Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Indoor Photography Tips

Pro Shooter Ken Ross Critiques Student Cindy Spicer’s Images

Pro Shooter Ken Ross Critiques Cindy Spicer's Images Hi Cindy, I wanted to take some time to go over your images and give you as much specific feedback as I could – drives me crazy when all I get from a critique is “nice” or “I like that” – doesn’t help me get better and I try not to do the same thing to my students  I’ll also include an example adjustment of your original image, just to illustrate my comments – it’s art so remember that my comments are just my own perspective and opinions; you have your own story to tell in your own way!             I love the angle of this shot for expressing the grandeur of the sanctuary – it really helps “set the table” for this set of images and gives the viewer a sense of perspective when their viewing the other images. There are two things that I’d want to do in order to improve this a little more; correct the perspective skew and the white balance. The skew is a natural side effect of lens distortion of course but when you’re shooting architectural subjects, it’s really important to make sure the walls at straight. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom has a feature that makes this sort of thing super easy to fix! Also, knowing that you’ll have this sort of correction to do with architectural images, be sure to always shoot “wider” than you really want for your composition; straightening out the walls will result in cropping off some detail on the edges (the top left & right in particular for this image). For the color balance, you’ll find scenes like this are very difficult for the “auto” white balance to deal with; there are a lot of different light sources in the scene and lots of colored light too. The camera does the best it can but just doesn’t have a good reference. There are a number of ways to you can solve for this; the easiest is to make note of a white or “neutral gray” area in the scene that you can use for a point of reference; as long as you are shooting in RAW, you can use the White Balance Selector Tool in Lightroom to select that white/gray area and it will adjust all the colors in the image to correct them. If you’re in a place where you don’t see a good candidate (and it can be something like a white plastic bag, a gray sidewalk, etc.), just drop a blank white sheet of paper in the scene where it’s being hit with “representative light” and use that as your reference; you can take a second shot without the paper there and, again in Lightroom, you can copy the white balance adjustment from your paper reference to your other image (select both images while in the Develop tab, click the Sync button and select just the White Balance adjustment to copy). Since the samples you sent me were JPG files I couldn’t do a true White Balance correction (you need RAW for that) but Lightroom tries really hard to re-tint a JPG to get close so it’s representative of what you could do with your original image (but you can definitely do a better job!). Likewise, Lightroom does a better job of correcting lens distortion if it knows the make and model of the camera and lens used; it can usually read that from the original image meta data but that’s often stripped from JPGs (and for some cameras you may need to download additional profiles if it doesn’t know them automatically). Love the high angle of this shot – it’s more dynamic than the first image and less of a literal expression of what the sanctuary looks like, but is more exciting due to the perspective. Here again we have some alignment/skew correction to do as well as white balance (although the camera is doing a better job this time). Other small adjustments include increasing the exposure, contrast and a bit of Clarity (helps pop textures in these sorts of setting but be careful of using it with people in the scene as it can make their skin look haggard). I remember working with you on this composition and am really pleased with how well it turned out – I think the angles work well and framing the pipes between the stain glass windows gives it a strong sense of place. I made a few adjustments here to boost contrast and add a bit of Clarity, but didn’t want to brighten the image too much more and lose the mood (or blow out the windows). I did feel like the pipes needed to be enhanced though because they’re a key element in your story; I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to just “pain on” more exposure for the areas of the pipes I wanted to emphasize and used the pipes themselves as a White Balance adjustment reference (they’re gray).                     Really love how this turned out – I told you you’d get it!! This is exactly what we talked about with this technique; get enough exposure at one spot to cement the details (especially her face) and then pull back on the zoom to create that dynamic effect in-camera. Great job!! My only contribution here is to boost contrast and add Clarity to help the image pop and create more apparent sharpness on the base image (see how her face looks “sharper”? That’s due to Clarity).                   This is another outstanding image. I really love how you saw this possibility while we were walking out and insisted on “working the scene” to make this happen. In particular, I liked how deliberate you were in your framing and, as a big fan of high-contrast B&W images myself, I love the mood of this image. Here again I’ve made just a few small changes to take an already great image up a notch; exposure has been increased slightly to get more detail on the foreground element, I’ve rotated the image slightly to straighten the window and added Clarity to bring out the texture in the floor. Lastly, I used the Lightroom Adjustment Brush to paint in some “drama” on the top three window panes, adding a bit of exposure and Clarity while making the dark areas just a wee bit darker. I’m going to be honest here; this isn’t a great composition. The exposure is good and the white balance is reasonably good, but in terms of presenting a subject or telling a story I feel this fails to hit the mark. I know that you were drawn to that amazing keyboard, a subject that excited you and was frankly challenging to capture (you knew what all the buttons did but it might as well have been the space shuttle cockpit for me!). Looking at this image as presented, it appears that the subject is the decorative carving at the end of the pew (rather than the keyboard) but the keyboard in the background is too distracting (and the top of the carving is just being clipped by the top of the frame). Lastly, the railing at the edge of the pew is acting like a “leading line” – pulling the viewer out of the image instead of into it. Now, there are a number of things we might do differently if we had it to do over again (hindsight is awesome) but what we can do to improve the image we have at hand? Well, let’s assume the subject is the carving. Let’s take advantage of that leading line like we talked about in class – use that to help direct the viewer to our subject. How? We’ll flip the image so that line is coming in on the left . Next, we need to create more emphasis on our subject than the background; we can do that by using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to paint the areas we want to de-emphasize, making it darker (less exposure) and less distinct (lower the Sharpness and Clarity). Then, create a new brush and paint a little added exposure and Clarity on the details on the face of the carving. Lastly, we crop the image in a bit tighter on the main carving and use the Post-Crop Vignetting to darken the edges of the image, further deemphasizing the windows and back wall. There’s a lot to like in this image – the atmosphere of the solitary “parishioner”, the dramatic lighting from the windows. However, when we have a person in the image then the story really is about them and I feel like the image is too dark with too many bright windows and our subject just gets lost. What I’d recommend in this case is to re-crop the image to make it more about the subject and then use the Adjustment Brush to paint on just a bit of extra exposure on our subject’s face and arms, just enough to lift them out of the shadows but not so much as to make them look “flashed” or unnaturally lit. I didn’t want to do anything to the overall exposure since that would change the mood too much.                   Another great angle to explore in this venue – really love how you’ve picked up the play of light across the floor and controlled the exposure so that the massive stained glass at the back of the sanctuary wasn’t blown out. With this image we have very little to correct that we haven’t looked at earlier – some White Balance and perspective skew adjustment is all we need, as well as a smidge of Contrast to make it pop.   I hope you found these comments and examples helpful and thanks again for coming to my class and for sharing your images with us!   Ken


BEAUTY IN THE EYE-Orlando Camera Club had a "Creative Macro" competition with results being presented this past Monday and David Montague walked away with the first place in this particular category. Says he, "I shoot with a Nikon D750 and used my 105mm macro lens.  I placed my son in a chair, underneath the lanai shade, and his wife more in the sun so she would show up better within his eye. Placed the camera on a tripod and positioned it within a few inches of his eye. Took quite a few shots to get the focus just right. As your aware, using a macro lens that tight is tough to get a sharp image unless everything is perfectly still."

Finding a Crowd

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit A small change in perspective can make a big impact in the photos we create.  The San Francisco Ferry Building is often quite crowded during the Saturday morning farmers market, but when you’re down in it the crowd, it’s tough to capture the feeling you have of being there.  By finding stairs to a second floor, I was able to find a unique perspective, looking down at the crowd and showing how dense it was.  However, if I just took this with a regular lens, even at a small f-number, the crowd would read as a texture and the photo would lack a subject.  Instead, I used a Lens Baby to bring selective focus to just one part of the crowd, specifically an area squished in the middle of the crowd.  This blurred the crowd in such a way that it didn’t read as a texture (some is blurred and some isn’t), and it makes it clear that the focus of the photo (pardon the pun) is the crazy crowd.  Additionally, the lines in the wall converge, further brining your attention to the in-focus area. Canon EOS 1D MkIV with Lens Baby Composer.  f/4, 1/60 sec, ISO 400  

Portraits of Incarceration

© Hinda Schuman These indoor portraits are especially significant because the subjects are not permitted to go outside.  The subjects are part of an alternative to incarceration program.  They are not allowed to leave their rooms. No going out for a walk around the block. No sitting on the front stoop in the evening. Not unless they are on a supervised outing or have earned the right to attend classes or work. © Hinda Schuman I took these photos about 10 months into the project i have been shooting for a year and a half now. One of the things i value most is that the residents trust me enough to allow me to see their rooms, and what is meaningful to them. The lighting is a mixture of fill flash and available light.    

Indoor Group Portraits

© Kathy Tarantola Group Photos, especially those taken indoors, can be boring sometimes.  But Kathy Tarantola, DPA Instructor out of Boston, avoided all the pitfalls. To get around the common problem of any of the models ignoring the camera, Kathy smartly had everyone participating in a toast. This simultaneously circumvents the downside of self conscious members of the group who don′t know how to pose. The circular pattern of the table is repeating in a visually appealing fashion thanks to the abundance of round plates of various sizes, all arranged in the circle started with the table. It even highlights the faces of the members of the group. And Kathy must have been sitting in the one empty seat in the foreground which adds to the perspective of the image overall. The entrees, group servings in the center of the table keep the eye movement within the photo overall and leads back and forth to each of the attendees. Tripod and flash recommended!!

Simple Studio Setups

Contrary to popular belief, you dont need an elaborate set of lights to create a studio look. As a matter of fact, a beautiful portrait can be made with a single light and a reflector. With regards to the main light, I suggest it be used with an umbrella or soft box. It should be placed at a forty five degree angle to the subject. The reflector should be positioned on the opposite side of the model so light is bounced back onto the shadow side.  Photo #1 was made with this type of lighting configuration. © Russ Burden As you begin to acquire more lights, they can be used to enhance the look of your  portraits. In picture #2, I used a second flash housed in a small soft box as a fill light. Commensurate with how close or far away its placed, the shadow side of the subject will be lighter or darker. I like to keep the fill light at a distance that provides two stops less light than the main light. If you have a flash meter, it makes it easier to determine its placement.  If you dont, run some tests using a tape measure or tape marks on the floor. © Russ Burden A third light gives you the option of adding a hair light. It creates separation between the model and the background. The closer its placed, the brighter the glow around the hair. The color of the subjects hair has a direct impact upon how near or far it should be located. The darker it is, the closer the light needs to be positioned behind the model. The opposite is true for light haired subjects. In photo #3, a hair light was added. © Russ Burden A background light works well to lighten up what would otherwise be a dark backdrop. Gels can be placed over them to coordinate the color of the background to the color of the models clothes. Run some tests to determine the proper exposure so all the lights work in harmony. In photo #4, a background light was added. © Russ Burden

Table Top Tableau

© Adam Stoltman Look for simple still life tableaus.  When weather or lighting conditions don′t allow you to travel outdoors with your camera, simple objects and common items around the house can sometimes make for a striking still life.  In this instance, the partially silouhetted figurine against the rich red flowers makes for a simple and evocative study.

Shutter Speed, Blur, Camera Shake, Subject Motion and Depth of Field. Learn to Recognize and Distinguish the difference.

Shutter Speed, Blur, Camera Shake, Subject Motion and Depth of Field. Learn to Recognize and Distinguish the difference. text by John Bentham The desired look of the photo: There are many times when a photographer will opt to include some blur, and/or camera shake in a photo for aesthetic reasons. Some of the photographs in the animals webinar are shot with fast shutter speed using a tripod, others are shot with slow shutter speed without a tripod. Sometimes a photographer may choose to deliberately incorporate motion blur, mixing on-camera flash, with the ambient light, and using a slow shutter speed without a tripod. Learning to hold a camera steady at 1/4 second exposure takes a bit of practice but is a very useful skill. The subject of the photo: If a photographer is shooting any type of documentary photography, or news assignment it is very likely they are not using a tripod. This type of subject moves too quickly to use a tripod. Unless you have a relatively cooperative subject, willing to hold still long enough for you to position a tripod, you can’t follow a moving subject with a tripod. Sports photographers often use monopods, and sometimes use tripods, due to the weight of the very long lenses they use. You can’t hand-hold a 300mm lens very long and you could not hand-hold a 500mm lens successfully at all. If you are shooting in a crowded situation, or a situation where you have to move fast, from location to location, once again a tripod is a hindrance. Where a tripod really becomes essential is in landscape photography or in Macro photography. The trick to shooting good landscape photography is to keep everything in the photo sharp and in focus. To achieve this you usually need a very small aperture such as f22. To shoot with a very small aperture you must often use a relatively slow shutter speed, thus must use a tripod. Alternatively when shooting Macro photography or any type of close–up photography requiring precise focus, a tripod is very helpful. Image © John Bentham NY DPA Photographer The shutter speed: The safe hand-hold shutter speed, the slowest shutter speed you can hand-hold a camera steady without the photograph showing visible signs of camera shake, is 1/30th of second. This is an accepted standard. With practice in certain circumstances, using certain lenses, it is certainly possible to use a slower shutter speed and still avoid camera shake. Thus, using a tripod to shoot a photo is partly determined by the shutter speed and secondarily by the focal length and lens. If you are trying to shoot at a shutter speed slower than 1/30th you will probably see some camera shake unless you support the camera, either with a tripod or by setting the camera on a fence, or park bench etc. This becomes much more of an issue when using a long lens. If you shoot using a 18mm lens you will have fewer issues with camera shake than when using a 300mm lens. Remember, a tripod will not remove the blur caused by the subject you are photographing. That is determined by shutter speed. Even when you shoot at a relatively fast shutter speed (1/125th second), your subject will still appear blurry if they are moving quickly enough. A tripod only removes blur from the camera side of the photo. The photo above by John Bentham, DPA instructor in New York is shot without a tripod in low light at a relatively slow shutter speed. The 1/8 second shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the motionless boy in the photo but slow enough to reduce the penguin swimming past to a blur. This adds to the expression of wonder in the boys face, just what am I looking at? John has incorporated a little help from NIK Viveza Software to bring out the details in the water and add some definition to what may have appeared as murky rocks in the background. Depth of Field: This refers to the depth from the camera position into a photograph that is in focus. IE: 10 feet from the camera or 20 feet from the camera, or 1 mile from the camera. How much of that distance that appears in focus is the depth of field. Depth of field is determined by the aperture, focal length and camera to subject distance. If you are 2 feet away from a portrait subject your background will be more out of focus (shallow depth of field) than if you are 25 feet away from a portrait subject. The smaller the aperture, say f22 VS a wide aperture of f2.8, will give you more (wider) depth of field. Image © Frank Siteman Boston DPA Photographer Viveza Nik Software: The photograph of an iguana by Frank Siteman, a DPA photographer in Boston is a classic shallow depth of field shot. By shooting with a longer than normal focal length (135mm), and being relatively close to his subject, combined with a wide aperture Frank has separated the iguana from the background with making it appear larger, more striking and more significant, both literally and figuratively. Frank has further enhanced the iguana photo adding a little Viveza NIK Software which makes the colors jump and the contrast more defined. Used subtly or with more extreme adjustments Viveza can make a photo appear brighter, more complex and with more punch, or you can push it all the way to an extreme technique so it appears as a vivid painting, the control and effect are yours to explore.

Utilizing Window Light

This shot took advantage of window light from the left to illuminate 82 year-old Sonny Solot, with the camera on the bar top for its half 1/8 of a second exposure.  Sometimes I can get lucky hand-holding an 1/8 of a second, but I had a big bar top available to me, a subject that luckily didn’t move much, and a glorious large north-facing window, providing a large naturally lite portrait on the go. By using the Lensbaby, I kept Sonny in focus and blurred the background. I saturated the image a little in Photoshop, but that was all. In Arizona, where we get over 300 bright and sunny days a year, window light is seen as if it were the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the soft flat directional light that gives subjects dimension.  If all else fails, place your subject by window light, you will be happy with the results. © David Sanders

A New Angle

© Rick Wright For those of us in colder climates like Philadelphia, winters grays still linger. If you haven′t warmed up yet either, consider looking inside for colorful Spring photographs. In my case, I was watering an Amaryllis for months and it happily woke up once the sun started reaching it. In the first photograph, I concentrated on the incredible red hue in the flower and isolated it from its background with a shallow depth of field (ƒ4). © Rick WrightOnce I got past the initial beauty of the flower, I looked downward and composed an entirely different shot! Can the shadow itself be a good subject? Absolutely! Think about challenging vantage points at all times, especially when faced with a scene of great beauty.

Customer Service

Need Help?

Call Toll Free: (877) 372-2231


Email Us:


©2007-2016 Digital Photo Academy | How To Use Your Digital Camera