least in my opinion…

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5 Common Website Mistakes to Avoid

Websites are undeniably the most important sales and marketing tool for today's professional photographer. They display your work, provide information, sell your products, and ensure that you can be easily contacted. However, with the average amount of time someone stays on a web page being less than a minute, you need to make a positive impression fast. Whether you are creating your first website or you are reworking one you've had for a while, you'll want to avoid these common pitfalls.

 

1. Your website is overwhelming or downright annoying 

There is something to be said for keeping it simple. Hitting your clients with music, animated backgrounds, and a slideshow all at once on your homepage might be too much. Many people conduct their searches from an office environment and will close out of a site in a panic when music unexpectedly shoots out of their computer speakers. Choose carefully when considering whether you want music playing when your website first loads. A great place for music is in personalized slideshows for your clients where it will enhance the emotional appeal of your images.

On the same note, if your background is competing with your photography or potentially causing seizure activity, tone it down. There are many great features you can include in your website, but spread them out and use them to enhance your work not distract from it. 

 

2. Your contact information is missing or buried

One of the fastest ways to lose business (and therefore lose money) is to make clients search your site for a way to reach you. Contact information should be in a highly visible place, like in the header or footer of your site, in a text that’s large enough to read easily. A contact page/form is another great way to make sure that potential and current clients can get in touch with you with the click of a button. Accurate and accessible contact information gives people confidence that you are a credible business.

 

3. You are displaying images that aren't professional 

There is no excuse for blurry, underexposed, or "snapshot" work on a professional photographer's website. Even if you are just starting out, aim for quality not quantity. And, if all the photos are of your own kids (or your pet), you need to get out there and shoot some more. If you’re in search of models, post to social media or sites such as Craigslist for students or models who are starting out and want to build their portfolio. You won’t have to spend money, and you’ll both get more experience and work samples.

 

4. Your site is outdated and has dead links

Do you have information on your site that promotes a sale you had four months ago? Is your price list from 2012? Do you have links that no longer work? Websites require occasional maintenance. Old information makes it look like you went out of business, and not making updates hurts your ranking on search engines (Google loves new content). Dead links are unprofessional at best. Sites like http://ift.tt/1GhmG1B it easy to check your entire site for links to nowhere. Make it a priority to keep your site up to date and functional.

 

5. You have too much text

TL;DR means "too long; didn't read." No one wants to read through a full page of text to find what you could have told them in a few sentences. If you need to decrease your font size to 3pt to fit in everything on a page, you have too much text.

 

So don't have a website that drives clients away. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that your website works for you, not against you.

 


Cheryl Steinhoff is a Customer Support Manager for Zenfolio. She has also worked for 10+ years as a professional portrait photographer, splitting her time between North Carolina and Massachusetts. Her two amazing sons bring the greatest joy to her life.

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How to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom

The Lightroom Catalog is a database containing all the relevant information that Lightroom needs about your photos in order to process your images and sit at the centre of your workflow.

Lightroom is a digital asset management (DAM) tool – you can use it to organize and search your photos, as well as process them. This is the main difference between Lightroom and Photoshop, which is a powerful image editor, but has no database capabilities.

Even if you use Photoshop for all your processing you can still use Lightroom to view, organize, and search your photos. That’s why the two programs come together if you subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Photography Plan (and why Photoshop no longer comes with Adobe Bridge). This article will walk you through some of the tools inside Lightroom to help you organize your photos.

Using Collections

Lightroom uses Collections to organize your images. A Collection is a virtual folder that exists in the Lightroom Catalog. You can create as many Collections as you like within Lightroom and use them for whatever purpose you see fit. The more you use them, the more you will find better ways to use them.

There are several types of Collections in Lightroom:

Collections: Virtual folders to which you can add any photo that you have imported into Lightroom.

Collection Sets: Another type of virtual folder to which you can add Collections, but not photos. Collection Sets are used to keep your Collections organized.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

This screen shot shows the icons used to represent Collection Sets and Collections in Lightroom. Xi’an – Terracotta Warriors (red arrow) is a Collection Set. Full Selection (green arrow) is a Collection. The icon is indented because it is inside the Collection Set.

Smart Collections: Collections that are populated automatically according to the rules that you set. For example, you could create a Smart Collection containing all photos taken in 2015, tagged with the keyword phrase “New York” to find all photos that meet those criteria. A Smart Collection is really a way of searching for images, and retaining the result indefinitely.

Published Collections: Beyond the scope of this article, Published Collections are created in Lightroom’s Publish Services. You can learn more about Published Collections in my article How to Upload Photos to Flickr and 500px Using Lightroom 5 (the information applies to Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC as well).

Book and Print Collections: These are created in the Book and Print modules. My articles How to Create a Simple Blurb Photo Book in Lightroom and How to Create a 2015 Calendar in the Lightroom Print Module go into more detail.

For the purposes of this article we are interested in Collections and Collection Sets.

Creating Collections and Collection Sets

If this is your first time using Lightroom you won’t have any Collections yet (apart from the Smart Collections that it already contains). So let’s get started! I’m assuming that you have already imported your first photos into the Lightroom Catalog.

Go to the Collections panel and click on the plus icon you see in the top right corner. Select Create Collection Set.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

The Create Collection Set window appears, where you can give the Collection Set a name.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

I’ve named this one 2015. The idea is that it will house all the Collection Sets containing photos taken in the year 2015 (remember that Collection Sets can only contain Collections, not photos).

Now right-click on the Collection set you just created and choose Create Collection Set. Lightroom prompts you for a name. I’ve called this Island Bay because it’s the Wellington suburb where the photos in my last import were taken (and have saved it inside the 2015 Collection Set).

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Right-click on this new Collection Set (Island Bay) and select Create Collection. The Create Collection window opens. This is slightly different and gives you more options. Name the Collection “Full selection” (I’ll explain why in a minute), tick the Set as Target Collection box and click Create.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Now go to the Catalog panel and click on Previous Import. Lightroom displays the last set of imported images in the Content window. Go to Edit > Select All to select all the photos and press the B key. Lightroom adds all the selected photos to the Target Collection – the Collection called Full Selection that you just created. Congratulations, you have just created your first Collection!

How to organise photos in Lightroom

This is what the Collection Sets and Collection I created in the example above look like in the Collections panel in the Library module. The plus icon next to the Collection Full Selection indicate it is the Target Collection. The number 27 on the right tells you how many photos are in the Collection.

Collections and workflow

Of course, you are probably wondering why I asked you to create such a strange name as Full Selection. To find out why read my article Use Lightroom Collections to Improve Your Workflow. It shows you how to use Collections to help you decide which photos from a shoot you are going to process. All will become clear when you do so.

Flags, Ratings and Color Labels

The Lightroom database (called the Catalog) lets you assign Flags, Ratings, and Color Labels to your photos. There seem to be as many ways of using these as there are photographers, but if you have read my article about using Collections to improve your workflow you will understand that I favour a very simple system, which is this:

Use Flags to indicate which photos you are going to process.

I ignore Ratings and Color Labels and don’t use them. Of course, you may wish to use them and there is nothing wrong with that. Workflow is a personal thing, and ultimately you will figure out what works best for you through trial and error.

Let’s take a closer look at Flags, Ratings, and Color Labels. The easiest way to see them is in Grid View, which you can go to from any Lightroom module by pressing the G key on the keyboard. Read my article Making Sense of Lightroom’s Grid View to learn more.

Flags

Every photo in your Lightroom Catalog is either unflagged (the default), flagged as a Pick (indicated by a white flag) or flagged as a Reject (marked by a black flag with a cross in it).

The quickest way to flag a photo as a Pick is to select and it and press the P key. You can remove the flag by pressing the U key or mark it as a Reject by pressing the X key. Flags are generally used to indicate which photos you would like to process (Picks) and which you would like to delete (Rejects).

How to organise photos in Lightroom

The middle photo has been flagged as a Reject. It is marked with a black flag (circled left) and the thumbnail is greyed out, making it easy to pick out in Grid View. The right photo has been flagged as a Pick and is marked by a white flag (circled right). The left photo is unflagged. There is no flag icon, but Lightroom displays a grey one when you mouse over the thumbnail.

Ratings

Every photo in your Lightroom Catalog is either unrated (the default) or has a one, two, three, four or five star rating. You can apply these ratings by selecting a photo and pressing the corresponding number key (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5).

Ratings are generally used as a way to indicate which photos are your favourites. Give your best images a rating of 5, and use the other numbers for the rest.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Here, the three photos have been given a rating of three, four and five stars respectively. The star rating of each photo is displayed under the thumbnail in Grid View.

Color Labels

You can also assign a color label to your photo by selecting it, going to Photo > Set Color Label and choosing from Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple or none. You can also use the 6, 7, 8 and 9 number keys as a shortcut to applying Red, Yellow, Green and Blue color labels.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Colour labels are designed to be adaptable so you can use them for whatever you want. Go to Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit to assign a meaning to each color label. In this example I have entered a purpose for three of the color labels. It’s just an example to show you the possibilities – in reality I prefer to keep things simple and not use them.

How to organise photos in Lightroom

Hopefully this article has given you a good overview of the process of using Lightroom as a digital asset management tool. The next article in this series will show you how to get started in the Develop module. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about organizing your photos in the Library module then please let me know in the comments.


Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module

Mastering Lightroom ebookMy latest ebook Mastering Lightroom Book One: The Library Module (second edition) is a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library module to import, organise and search your photo files. You’ll learn how to tame your growing photo collection using Collections and Collection Sets, and how to save time so you can spend more time in the Develop module processing your photos.

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DJI Inspire 1: Product Overview with Jon Lerner

DJI Inspire 1: Product Overview with Jon Lerner

DJI’s most advanced technology comes together in an easy to use, all-in-one flying platform that empowers you to create the unforgettable. Strong carbon fiber arms lift out of sight, transforming the way you shoot. Get a full, unrestricted 360 degree view of the world below and create images like never before with the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter Drone. 

 

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