How to Get STF-Style Bokeh Without a $1,000+ STF Lens

Smooth Trans Focus (STF) was invented by Minolta in the 1980s and became available in the Minolta 135mm f/2.8 STF in 1999. The special design of the lens with an Apodization (APD) filter allows for the smoothing of out-of-focus areas, or bokeh. The APD filter reduces the light transmitted through a lens, but the strength is gradually decreased toward the center of the filter. To simplify the concept, an APD filter is like a gradual neutral density filter, except the gradient is radial. As I illustrate below with a simple single lens, the bokeh ball formed by a light
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Tips for Photographing Your First Hot Air Balloon Festival

Ah, you’ve just received your first camera over the holiday season and you’re itching to use it. Or, perhaps you’re just looking for something new to photograph for this year. Well, might I suggest the following: You should photograph a hot air balloon festival! Why hot air balloons? I personally enjoy their vibrant colors against the sky; it’s a pleasure for me to meet the pilots and their crew; and lastly, it’s fun to fly in them! Some of you may be surprised that these festivals have already been happening in the winter. It should come as no surprise though
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How to Capture Heat on Camera Without Expensive Optics

Standard schlieren imaging techniques use a large mirror to be able to visualize heat or pressure differences in air. The problem with these techniques is that they require large precision telescope mirrors that are very expensive. My lab is fortunate to have a 13-inch diameter telescope mirror; but what happens when I need to photograph a larger subject? A modern variation of the optical schlieren technique is to use no mirrors at all but to look at the difference between two digital images. This technique is incredibly easy and was first developed by NASA to look at shock waves created
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How to Take Great City Photos at Night

Intimidated by nighttime photography? Here’s an inspiring 11-minute video from photographer Peter McKinnon on how you can take better photos of cities at night. McKinnon admits that he struggles with night-time photography. “As soon as the sun goes down, photography ends for me,” he says. “I don’t really enjoy going out with my camera at night.” But in an effort to push his boundaries and expand his creative horizons, McKinnon has been working on liking it more. Using a tripod is very important when you’re shooting at night. Long shutter speeds are a friend of low light environments, and that
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Wedding Photography Lighting Tips, From Preparation to Reception

My name is Jimmy Chan, and I’m the wedding photographer of Pixelicious in Montreal, Canada. I decided to challenge myself and write a comprehensive, in-depth guide to wedding photography in any lighting situation. As the title suggests, it will cover from preparation to reception and beyond, dissecting the characteristics of light while offering many step-by-step actionable tips to delight your next client. It will be written with the amateur/hobbyist in mind, therefore it should be something useful for everyone. Most importantly, this isn’t some theoretical mumbo-jumbo, all images featured below were taken at actual weddings. These are real clients, not
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8 DIY Photo Filters You Can Make at Home

If you’re looking to add a creative touch to your photos, you can consider making a DIY lens filter for custom effects. Here’s a 3-minute video from COOPH that suggests 8 photo filters that you can make at home to spice up your photos in seconds. Here’s a quick overview of the 8 filters and examples of what each one does:

1. Spray Your Lens with Water Droplets

2. Tape Fishing Line to the Lens for Creative Flare

3. Use Translucent Plastic for a ‘Tilt-Shift Effect’

4. Hold Clear Plastic In Front of the Lens

5. Shoot Through Colorful Strings
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Lightroom Shortcuts You Can Use All the Time

If you’re starting to spend a lot of time inside Lightroom, keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys can help speed up your workflow and save you precious seconds that add up over time. Toronto-based photographer Lucy Martin put together this helpful 3-minute video to share the handy Lightroom shortcuts that she finds herself using all the time. Here’s a quick rundown of the shortcuts covered in the video: G – Go to Grid (Library Mode)
E – Enter Loupe View
L – Lights Out
P – Pick/Flag Photo
X – Reject Photo
CAPS LOCK – Auto Next Photo
CMD + DELETE
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How to Shoot Macro Snowflake Photos at Home

This is my account of how I’ve fallen in love with snowflake photography… I’ve spent the better part of my life photographing nature’s smallest details. My early years of shooting botanicals eventually evolved into my current obsession with macro insect and spider photography. I’ve spent that same time running from the cold. I’m what some may call a “fair weather” photographer. A “warm season” photographer. A “give me 95°F and 80% humidity and I’ll still be out chasing bugs” kind of photographer. I am definitely not a winter photographer. Besides, other than the occasional snow fleas, there aren’t exactly tons
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How To Photograph Seascapes

Photographing the sea and the waves can be both challenging and fun. People often ask me what “the right settings” are to shoot moving water so I decided to write a little guide on it. There are many options depending on what look you’re going for. By using some examples of my own, I’ll explain how I shoot my seascapes. I usually define 3 options: Shooting the sea normally with a very fast shutter speed (not going to discuss it in this article as it’s just pressing the shutter and not doing much else), shooting the sea with a bit
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How to Split Tone Photos in Lightroom: A 5-Minute Tutorial

Here’s a 5-minute tutorial from Evan Ranft that shows you why and how you can easily split tone your photos for better colors using Adobe Lightroom. Split toning allows you to create a custom look in your image without manipulating any color channels in the first place. There’s no need to move the individual sliders for reds or blues, for example. Instead, you’re toning the highlights and shadows of the image. “This works in your benefit, as it allows you to move your edits from one photo to another while retaining the same look,” says Ranft. In the Develop window
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How to Photograph Perfume Bottles with a Single Speedlight

High-end product photography can be done with fewer resources than many might think if you add creativity and careful execution. Here’s a 7-minute video from Dustin Dolby of workphlo that shows you how you can take professional perfume bottle photos in a studio with a single speedlight. Using a flash on 1/16th power, Dolby backlights the bottle by shooting at a white wall behind. This bounces the light back at the bottle, allowing it to refract around the shapes of the product. You can do the same thing using a diffuser if you don’t have a white wall nearby. To
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How to Create a Droste Effect Photo in a Photo in a Photo

The Droste effect is when a photo recursively appears within itself — the photo within the photo within the photo, “tunneling” forever. Here’s a 12-minute video by photographer and retoucher Antti Karppinen that shows you can create a Droste effect photo for yourself. First, a straightforward way you can do this is by copying your image and pasting it into Photoshop. Just scale it down and position it in front of the frame, and continue this for as long as you want. But if you want to get a little more crazy, you can use a neat piece of software
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How to Dodge and Burn to Retouch Skin in Photoshop

Here’s a 14-minute tutorial from photographer and retoucher Zoë Noble that shows you how you can use dodging and burning to retouch skin in Adobe Photoshop. Noble always does her dodging and burning after having cleaned the skin, removing blemishes and other imperfections from the photo. Once all the prior work is done, new adjustment layers can be made to apply the tools non-destructively. First, Noble applies a Curves adjustment layer, increases the brightness of the mid-tones, and turns the mask to black. This is the Dodge adjustment layer. Then she does the same again, but darkens the mid-tones slightly, to
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Here’s a Clever Trick for Adding Life to Eyes in Photoshop

Photographer and retouching expert Matt Kloskowski made this 14-minute video that introduces on technique for adding life back into a portrait subject’s eyes using Photoshop. Sometimes you may find that the eyes in your image seem a little dark, lacking life and “punch.” Some photographers will use a kicker light, which is a shaped light that goes underneath the subject and “kicks” some light into the eye, providing a little bit of illumination into the lower part of the eye. But if this lighting route isn’t an option and you’re looking to improve the eyes in post-production, then there is
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