Sepia Town lets you view and share thousands of mapped historical images from around the globe.

You can even upload your own vintage images and share your history.

Explore Sepia Town here.

Blend It Out

January 5, 2011 | Leave a Comment |

It’s a perfect shot! If only those unwanted moving objects (UMOs, i.e., a person or a crowd) in the scene would disappear. As long as the unwanted elements in your frame move, even just a little, you can make them disappear from your image by taking two or more shots and using Photoshop’s layering and blending capabilities.

You don’t have to retouch your image. Blending is different than retouching. The unwanted elements aren’t covered over with new information by hiding them with replacement information similar to the surround, either from the same source or another. With blends, the information behind the moving subject is revealed. How? It’s contained in the other shot(s).

You even can do this with exposures that are made with slightly different angles of rotation or framing, so you can use this technique with handheld exposures, not just those made with a tripod. Camera motion may make manual registration difficult, but Photoshop automatically will align and, in some cases, distort the separate exposures so that they register precisely …

Read more at Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography ebooks.

Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Using Histograms – ETTR

December 27, 2010 | 2 Comments |

Review Histograms After Exposure

One big advantage of shooting digitally is the ability to view a histogram in the LCD screen on the back of your camera body. A histogram is a graph of the relative distribution of the data in your image from shadows on the left to highlights on the right. You can use a histogram to evaluate not only the tonal distribution but also the quality of your exposures. By viewing the histogram immediately after exposure, you can determine if you need to make additional exposures at alternate settings to get better exposures. Simply program your camera to display a histogram immediately after exposure. You’ll find this immediate feedback will result in much higher success rates.

Don’t Clip

When evaluating a histogram, the primary concern is clipping or loss of data due to underexposure or overexposure. When a histogram ‘hits the wall’ to the left, the image is underexposed. If the histogram ‘hits the wall’ to the right the image is overexposed. This indicates that you should change exposure settings to get a more balanced exposure.

A Camera’s LCD Displays the Histogram of a JPEG

The histogram displayed on the camera represents the information of an image in a converted JPEG state, even if you are shooting in Raw. Because Raw is so flexible, you won’t know what its histogram will look like until it has been processed. Settings on your digital camera will only be applied to JPEG files it creates but they will also influence the histogram preview. Many digital cameras will allow you to set JPEG contrast to a low setting, which reduces the likelihood of clipping and provides a better Raw preview.

Raw Files Have More Data in the Highlights

If you shoot Raw files, you’ll not only have more data  in your files (16-bit instead of 8-bit), you’ll also have the option of processing files yourself with a RAW converter rather than having the camera process it for you. The Raw files you shoot will have more data in the highlights than is indicated by the histogram on a camera’s LCD. Typically there are many more bits of data in the highlights than the shadows. Assuming your photo has a 6-stop dynamic range (6 f-stops between the darkest and lightest parts of the photo) the progressive increase in bits of data looks like this from dark to light: 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048 (see above diagram). Because of this, data in shadows tends to be noisier and of lower quality than data in highlights. So, when shooting in RAW format, favor ‘overexposure’ rather than underexposure; optimal Raw exposure looks overexposed but without clipping. Expose to the right (ETTR). Then, later during processing, darken it. You’ll get better shadow and highlight detail this way. You’ll be amazed at how much highlight detail you can recover.

How to Quickly Achieve Optimal Exposure

In short …
1    Review histograms after exposure
2    Set your camera’s JPEG preview to low contrast
3    Expose to the right (ETTR) but don’t clip
4    Darken your Raw files during processing to create a pleasing appearance

1 clipped low

2 poor

3 good

4 better

5 clipped high

6 too contrasty … bracket exposure

Find more online digital photography resources here.

Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Since it’s invention, photography has played an important role in history. It not only records history, it also has its own history. America knows itself in part through photographs. So what are the most important American photographs?

Here are the top 25 according to

What other photographs would you include?


October 27, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

Continuity. Every screenwriter needs to create it. Every storyboard needs to interpret it. Every director needs to guide it. Every editor needs to refine it. If you’re a still photographer, you may be called to do all of these things.

Continuity lies at the heart of the art of storytelling. The types of images selected and the transitions made between images presented in groups can be powerful tools for visual communication. Sequences can provide useful comparisons and contrasts between separate images and their contents. They set a pace and rhythm for looking. Carefully orchestrated they can create the illusion of moving in time forward or backward, linearly or non-linearly. They can be used in extremely creative ways. The best sequences make images clearer, more meaningful, and more moving.

Photographers can use continuity to guide and structure initial explorations on site; use a storyboard as a checklist to make sure no angle goes uncovered. Photographers can use continuity to find missing gaps or resolve challenging transitions in ongoing projects; update a storyboard and find the out what you’ve got too much of and what you don’t have enough of or find a bridges to connect disparate images. Photographers can use continuity to edit, sequence, and present existing work more effectively; fine tune a story in sophisticated and compelling ways; there are many possible solutions.

There are many classic strategies for sequencing images and creating transitions between them.


Include continuity in your work and you’ll find you’ll be able to solve many more visual challenges in many more ways and make the reception of your work more effective and powerfully felt. Once you understand what the many possibilities are and how they work, you can be extremely creative with them. Some artists have even been celebrated more for their use of continuity than their singular images. Continuity is so powerful that it can be an art in and of itself.

Read more on AfterCapture.

Learn more about storytelling here.

Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

My assistant, Charles Adams, spent this years Maine Fall Foliage Workshop photographing with the iPhone. Below he talks about his experience.

“Making images with an iPhone can be a terrific creative exercise. If you regularly shoot with a DSLR, the iPhone can simplify things and offer a new experience. I found this to be the case during this years fall foliage workshop. I left my Canon in the car along with all of the photographic requirements and responsibilities that I usually attach to it. It was a freeing experience. Suddenly the pressure to make the best photographs of my life was no longer there. I was free to play.

Being able to process your images seconds after shooting them is also key to the iPhone experience. The many apps available make it possible to shoot, edit, share, and get feedback before even getting back in the car. In my case, apps had a direct effect on which pictures I chose to make. I knew I was going to apply water color and oil painting filters to my images, so I tried to shoot accordingly. I set out to find good compositions with strong “bones.” “Bones” meaning solid structure that could benefit from the addition of dramatic effects.

The resulting images were fun to create. Changing the tools you use to make your images can offer new insights into your own photography. I strongly recommend allowing yourself to play.”

Visit Charles’ website here.

Find out about my digital photography workshops here.

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