Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Photographing Patterns


REMEMBER--PIXELS ARE FREE Rebecca Bozarth  attended a session led by DPA Instructor, Ken Ross, at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and beautifully exemplified the old Photo Adage, that "Pixels Are Free" so take as many images as you can, from every angle because you may not have another chance!! In fact, as we should have guessed, Rebecca is not the typical Digital Photo Academy student. She is a professional photographer in Atlanta, Georgia, who owns her own design company, Fotografia Film & Design  She is a SCAD Atlanta graduate, and specializes in photography, videography, graphic, and web design. Great opening image with colorful floating orbs in the foreground to anchor the eye of the viewer and lead first to the Chihuly glass structure with adequate attention to the waterfall and of course the magnificent plant lady. The entire scene is upon us without too much focus on a detail or too far away so the impact of the scene is lost. Remember, either with your lens or your body or both, get closer. In this case the image is still anchored by the floating orbs but not all 4 and there is greater emphasis on the chihuly AND waterfall. The plant lady is left in the shadows. Now after closer go further back. The plant lady is shown in the context of the broader setting and creates a different perspective of the way she dwarfs the Chihuly. Interesting perspective. The colorful flowers in the foreground, green leaves included add a brightness to the overall image and compliment the Chihuly. Now back even closer than before to isolate the Chihuly and its relationship to the waterfall, grey stone to accentuate the artwork, with drama added with a shutter speed priority to catch the water in midstream. Even closer to allow the viewer to make a comparison and closer still. This one would might be favored by Chihuli himself even though a portion of his work is cut off. Now an emphasis on the plant lady in a vertical, enabling the viewer to take greater note to the water from the lady's hand. Chihuly is nice but the image works without its presence too. Same notion but this time horizontally and the photographer has a choice as does the viewer of the photo. This time the colorful orbs are missing and it is a study in green, enhancing the focus on the lady's face and arm. Another vertical with some complimentary yellow in the hair and closer look at the face of the lady This Chihuly might even be a completely different display but why not add it in to show the Art Deco, opaque whimsy of the man's creation.

How to color

From Don Peters/ DPA instructor in Chicago To view more of his images please visit My mantra, as I teach Composition in the Field Classes for DPA, is to look for building blocks of composition ---color, shape, texture, pattern, line, form….etc.   This in-studio composition of a simple array of colored pencils gave me an opportunity to explore several of these elements.  Using two, Kenko extension tubes, mounted between my tripod mounted camera and lens, I was able to focus very closely on my composition of the pencil tips to bring out the detail of the shaved wood.  Using a goose-neck desk lamp was all the illumination needed and I was able to move the lamp around to try various pleasing light angles to create shadow and best show off the texture of the pencil tips.   Because the bulb was incandescent, I adjusted the white balance setting in my camera accordingly to overcome the “yellow” cast of the bulb to make the subject’s colors appear more natural.  Finally, I arranged the pencils in tight rows pointing at one another to add an element of “tension” to the composition. (Nikon D300 on tripod with 100mm Tamron macro lens and two, Kenko extension tubes, ISO 200, 1/125, f/16, side lit with desk lamp.)  

Sky activity

From Don Peters/ DPA Instructor in Chicago To view more of his images please visit  From my 52nd floor perch on a friend’s condo balcony, my senses were filled by the exciting sights and sounds of the famed Navy Blue Angels at the Chicago Air Show.  My high position enabled me to shoot down on the colorful jets, with the bobbing yachts on Lake Michigan providing a pleasing background perspective.  The Blue Angels came by VERY fast, with little warning as they preceded the roar of their engines by a second or two.  So, the challenge was to use not only a very fast shutter speed, but to be ready and to pan the camera in synch with the jets as they streaked by.  Practice makes perfect and it took some adjustment and practice to achieve this shot.  Shooting in the “burst” mode (10 frames per second) also gave me an array of images, from which to choose the best. (Nikon D300 with 28-300mm Nikkor lens at 300mm, ISO 400, 1/4000 at f/4.5)

Symmetry, timing, and simplicity

From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit Symmetry, timing and simplicity are the backbone of many stand-out images. This photo was taken while on a casual, end of day walk along the shoreline at Old Orchard Beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  As the sun was setting behind me, only the clouds were being directly illuminated, creating a scene with  an intense, warm-cool  (yellow/blue) color contrast.  Adding to this, was the reflection of the sky on the mirror-like, smooth sand beach, that appeared with each retreating wave, making the timing of the exposure an important factor.  Choosing a wide angle allowed for the inclusion of  the most real estate (keeping both the actual clouds and their reflections on the sand) and enabled me to work with a slowish shutter speed of a 1/15th sec with an aperture  of  f/8.0, holding focus from the foreground to the horizon. This was a situation where breaking the “rule of thirds” allowed for a more dynamic image.   Camera was Canon 5D, ISO 200 and using a 24mm focal length with a 24-105 IS lens.

Wondrous light

 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit In the quest for great images, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking advantage of the exceptional quality of light in the early morning and late afternoon hours of the day. At this time, the light has a direction and a warmth that only happens when the sun is low on the horizon. I call it chasing light.  To this end, I try to find where the beautiful light is falling and nearly never come back without some image that is exceptional just because it was shot in wonderous light.  I have a friend from New York City who tells me he never has problems parking in the city.  What he does is simple.  He finds a parking spot, takes it and then finds something to do around it.  Chasing light is like that, and what you find around your spot is often magical. This image was taken late in the afternoon in Bethlehem, NH, found while driving down roads I’d never been on before.  It was all discovery.  This tree lined driveway (to what will remain a mysterious destination) is a nearly perfect example of both leading lines and the rule of thirds.  Everything takes your eye into the depths of this image.  The road’s curved sides are nearly mirror images of each other as are the trees themselves.  All lines lead to a point 1/3rd down from the top and roughly 1/3rd in from the right.

A Sense of Scale

© Josh Anon I came across this huge field of empty king cormorant nests in the Falklands, but this pattern wasn′t very interesting without a sense of scale.  Fortunately, a bird walked into the scene and sat down, breaking up the pattern/providing a focal point and a sense of scale.

Attention to Detail

© Allen Birnbach   What drew me to  photograph this aw this detail of an old radiator from a Model T Ford is that hidden within what appeared to be a perfectly repeating pattern where some wonderful nuggets. First, though the image appears to be monochromatic, there are some wonderful subtle colors in the copper tubing.  And beyond that, the seemingly perfect rows of identical fins are broken up by bent units that have a seashell quality that invite a closer look.

Compose your Pattern

© Russ Burden When approaching a potential subject, look for an area that’s clean and has strong lines. Target this portion and begin to work it into a composition. Look for a prominent focal point and place it in the rule of thirds. Arrange the elements so lines lead the eye to the key part of the image. As a rule of thumb, try to have the eye enter from the lower left and be lead up and into the picture. This creates a smooth transition as the viewer explores the photograph.

Observation is Key

© Russ Burden Becoming an observer of patterns certainly played a huge role in acquiring the image of thecottonwood catkin. There’s a city park about 50 minutes from my home where fox frequent. I made a pre-sunrise trip to capture them in early light. The only problem was the foxes never revealed themselves. Rather than throwing in the towel, while I continued to look for a sign of a fox, I also opened my eyes to other options. As it was springtime, the cottonwoods in the area were beginning to bud. Out of curiosity, I approached a low hanging limb and a world of patterns and color opened up.  The observer in me proved to be beneficial in finding a nice pattern in nature.

Patterns Calibrated

Real Life Applications of the Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite Monitor Color Calibration System and the Spyder Cube Color Management tool. “Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.” Paul Klee When we entered ABC Carpet, the design furnishings super store at Broadway and 19th Street in Manhattan, we immediately encountered the hot pink signage, (hot pink looked more orange without the color management adjustment as shown above.) that featured a statement reflective of Paul Klee′s devotion to color. As it turned out, the editorial assignment photographing brightly colored carpets and furniture was perfect to exemplify the need and precision of the Cube and Studio Management system. After the shoot we imagined Klee probably would have somehow incorporated the Spyder Studio in his work had it existed when he painted in the last century. The magazine editor even thought adding in the lovable black and white pooch was a nice whimsical touch. Spyder 3 Elite Monitor Color Calibration In many cases I’m shooting in underground nightclubs, biker bars or dimly lit locations punctuated by bright stage lights with garish colored lighting gels, and in such situations the harsh and distinctive “off” colors represent a significant and intentional element of the image. Even when the colors are "off," accurate post production color management is crucial to accurately recreate those "off" colors. What existed in the scene, and what is captured by the camera, and what is displayed on your computer monitor are very often not the the same thing. In the past whenever color corrections were necessary I usually left that up to my digital technician to complete in concert with the art director or client. This often resulted in considerable expense, $500+ per day, in addition to inconvenient time delays and complications for important clients. Over the past few years the industry has undergone significant changes, in workflow, economics and expectations. In the past photographers shot the film, developed it and sent it to the client. Now clients expect photographers to submitted color corrected, retouched and ready to print images, which means more is expected for the same money. For any one day of shooting I can now count on an additional one to two days of image processing with lower or nonexistent budgets for digital technicians. What this means for the photographer is to stay competitive you need to do the digital processing faster, easier and in many cases do it yourself. This is where the Datacolor system comes into play. I recently moved studios, from Tribeca to the West Village, in Manhattan. My office in the old studio was in the back of the building, away from any direct light and great for image processing, retouching and color correction. Throughout the day, and even at night, lighting conditions didn’t change much, thus I didn’t worry much about ambient light levels, fluctuations in color balance and color shifts when image processing. My new office, although much brighter and with a better view, is a terror with regard to color calibration and color management. I have a south facing window and depending on the time of day and the weather, I get a vast array of light warm or cool light, diffuse light or direct sun. I also now must contend with Tungsten streetlights shining through the windows whenever I’m doing image processing at night. The light in my office is constantly changing and proving to be an issue when doing color correction work. I use Mac computers, Cinema Display and iMac monitors in addition to a Powerbook. For my initial monitor calibrations I intentionally calibrated in less than ideal (read bad) lighting conditions,  just to see what the software and device were capable of. I set up the computers near the window and calibrated on an overcast day, and again the following day in direct sunlight. Once I loaded the software it ran easily and quickly without any of the expected baby-sitting required. Now, whenever I re-calibrate, I just set it to run and during those few minutes I work on something else. The Spyder Elite 3 software and equipment includes an ambient light measurement tool which has proved very useful in this situation. The software incorporates a desktop warning light icon. The icon helpfully changes from Black to Yellow to Red depending on your status. Using this feature I was able to see just how often the ambient light level changes, which proved to be every 20 minutes, with a significant shift every hour. Based on these fluctuations, and since its impractical to do a recalibration every 1/2 hour, the most workable solution is to do a recalibration immediately before I do any Color Management work. This way I’m sure the monitor is calibrated properly and I’ve got a window of an hour or so before I need to recalibrate. (L) Original, uncorrected Image                                  (R) Color Corrected Image During the Editorial assignment shoot, I ran the Cube through trials on various floors and locations within ABC Carpet, at times close to large windows, sometimes deeper towards the interior of the building, under high ceilings as well as squeezed into corners with lower ceilings. We moved continuously throughout the store, resulting in different light sources, color balances and exposures. The idea for the European Design magazine article was to have a goofy looking and distinctly non-designer dog sitting amongst the designer and vintage furniture. Thus we had a perfect situation to test the cube, a dark black, a bright white and numerous colors in between. The dog was very cooperative but it turned out the easiest way to shoot was just to hang the cube from the dogs collar. With lighting conditions changing so often, we shot with the understanding we could always call up a corrected white balance and would simply retouch the Cube out of the final selects. For interior designers, architects and the furniture manufacturers themselves the exact and proprietary colors they utilize are very important to the work they do. Obviously the color balance needs to be correct. Some examples below show obvious differences in color or hue while in other examples the differences are more subtle, either way it is important for the colors to be completely accurate. Spyder Cube Recently I had a number of photo shoots where I tested the practicality and functionality of the Spyder Cube in real world scenarios. My aim was to capture a variety of appropriate examples showing the importance of color management. I shoot many different assignments, most on location and often in challenging lighting conditions. I am regularly blending and supplementing existing ambient light with on-camera flash, and in many cases also using a larger location flash kit, also mixed with ambient. My biggest challenge in many situations is the variety of light sources which result in a mixed and often incorrect white balance. Practically speaking most digital cameras are not very accurate when capturing color in the Auto White Balance mode, and of course the color only applies to the Jpeg images processed in-camera. To process RAW images properly one must utilize some standards for color. Often photographers would resort to using a white shirt or a black jacket as color samples but that method has serious drawbacks, consistency being the largest issue. In the past I have utilized a variety of color correction and color measurement tools including the old standard 18% cardboard gray cards, small gray scale paper strips (Black, Gray, White), a Pop-Up Fabric color chart, and more recently a rather expensive, very small and somewhat disappointing color corrected card. There are numerous situations where a tool like the Spyder Cube proves extremely helpful. For example, in addition to my documentary work I regularly shoot corporate portraits for three large international law firms. I’m called in every couple months to photograph new attorneys, or update photos for existing employees. The photos are used for press releases, web sites and annual reports. The lighting set up is relatively straight forward, nothing fancy, but it’s important that each new batch of photos, from each law firm, match the existing photographs. To further complicate the issue there are five other photographers shooting attorney portraits in other cities. As you can imagine with six photographers, shooting in different locations, with different lighting and camera systems the results could be all over the map. The only way to maintain consistency is to include an exposure and white balance calibration tool in the test frames. The system works relatively well but once in a while we get thrown a curve. A few months ago I was photographing an attorney who had an eye condition that prohibited the use of flash. I had to mimic the studio lighting with window light and reflectors. With a little trial and error I was able to match the lighting and exposure but the color balance was significantly different. We were using paper gray cards at the time but I always find them rather flimsy, the exposure changes dramatically depending on how they are angled towards the light. I like the three dimensional design of the cube for an accurate color balance and exposure, especially when attempting to match results. One of my assistants would carry around one of the paper exposure cards in his wallet, every time he fished it out you could see the thing had aged. Being intended as a one-use product the paper color tools just don’t compare to the solid durability of the Cube I use now. During one of my recent Digital Photo Academy advanced workshops we photographed a professional model/Burlesque dancer while testing the Spyder Cube. Photographed at the DPA Manhattan studio we were primarily using natural light coming through large windows, mixed with Tungsten light (model lights in the strobe heads), in addition to the overhead Halogen room lights. Mixed light is always an issue for digital cameras, as it was in the past when shooting transparency film. One of the lessons of the workshop was managing color balance when shooting mixed light, finding a balance between the cool daylight and warm studio lights. The Cube proved very helpful during the post capture critique as an exposure and color benchmark. (L) Original, uncorrected Image        (C) Color Corrected Image               (R) Re-touched Image The Spyder Cube is durable and a practical size, being small enough to fit in a pocket yet large enough to read in a photograph. I’ve already got the thing soaking wet taking photos of my son Luke playing in the kitchen sink, and he thought is was a pretty fun toy. Obviously you couldn’t do that with any of the paper charts out there. The kitchen is fluorescent light mixed with daylight. To further complicate matters the kitchen has blue curtains and the walls are painted off-white throwing the color balance further off target. I usually end up shooting a custom white balance but the Cube handled the situation perfectly. I used the Cube for color correction, setting a corrected White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw. I simply followed the method outlined in the Datacolor online video, using the eye dropper tool and clicking on the brightest gray face of the Cube (which indicates the strongest light source). When processing subsequent images (batch processing), it’s very easy to create a preset color calibration using the Cube in Adobe Camera RAW, once you’ve established your preset you simply apply the color correction to other images. Some color shifts are subtle but still easily discernable by the professional eye of a photographer, art director or client. Such instances only require slight color correction, primarily in the whites and skin tones, while in other photographs there are glaringly obvious color shifts. The Auto White Balance systems of most cameras are fooled by mixed light sources, and the various bright colors predominating a scene. Since I shoot a number of editorial and advertising portraits, the ability to capture correct and pleasing skin tones represents a large part of my work and the subsequent color management. The Datacolor system ensures the art director and client are looking at the same photograph I’m looking at. Note: Photo samples above show original, uncorrected image (Left) , and color corrected and re-touched images (Right). Photos were shot using Canon and Panasonic cameras. Color corrections were made on RAW images using Adobe Camera RAW, or in a few cases on Jpegs processed in-camera then corrected in post with Adobe Camera Raw. All photographs copyright John Bentham 2009.  

Customer Service

Need Help?

Call Toll Free: (877) 372-2231


Email Us:


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