Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shooting in RAW: Highlights and Shadows

More Reasons Why Shooting in RAW is Good

Today we’re going to talk about one of the best adjustments that you can do in RAW.  Because a RAW file has so much more data than a JPEG it unlocks the ability to adjust highlights and shadows in way that otherwise would not be possible.  Because your camera does not have the ability to display a wide range of bright and dark on the level that the human eye sees it, sometimes making these adjustments during editing is necessary.  We will also briefly touch on making adjustments to the brightness/darkness of your whites and blacks.

The Details 

If you are working in Photoshop Elements, like me, then here is a picture of the settings that we are discussing (circled in red).  Other programs will have similar settings.

When to Use

Last week we discussed what to do if your entire photo is over/under exposed.  What happens if your main subject is exposed correctly but you still have areas of the picture that are too bright/dark?  This problem happens very often, which is why I say that this is one of the best adjustments you can do with RAW photos.  You don’t want to adjust your exposure in this scenario because it brighten or darken everything, including the parts that are already correctly exposed.   Adjusting the highlights/shadows will fine tune just those bright/dark areas while leaving your correctly exposed areas alone.


I recently went on a camping trip in the mountains of Colorado.  I wanted to get a picture of my friends on their ATVs.  The problem was the difference in lighting between the bright sky and my friends.  If I adjusted my exposure for the subject (my friends) then the sky was too bright and looked more white than blue.  If I adjusted my exposure to get a nice deep blue sky, my subject became too dark.  I chose to expose for my main subject.  As you can see, the sky is very bright and there is no definition in the clouds at all.

Then in Photoshop Elements, I darkened the highlights as much as possible.  Below is the same photo with just the highlight adjustments.  The people and mountains are practically the same in terms of lighting, but now the sky is a richer blue and you can see much more definition in the clouds.

Just for fun, I’ll show you the finished product I came up with.  I wanted to focus even more on my friends, so I cropped the photo a bit, added some blur, and darkened some areas.  In future weeks we will discuss some of these edits.  The final product is below.

Shadows and White/Black Adjustments

The shadows adjustment works much the same way as the highlights adjustment, just on the other end of the spectrum.  Much of the time, I will see shadows in my photos that I will want to brighten just a little bit.  However, in the example below, I wanted to give my subject a darker kind of a feel, so I actually darkened the shadows.  This helped darken the guy’s face and under his hood.  It also darkened his cloak a little, but I still was not satisfied.  In your editing software, the adjustments to whites and blacks do exactly what you think they would…they make whites whiter and blacks blacker.  As you can see in the before photo, this guy’s cloak is almost grey due to the bright sun, so I darkened the black adjustment.   The white ball on the scepter is a little too white making it difficult to see some of the detail, so I ended up decreasing the white adjustment.


As with any edit, it is possible to go too far.  Be careful not to make the photo look artificial, which can happen especially when you brighten shadows.  Another problem when making your shadows too light is that you can potentially bring out noise (that grainy look) to the lightened areas.

Wrap Up

Editing in RAW allows you to most effectively adjust highlights and shadows.  When you make adjustments in these areas, your editing software can pinpoint just the bright/dark areas and adjust them without drastically changing the overall exposure to your photo as a whole.  The main time people use these adjustments is to darken skies that are too washed out in comparison to darker subjects.

Next Week: Clarity/Vibrance

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen is a landscape/nature photographer at heart, although he has been known to include people in his photos from time to time.  He owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Check out more of his work at and follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Turning Your Passion Into a Business: Part 3

Do What You Love & Love What You Do.

I LOVE a brand new squishy baby.  I love photographing newborns.  I really do love spending 3-4 hours in a hot room getting pooped on, rocking baby to sleep, waiting for snack breaks with mom, changing diapers, sweating, crawling on the floor, and spending 20 minutes getting one pose.  I'm not lying.  That's what I love.

If that doesn't sound like fun to you, don't worry, you are not alone.  In fact, I know plenty of photographers for whom that sounds like torture!  Do you know what I think sounds like torture?  Weddings, landscapes, commercial work, and product photography.  I'm guessing that there are plenty of you reading this that love one of those categories more than any other.  There really is something for everyone in the field of photography. 

What DO You Love?

When I first started my business I made the mistake that a lot of new photographers make.  I shot anything and everything.  I would shoot ANYTHING if it would get a client in the door. But guess what.  I'm not good at everything!  Are you really producing your best work when you are not comfortable doing it?  Maybe, but probably not.  From my own experience I can say that you will be more successful when you offer fewer products and become the best at what you do.

You are a photographer because you are passionate about SOMETHING.  Identify your passion.  Running a business is hard work.  You need your passion to stay motivated and continue to love your work. 

Why Less Is More:

There are several reasons for offering a limited number of products.  Most of these reasons are blog posts unto themselves, and categories that I will be covering in the next few weeks.

Branding:  You want to set yourself apart in the market.  We all know that everyone with a nice camera fancies themselves a "professional" these days.  How are you different from all the rest?  If you'll shoot anything, anywhere, anytime, you're NOT different.  Your specialty will help determine your brand. 

Time:  I'm sure I don't need to tell you how valuable it is.  One of the reasons I do not like to shoot weddings is that weddings happen on weekends.  Weekends are family time for me.  Lots of wedding photographers love the fact that they can shoot all weekend and spend the rest of the week editing in the cool quiet of their office.  (Because I'm sure wedding photographers do nothing but relax during the week! :)  Please don't yell at me, I'm just kidding!  You only have enough time in the day to do a few things very well. 

Temperament:  This is so important.  Not everyone has the patience, time, or desire to photograph newborn babies.  Not everyone likes getting up at the crack of dawn to hike to a beautiful landscape opportunity. (*raises hand).  Why be miserable?  There is a market out there for every product.  Do what makes you happy.  

Skill:   Let's be honest here.  Photographing a newborn and photographing a law office require a different set of skills.  One I do very well.  The other, not so much.  I don't see the point in taking on a job I'm not sure I can do well.  I do not want a disappointed client, and I know plenty of photographers that would love a commercial job, because that's what they do.  I'll send the commercial clients to them and in turn they will send the newborns my way.  

Marketing:  Your advertising budget will go much further if you target a specific audience.  Instead of trying to reach everyone, you only have to appeal to the clients you really want.  For me it's pregnant women and new moms.  I know where to find them and that's where I advertise. 

Gear:  Buy what you need to do what you love.  I need a posing beanbag, blankets, and about 10 million hats, bows, and crocheted animal sets.  I use mostly natural light and a couple good prime lenses.  Not at all what a wedding photographer needs!  Think of all the money you can save by specializing!!!

I think it's pretty safe to say that when someone loves their work it shows.  Both in the quality of the product and in the experience of the client.  Just one more reason to do what you love and love what you do.

Next week we'll talk about branding.  Creating a brand is a crucial step in setting yourself apart from the competition.

 Find her on Facebook at 1000 Words Photography LLC.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

File Renaming in Lightroom “What’s in a Name?”

Post 10
Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Want to customize the names of your images?

You have this option when you import images from your card into Lightroom. (If you don’t want to rename, make sure the box is not checked.) If you DO want to rename them, go with your choice of templates, or completely customize.

Click on the Template menu:


Choose between variations of custom names, dates, file names or shoot names.

You can go even further by choosing a specific file name extension:


Want to know what the image file names will look like? See Sample: ………..

(Next Post: Want to Blow Your Mind? Development Settings While Importing in Lightroom)

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shooting in RAW: Exposure and Contrast

More Reasons Why Shooting in RAW is Good

If you are not shooting in manual mode, you are relying on the camera to decide how bright to make the picture.  Even if you shoot in manual mode, you can sometimes misjudge how bright or dark the picture really is.  Either way, once you get the photo on your computer screen you might want to adjust your exposure.  The best place to adjust your exposure is when you are making edits to a RAW photo because the RAW format contains much more data than a JPEG for brightness/darkness.  While it is always good to try to get the exposure as accurate as possible in camera, it is nice to know that you have a little leeway afterwards, if needed.  The other thing we will discuss today is the Contrast adjustment.  I find that I’m a sucker for contrast and this is one of the main adjustments that I will almost always make to a photo.

The Details

If you are working in Photoshop Elements, like me, then here is a picture of the settings that we are discussing (circled in red).  Other programs will have similar settings.


Note that right above the exposure slider, there is an “Auto” button and “Default” button.  If you press Auto, the program will automatically adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, etc.  This can come in handy and you can make further adjustments from there, but if you don’t like what was done, just hit the Default button and it will take the settings back to normal.  For the record, if someone says that a photo is overexposed, then it is too bright.  If it is underexposed, then it is too dark.
When To Use

I almost always tweak my Exposure and Contrast a little.  Many people will tend to slightly over expose in camera knowing that it is easier to darken the photo just a bit.  A word of caution on Exposure: you can’t fix bad lighting with the Exposure tool.  If you take a photo on a cloudy day or at noon when the light is flat, don’t expect the Exposure tool to make your photo look like you took it during the golden hour.  A couple of weeks ago I showed a drastic example of a photo I took of a jet that was extremely overexposed.  I was able to bring down the exposure to make the jet look decent, but the lighting was still not the best so I never really used that photo for anything.  

Contrast: this is great for giving your photos a little extra pop.  If you are taking a portrait, contrast makes the person stand out from the background just a little.  Same thing with architecture and landscapes.  Adding a little contrast will give depth to your edges and shadows and make your shot stand out just a bit more.  Most of the time, a photo straight out of the camera will look a little flat but especially when you brighten it a little in Photoshop.  Using contrast will fix that.  Careful not to use too much though.  I have heard that editing is kind of like applying makeup.  You don’t want your photos to look like a girl in middle school who applies too much mascara. 

Below is a photo of a yellow umbrella with a red brick background.  The one of the left is straight out of the camera (ignore the weeds in the bottom corner).  The yellow is kind of pale and the red brick has almost a white shine to it.  Definitely not how it looked in real life.  The lighting is already kind of dark, so I don’t want to decrease the exposure on the photo.  Instead, I increased the contrast.  I actually increased it a lot…+42.  This is a lot more than I would increase the contrast on a person or some other object.  I shot this in the morning and it was pretty cloudy so the light was flat.  See how the yellow brightens up?  Individual bricks stand out better and you can see that the wall is not extremely well built the in the picture on the right.  Adding contrast definitely brought out the depth of the photo on a cloudy day.

Wrap Up

It is always good to get your exposure as accurate as possible in camera, but by shooting in RAW you have a bit of a safety net to adjust during post processing.  If unsure, go for a little bit of overexposure in camera and the adjust down in your editing software.  Use contrast to help add depth and make your subject pop out of the frame.  Don’t go overboard with the contrast though. 

Here is a tutorial on even more ways to adjust lighting and exposure in Photoshop Elements.

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen is a landscape/nature photographer at heart, although he has been known to include people in his photos from time to time.  He owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Check out more of his work at and follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Turning Your Passion Into a Business:Part 2

Licenses & Taxes & Insurance...Oh My!
It's not nearly as scary as it sounds.

You came back this week so I'm assuming that means you are ready to get going with this owning your own business thing.  I know a lot of people who have gotten to this point and given up because they did not know where to start (*sheepishly raising my hand*).  I've been there more than once myself.  Let's make sure this doesn't happen to you.  While you will have to do your own research based on where you live and plan to conduct business, I can point you in the right direction and hopefully make it a little easier for you.

Business License

Where and how you obtain your business license is going to vary based on your city/county/state government.  I suggest you visit your local government's website for all of the details.  Generally you will first need to visit your zoning office for a valid certificate of occupancy.  If you plan to use your home as an office only this is an easy step.  If you decide on a home studio the process will be a little more involved.  It is a possibility that you will not be allowed to have clients come to your home based on zoning regulations.  Don't panic. Ask questions and you are more likely to get the results you need.   And maybe that retail/rented studio space is for you after all!

After the zoning office you will be ready to obtain your business license.  In my case the correct office was located in the Occupational Tax division of the city government.  You will need your certificate of occupancy (or the like), ID, an original business name not already in use, and about 50 bucks.  Easy peasy!  Ready to hang out the sign and bring in the clients, right?



Yuck!  But get comfortable with them.  They are not going anywhere.  And let me just start by saying that I am in no way a tax expert.  But I do know that no matter where you live you need to pay them.  Make sure that you get a Federal Tax ID #. Head over to  You will most likely need to charge sales tax and you need this number to make sure you are getting those taxes to the right place.  Sales taxes can be paid quarterly or once a year.  You will report your income and expenses on your 1040 at tax time each year (so keep track!).  Again, your local and state government websites will have all the information you need specific to your location.  Don't be afraid of this process.  And if you know a great accountant this may be a good time to practice your bartering skills.  Everyone is going to need photographs at some point and you may be surprised at how many small business owners love to trade services.


Take it from the girl who dropped her camera and favorite lens in the river at the end of a family session, YOU NEED INSURANCE!  And not just for your equipment.  You need liability insurance to cover yourself and your assets in case something happens to someone in your studio or on location.  If you will be leasing a studio space you will not be allowed to sign a contract without proof of insurance.  Again, do not be afraid.  I carry a business liability policy covering my leased space, liability up to  $1,000,000, and $15,000 in equipment coverage.  This policy costs me $450/year.  And although this will vary based on your location, lease requirements, and equipment coverage needs, the cost won't be much compared to the peace of mind it affords.  Most likely the same insurance company you use for homeowners and auto can assist you with a business liability policy.


That was a lot of information, I know.  But I hope it gets you on the right path to getting your business up and running.  Just take it one step at a time and you'll get there.  I'm so excited for your new adventure!

Come back next Wednesday and we'll discuss the big decision of what products and services you want to offer.  After all, we REALLY want you to continue to LOVE what you do!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Duplicates and Copies in Lightroom

Post 9
Introduction to Adobe Lightroom® 
--> Series
When do I check Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates?

It’s good practice to keep this section checked all the time. Especially if you upload different images from the same source, it helps to make sure you aren’t working on the same image twice. Lightroom determines duplicates by name, file size, and time stamp (+/- 1 minute).

When do I use Make a Second Copy To:?

Making a second copy is a quick way to create back-up images. If you import directly from your card often, and erase/format your card after importing your images, then this will help you immensely. These second or back-up copies ensure you have original un-touched images saved separately from your working images. 

Save them in the location of your choice. (Note that Lightroom will create an additional folder named “Imported on…” and save your images inside.)

(Next Post: File Renaming “What’s in a Name?”)

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shooting in RAW: White Balance and Tint

More Reasons Why Shooting in RAW is Good

One of the greatest benefits to shooting in RAW is being able to easily control for abnormal tint in your photos.  A common example of abnormal tint is when you take a picture inside your house and objects that are white look kind of yellow instead.  Perhaps you have seen settings on your camera to adjust for different kinds of light: daylight, shade, cloudy, fluorescent, and the rest.  Perhaps those settings made you wonder…”what is tungsten, anyway?”  If you are like me, you are too busy keeping everything else in mind to bother with adjusting these white balance settings in your camera.  Even when you do fiddle with those settings, the picture doesn’t always come out the way you had hoped.  Like me, you probably just set it to “auto” and hope for the best.  One of the great things about shooting in RAW is that it pretty much gets rid of the need to mess with those white balance settings in camera.  You can make the adjustments afterwards and the result is exactly the same.  Better yet, when editing in RAW you aren’t stuck with those preset settings and you can custom adjust your white balance to your own taste. 

The Details

If you are working in Photoshop Elements, like me, then here is a picture of the settings that we are discussing (circled in red).  Other programs will have similar settings.  

Note that the White Balance drop down list and the Temperature slider are interconnected and will do the same thing.  Once you adjust your Temperature (White Balance) then you can use the Tint to fine tune your adjustment, if desired.  The White Balance drop down comes with preset temperatures: Auto, Daylight (temperature of 5500), Cloudy (6500), Shade (7500), Tungsten (2850), Fluorescent (3800), and Flash. 

I like to have a little more control and so I use the Temperature slider.  In the above example, I wanted a cooler temperature than Daylight (5500), but warmer than the Flourescent (3800).  When I put the slider at 4650, you will notice that the White Balance box now reads “Custom”. 

As mentioned, use the Tint slider to fine tune your colors a bit further.  Careful not to adjust Tint too much or you could end up with a picture where everything looks purple…unless that’s what you’re going for…not that there’s anything wrong with that…

When To Use

All of the time.  I almost always play with the Temperature/White Balance just a little bit when processing photos.  This is one of the most common edits I make.  However, I hardly ever touch the Tint. 

Here is a picture I took the other day when I was trying to get some ideas to practice some minimalist shots.  When I opened the RAW file, the Temperature was 3400 and the Tint was automatically at +25 (my camera’s white balance settings were on auto).  The light was poor and you can notice a yellowish-pinkish tint on the tub and walls.  It came out too “warm” for what I had pictured in my mind.

Below is the same shot where I cooled the temperature down to 2750 with the Temperature slider.  The color was still just a bit off, so I moved the Tint down to +10.  No other changes were made.  From here, I might play with the exposure, contrast, etc., but we’ll talk about those things another day.

Portraits: I will always adjust the Temperature/White Balance keeping the subjects’ skin tone in mind.  With this adjustment, I tend to ignore the sky and other things.  Let’s face it, people want themselves to look good in pictures.  Making the skin tone look good when adjusting the temperature is key.

Winter Shots:  If you are taking pictures in the snow, the shots will almost always have a cool blue tint to them.  You can make the snow look whiter by warming up the temperature a bit.

Sunsets and Starry Skies: It is amazing the amount of difference you can make to these scenes by simply adjusting the color temperature.  Here is a before/after comparison of a sunrise photo of Pike’s Peak in Colorado.  The blue sky really comes out with just a slight decrease in color temperature.

Wrap Up

By shooting in RAW you don’t have to think about your in-camera white balance settings.  Just set it to auto and then adjust with much greater control during processing.  Think about making white balance/temperature adjustments as one of the first things you do to process a photo.  Use the Tint adjustment sparingly. 

Next week: Exposure and Contrast

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!

Bryan Rasmussen is a landscape/nature photographer at heart, although he has been known to include people in his photos from time to time.  He owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Check out more of his work at and follow him at  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Turning Your Passion Into a Business

I Love Photography! 
Can I really get paid to do what I love?

You love photography.  Other people love your photography.  People have paid you for your photography.  Real money!  You start thinking "Hmm, I love photography and I like money.  Maybe it's time to start my own business."  Good for you!  But hold on just a minute, let's talk about this.  One of the questions I get asked the most by aspiring  photography business owners is "How much money do you make?"  None of your business!  Let's move on to the second most popular question:

How did you get started?

My answer: Just like you will.  Now, there are a LOT of decisions to be made before you invest the time and money required to start a business.  Some I'm sure you have thought of and others may not have crossed your mind.  Consider these...

Home or retail studio?
What do you want to photograph?
What products do you want to offer?
How much time do you have to devote to your business?
How will your business affect your family?
Do you have the skills required to deliver consistent quality to your clients or do you need to invest in education?

Now I don't mean to scare you off, but...well, you have some decisions to make.  And know that taking the time to answer these questions - and a few others - will seriously reduce the pain you might otherwise experience.  Obviously I decided that officially going into business was right for me.  I just wish someone had made me answer all of those questions BEFORE I got started.

Before I address the questions above, and as I jump into a few things in greater detail, let me say here that you will change your mind about almost everything along the way.  And, that's okay!  You'll learn new things, encounter new products, and life will happen.  But you need to have a basic plan in hand, and some reasonable expectations (notice I said "in hand" and not "in mind").

Pros and Cons

Here's your first bit of homework.  Make a list of pros and cons.  I'll be honest, when making my list a lot of things showed up on both sides of the list.  Working at home is a blessing and a curse.  So is working at a studio away from home.  Having more time with the kids may also be both...(hey, just being honest here!  They ARE adorable though!)

If after making your list you are still excited about starting your photography business, come back next Wednesday and I'll walk you through the process, starting with the basics:

Licenses & Taxes & Insurance...Oh My!

Find her on Facebook at 1000 Words Photography LLC.