Focal Length and Depth of Field

There is a long-standing myth in photography that focal length has an impact on the depth of field in your scene. I know this myth is long-standing because it’s what I was taught, and it is what I have, in turn, been teaching. In fact, early editions of Complete Digital Photography included this very myth. However, with a simple experiment, you can demonstrate that focal length has no impact on actual depth of field.

However, before you start dreading the need to relearn a bunch of old habits, stop. While the theory that has been taught for the last 150 years or so might have been technically incorrect, the practical upshot has been completely valid. So, this article is not so much about changing your hands-on technique. Rather, it’s simply presented to offer you a more accurate explanation of what actually happens to depth of field when you choose one focal length over another. Your everyday practice—using longer lenses to get apparently shallower depth of field—will still apply, but after reading this article, you might have a different understanding of why the depth of field appears different with different focal lengths.

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Matt K’s Lightroom Crash Course

Matt K Lightroom Crash CourseMatt Kloskowski is one of the best Lightroom (and Photoshop) trainers out there, bar none. He has all the hallmarks of a great trainer, including an innate capacity to learn from his students as well as to teach them, and he understands where many users get lost in the weeds with photo editing software.

Over the years, he and I have had a few conversations about the difficulties that some new users run into when setting Lightroom up, and why they never really use the app to the best of its capabilities. To that end, Matt has released a 60-minute Lightroom Crash Course, designed solely to help people get over those initial hurdles when learning Lightroom Classic CC:

This course is meant to cut through all of the thousands of features that Lightroom has and get you feeling good about getting your photos in to it, and (most importantly), to start editing those photos and having some fun. My personal goal in teaching photo editing is to get you editing and enjoying your photography as fast as possible and that’s exactly what this 60 minute crash course will do.

This course is great if you have thought about jumping into Lightroom Classic, or if you’ve played around with it and are confused about things like where your photos are, or how to edit your photos effectively. Despite the course’s short length, Matt also talks about Lightroom features like brushes and graduated filters and how to export and print your photos. In addition, all of the sample photos used in the course are included for you to follow along.

For $50, the Lightroom Crash Course is darn close to a perfect hour (well, an hour and two minutes). And, if you want a deeper dive into Lightroom Classic, check out Matt’s much more comprehensive Lightroom System course, which is currently priced at $150. I highly recommend both courses, although all of Matt’s training—including his courses on Photoshop and ON1’s Photo Raw—is top-notch.

20 Years of Student Photography in the Bronx

CDP camera iconI came across this fascinating story about photography, education, and place in The New York Times recently, entitled “Capturing the Beauty of Everyday Life in the Bronx.” The essay talks about a new photography exhibit that showcases a 20-year partnership between the International Center of Photography and the Point, a community organization based in the Bronx:

For two decades, hundreds of young people have learned analog photography through a partnership between the Point, a community group in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, and the International Center of Photography. This community, whose 6,000 residents live on a peninsula cut off from the rest of the borough by the Bruckner Expressway, has had its resilience tested by nature — like Hurricane Sandy — and man-made disasters like abandonment, crime and, now, gentrification. But the young photographers who have come up through this program — more than 2,000 so far — have devoted themselves to presenting a full, honest portrayal of their community.

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Update on the 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography

UPDATE (December 2018): The ninth edition of Ben’s Complete Digital Photography is now available. You can find out more on our CDP9 book page, or, you can order the book directly from Amazon.

We’ve had a few requests recently for information on the status of the 9th edition of Ben Long’s Complete Digital Photography, so it seemed to be the right time for an update.

While I really do wish that the new edition was finished and ready for sale, I can tell you that the book’s production is well underway. Ben has been diligently working on the book for a while now, and I’ve started on the editing and the design side. The biggest challenge for Ben has been the change in the postproduction landscape since the 8th edition, which has meant that most of those chapters need to be rewritten from scratch.

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Portland photo workshop with Hudson Henry

Our good friend Hudson Henry has just announced a three-day photo workshop in Portland, Oregon from September 21 to 23, with an optional fourth day in the field for interested participants:

Join me for this hometown workshop to explore Portland, Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and (optionally) Silver Falls State Park. It’s easy to forget how amazing your own backyard is, but with each Northwest workshop I run, the participants say they wish they had more time close to Portland….This workshop is all about sharing the special place I live with you. And, as a bonus, I’ve timed it for a full moonrise at sunset for us to photograph, and I have a fun location picked out for it. You’ll want to bring a long lens for that.

The first three days will include shoots in Portland and out in the Gorge/Mt. Hood area, and is priced at $845. If you’re looking to spend a little more time in the area, Hudson will be heading out to Silver Falls State park in the Willamette Valley on the fourth day; the cost of the four-day workshop is $1,175.

Hudson’s workshops are small, intimate affairs with lots of hands-on classroom and shooting time. Given Hudson’s love for the Portland area, this one should be a special treat.

Audubon Photography Awards

I admire the tenacity of wildlife photographers, especially those who shoot birds. The patience, drive, and focus required—sometimes helped with a pinch of luck—to capture great images of birds is an art form in and of itself. And, while I don’t have the desire to go out in a blind and wait with a very long lens, I appreciate those who are masters of the form. That’s why it was great to see the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards posted this week.

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2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

National Geographic has posted the results of its Travel Photographer of the Year contest, and, as usual, there are some spectacular images to be seen. The grand prize winning image, shown below, is from Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi, and is absolutely gorgeous on a big screen.

Source: 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year | National Geographic

If you’re looking for a bit of photographic inspiration today, it is well worth taking a leisurely stroll through the galleries. One thing that really jumped out at me was how many of the winning images (in both the standard and people’s choice groups) were shot with a drone. The one of the crocodiles in Costa Rica, for example, is pretty terrifying, while the shot of the flamingos taking off (taken from a helicopter, not a drone) is stunningly beautiful.

One nice touch is that National Geo, and the photographers, let you download many of the winning photos for personal use as wallpaper for desktops, tablets and phones.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018.5 adds profiles, LUT support, speed boosts

Photo RAW Browse module

ON1 is now shipping ON1 Photo RAW 2018.5, the mid-year release of its photo editor and image-management app for Windows and macOS. The update adds support for embedded camera profiles in the Develop module; an expanded Transform function; a new LUT (look-up table) filter for the Effects module; a revamped import/export manager for presets, LUTs, and border and texture files; and the addition of nested albums and presets. The update also includes support for recently released cameras and lenses.

Profiles and LUTs

Photo RAW 2018.5 adds support for the built-in profiles that come with most modern digital cameras, letting you get the same basic look that you see on your camera back. In addition,  ON1 has included a number of its own camera profiles for landscape, portrait and other scene types.

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Adobe updates Lightroom ecosystem

Today, Adobe released updates to its Lightroom family of apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. The majority of the updates center around Lightroom CC, but Lightroom Classic also got a little bit of love as well, and many of the options will also trickle to the browser-based version of Lightroom. Here are the main features in the release:

  • The Lightroom CC mobile apps can now create presets. And, with this addition, presets (and profiles) can now be synchronized across all platforms—desktop, mobile, and web. This includes your own custom presets and any third-party presets you’ve added, anywhere in the Lightroom CC app world. (If you’re using Lightroom Classic, Julianne Kost posted a cool tip on how to synchronize presets and profiles between Classic and Lightroom CC mobile devices.)
  • A Manage Preset option has been added to the entire ecosystem, letting you show or hide presets by installed category.
  • The mobile apps also get the Healing Brush tool and chromatic aberration correction. The iOS version of Lightroom CC also has a Long Exposure Technology Preview (for iPhone 7 and up only).
  • You can now copy and paste edit settings inside the Lightroom CC desktop app. And, as you can with Lightroom Classic, you have the option to choose which settings you wish to copy.
  • Lightroom Classic’s HDR and Panorama merge features now include an option to automatically stack the images used and place the finished image at the top of the stack.
  • The Mac versions of Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC also get support for the High Efficiency Image Format (HEIC), currently used by Apple with their latest iPhone and iPad cameras. This is supported on the Mac for now, but as acceptance grows, it should move to other platforms as well. [For more on HEIC, see this page.]
  • Adobe also added a few new web-portfolio sharing options from within Lightroom CC, letting you control image downloads, and whether metadata and location information is viewable.

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DxO releases Nik Collection 2018

DxO Labs has released its first version of the Nik Software plug-ins since acquiring the suite last year from Google. Nik Collection 2018, provides compatibility with the current versions of Photoshop CC, Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop Elements, and includes 64-bit support for both macOS and Windows; there are no other new features. According to a company spokesman,

“It was necessary to recover and recompile source code that had not been maintained for a long time in order to make it compatible with the latest versions of Adobe products and the latest Apple OS updates. This is a first step that allows us to start afresh.”

The seven plug-ins included with the Nik Collection—Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, Viveza, Dfine, and Sharpener Pro—perform color and black and white effects, selective color editing, noise reduction and sharpening to your images. Originally created by Nik Software, the plug-ins were acquired by Google when the company purchased Nik in 2012, and were left to languish as Google’s photo priorities changed. (Google originally sold them for $150, and ultimately made them free, but as time went on, they became incompatible with newer versions of the CC apps.)