The 30 Second Secret to Great Colors

Paul Davis, Before (top image) and After (bottom image).

30 seconds of your time can make the difference between disappointing colors and great colors. That is the difference between these two photos. The top image is skewed toward yellow and green tones. It is most obvious in the white part of the EXIT sign, the white stripes of the U.S. flag and the white candle next to the speaker’s podium. The speaker has yellow-ish skin and and the blue walls are greenish in the top photo. In the bottom image all of that has been fixed. The flag looks much better, the candle is pure white, and the blue walls are actually blue. Most important, the skin tones (my primary goal) are so much better. The yellow skin is gone.

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How To Photograph the Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse, May 15-16, 2022

Lunar Eclipse, Super Blood Moon, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Total Lunar Eclipse, Super Blood Moon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, September 27, 2015

Don’t miss it. This is the first of only two total lunar eclipses this year. This total eclipse happens this Sunday-Monday, May 15-16 (depending on our time zone). This article will show you how to photograph it. To see it, just walk outside and look. Continue reading

Why and When To Set A Custom White Balance

piano reflection portrait
Piano Reflection Portrait

Why set a custom white balance? The answer is simple. To get the best, most accurate colors your camera is capable of producing. It is especially important when photographing people if you want beautiful, accurate skin tones. In this article I give you some shooting tips, answer common questions, and I cover the situations when it is preferable not do a custom white balance.

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How To Set A Custom White Balance on Your Digital Camera

Jennifer before and after setting a custom white balance.

To get the most accurate colors your camera is capable of creating you need to set a custom white balance. Every camera does this a little differently, but it involves taking a picture of an 18% gray card (or something pure white) and using that photo as a standard to create a custom white balance setting. I will show you the process with a Canon camera, but other brands should be somewhat similar. Check your camera’s manual for specific instructions.

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Your Camera Does NOT Capture Reality! – And What To Do About It.

O'Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado

O’Haver Lake, Mt. Ouray, Colorado.

You have heard it said a lot, and maybe said it yourself: “This picture doesn’t do the scene justice.” That is often true and for several reasons. One is that digital cameras do not capture reality. No matter how fancy or expensive, digital cameras simply do not capture what your eyes see. That is also true with film cameras. All color photographic films have different color characteristics. Some have better reds, others have better greens or blues. Some are more saturated and others less saturated. But none of them are totally color realistic. So why don’t digital cameras give you realistic images and what can you do about it?

Originally posted December 16, 2015. Revised and re-posted January 18, 2022.

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Snowy Owl Photography: Solving A Photo Problem (And the Right Way to Exit Your Vehicle)

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

When I am traveling with my highly trained and high paid photographic assistant it is his job to remove trash barrels when they are in the way, cut down trees that spoil my view, run out into the meadow and scare off the cow elk that are in front of the bull elk I want to photograph, rip boards off of old barns that don’t look quite distressed enough, pull on the whiskers of a sleeping cougar to wake it up, and cut down utility lines that are obstructing a clear view of my subject. But he wasn’t with me on this trip due to sitting in jail over a minor incident in Yosemite. So I had a challenge on my hands that I had to solve myself.

I am kidding, of course. The prior paragraph was inspired by really crazy things a few photographers do but shouldn’t be doing.

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A Snowy Owl Photo Expedition

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

What is a Snowy Owl expedition really like? This article is your chance to find out. Join me for a two day photo safari! I give you tips and photo suggestions along the way, and you get to see how I prepare, plan, and adapt on a photo trip. I tell you what went right and what went wrong so this is also about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

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How to Find and Photograph Snowy Owls

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2022

 

Winter is your opportunity to photograph Snowy Owls. When it is cold enough and there is enough snow cover, snowy owls move down into the northern U.S. The colder it is the farther south they move. If conditions are right, don’t delay. If the winter turns warmer the snowy owls will head back north.

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How To Work With A Model (or Anybody Else) When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio. Windchill 4°.

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model (or anybody else) when it is so cold.

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Testing Your Camera’s Snow Exposure Latitude

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers, Prince William Sound, Alaska

The “snow exposure latitude” for every camera is different. You won’t find it in your camera’s manual but it is easy to determine with a do-it-yourself test. Why does it matter? If you don’t know the snow exposure latitude for your camera and how to apply it to your images, the color and quality of your winter photos will suffer.

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part One

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Metering dark toned wildlife in the snow is a major exposure challenge. It is usually best to avoid large “burned out” areas (washed out, featureless white) in a nature or landscape photograph, but with properly exposed snow, the wildlife can be so dark as to lose all texture. On other hand, metering for the wildlife can burn out the snow. So what do you do? And what about the complications of metering white animals?

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Metering Daytime Winter Scenes

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Metering for scenes with a lot of snow can be tricky since the bright snow fools the camera meter. I see a lot of winter photos with gray snow, which means the camera meter did exactly what it was designed to do. The solution is quite simple provided you know what to do.

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How To Series: Winter Photography

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began this series of articles on winter photography. Check out the links below. The articles will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So get out there, have fun, and create some great winter images!

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Lens Apertures, f-stops, and Depth of Field

50mm lens, aperture blades at f/8.

Almost every lens has a more or less round “aperture”, the opening that lets light through to the sensor or film. Most modern lenses have aperture blades that open and close to change the size of the opening. You can see the aperture blades in this photo. Larger apertures obviously let in more light in a given period of time and smaller apertures let in less light in the same period of time. The size of the aperture opening is one factor that determines the exposure. Just as important, the size of the aperture helps determine the depth of field in each image.

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Step By Step: How to Get Blurred Backgrounds with an iPhone

Using portrait mode to blur a background.

How do you make your subjects “pop” by blurring the background when you are using an iPhone? To get the maximum amount of blurriness there are several step involved, most of them after you click the shutter. I will take you through the process, step-by-step- complete with illustrations. I used an iPhone 11 for this step by step guide. If you have a different model the options and screen layouts might look different.

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Colorado Fall Color Photography and Travel Guide – 2021

Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. Mid-morning. September 24, 2015.

Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. Mid-morning. September 24, 2015.

Headed for Colorado this fall? Welcome to my Colorado fall color photography and travel guide with 131 photos, 18 maps, and over 100 pages of information (if you print it all out). I cover some of the best known fall color locations in Colorado, and one real gem of a road that is mostly unknown to photographers and leaf peepers. Spend anywhere from a few days to two weeks exploring the beautiful Colorado Rockies at a gorgeous time of year.

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How to See and Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018. Cropped from the original image.

Tonight, August 11-12, is the predicted peak night of the Perseid Meteor Shower this year. But you can also look for the next few nights. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the most popular meteor shower of the year.

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How to Photograph A Recital and Other Stage Performances

Beth Presler, Senior Violin Recital, Shaw Auditorium, Graceland University, Lamoni Iowa

The first thing to do is to ask permission ahead of time. Some places do not allow photography during the performance or they limit the number of photographers. In this case, Beth asked me to photograph her recital and I was the official photographer. One of the keys to photographing an event is not to become a serious distraction from the main event. That means not doing a lot of wandering around, and certainly not getting in front of people who are watching the event. Be as discreet as possible. If you need to move during a performance, if at all possible do it during the applause between numbers.

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Violinist in the Snow

Beth playing her violin in the snow.

This is one of my all time favorite winter images. On a prior photo shoot, Beth and I went out into the cold and snow to create images. She played her violin while I took pictures. It was her first time shooting in the cold and snow and she was a real trooper. For that shoot she wore her long black concert dress. The snow melted not long after that, but we decide if another day came along with the right conditions we wanted to shoot in the now again.

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