Use Your Camera’s Depth of Field Better

The manual settings on your camera, if used right, can lead to far more marvelous photos than those done with the auto settings. It’s really quite unfortunate that most DLSR cameras come today with advanced auto settings, because it enables most users to postpone actually learning a thing or two about what the manual settings actually do and how they can be aligned to work together for perfect results. Don’t be one of those lazy would-be photographers who stick to the predefined options, as that will never lead to better than average photos. One of the first things you should learn to use better is the so-called triangle of camera exposure, composed of ISO, shutter speed and aperture. It can truly make the difference between average photos at best and good photos at least. But after learning more about those basics, the next thing which can influence your final photos for the better is your camera’s depth of field variable, a sub-setting within the aperture setting.

What is the Depth of Field?

The depth of field, usually abbreviated with an f-number, is something directly derived from the aperture of your camera. As a reminder, your camera’s aperture is the size of the hole within the lens, through which light travels to the inside of the camera. Considering that cameras are made following the model of the human eye, you could say that the aperture corresponds to the eye’s pupil, since they serve the same purpose of allowing light in. A bigger camera usually has a larger hole, and a smaller camera usually has a smaller hole. A larger hole equals a bigger aperture, while a smaller hole equals a lower aperture. The aperture of a camera is also expressed through an f number, with a higher number signifying a smaller aperture and vice-versa. This might seem counter-intuitive to some of you, but it can be easier sunk in if you look at this chart (pictured below). The white circles in it represent the size of the lens aperture, while the f numbers written below them illustrate the rule: the larger the number, the smaller the aperture signified will be.


The depth of field is the size of the field that looks sharp in a photograph, and it is directly dependent on the aperture.  A large depth of field number (like f/28) will bring all the foreground and background objects into focus equally, while a smaller number (signifying a larger aperture) will bring only the foreground objects into focus, making the background of the photo appear blurry. A good illustration of this effect can be observed in the picture below. As you might have guessed, this is how those wonderful photos with faded backgrounds are made with, and it is indeed a wonderful effect to use. A skilled manipulation of a camera’s depth of field allows the photographer to emphasize whatever their heart’s desire is within a photo, and to make sure the viewers “see” the same thing the photographer has seen when they look at the image.


Even though a camera’s aperture sounds like more or less of a hardware property, since it depends on the size of the hole and the lens, the aperture can be somewhat manipulated, within a minimum and maximum limit. Each camera comes with these min and max values stated in the manual or in the specifications of your lens, if you bought yours separately from the camera. The depth of field can be thus adjusted by adjusting the camera’s aperture, and you should play with it as often as possible to obtain better or more creative photos on the long run. Don’t be afraid to experiment, after a while you’ll get the feel of it and you’ll be able to employ the depth of field to create beautiful images seamlessly, just by following your gut. Good luck and have fun.

Create Great Wedding Cinemagraphs in 15 Steps


Image via PhotoJojo

What are cinemagraphs, you ask? Why, what a question! Essentially, they’re Graphics Interchange Format files, better known as .gifs. You’ve seen them all over your favorite entertainment websites online and you can even make them with nothing more than your smartphone these days, since, of course, there’s an app for that. However, there’s also a professional way to create great wedding cinemagraphs that will bring those unforgettable moments to life.

How to create great wedding cinemagraphs: A checklist

You’re going to need a camera that shoots video, a tripod, a video editing program and one version or another of Adobe Photoshop. And, of course, props, a model or several, and, most importantly, ideas for cinemagraphs.

#1. Plan out your scene. Shoot for subtle motions, moments and movements. In contrast, the rest of your scene should look great when still. Finally, aim for something that looks good when looped.

#2. Set up the camera as solidly as you can on its tripod and shoot away. You need 10 to 20 seconds of video tops.

#3. Make sure you’re shooting in the right format for Photoshop, i.e. either MOV or AVI.

#4. Import your video into Photoshop. You’re going to import the frames of the video into layers, and while more layers make for a smoother animation, anything above 100 layers is probably too much to work with.

#5. Check out the video frames, now imported into separate layers. Make sure you have all the layers you need.

#6. Go to Windows/Animation, to see the layers as actual frames in an animation. Play the animation to identify the moment you are going to be animating next.

#7. Once you’ve found the frames that display the portion you want to see animated. Bear in mind that some of the smoothness of the end .gif is going to be lost after you’ve deleted some of the layers, so choose them wisely.

#8. Choose your Alpha layer. That’s going to be the one layer that stays unchanged in the end .gif. duplicate it and place it over the other layers in the Layers window.

#9. Next, start creating movement in order to actually create great wedding cinemagraphs. This means that you need to start editing the Alpha layer with the aid of vector masks. These masks will effectively do away with the elements that are still in the Alpha layer, but that you want animated in the final version.

#10. Test out the animation, after you’re done masking the portions you want animated. Set the animation to loop Forever, then press play. Make note of any further edits you need to make, so as to make the movement as smooth as possible.

#11. Make sure your loop is smooth. There are several ways in which you can achieve this. One is by adding the Alpha layer plus the very first animation layer, right after the very last layer in the animation. Simply duplicate the last layer, then change what layers appear in it in the Layer window. For more complex animations, you’re going to want to loop some very specific frames in your Animation, that will help make the motion transition smoother.

#12. Color your .gif. .gif files unfortunately can’t hold as much color information as regular pictures, so you’re going to want to use an effect that works well with less data. You can either use a preset Photoshop action for a specific color effect, or colorize all the layers with a specific Photoshop mask.

#13. Save your final .gif in a resolution that’s suited for the web, i.e. not very large. You’re going to want your clients to show it off online and you’re also likely to showcase it in your portfolio. The typical resolution is 72 pixels/inch.

#14. Save the PSD project of the cinemagraph, then Save for Web & Devices.

#15. Enjoy the fact that you now know how to create great wedding cinemagraphs and don’t forget to show off your work!

Always Shoot in RAW Format! 4 Main Reasons

rawIf you’ve been shooting weddings or anything else, for that matter, as a professional, for at least some time now, then you’ve definitely been told you should always shoot in RAW format. Now, if you haven’t been around the photography circuit for long enough, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s just another file format, right?

Wrong. RAW is the format that any and all photographers should care about, if they have any claims to make about being a professional. See, the difference between shooting in RAW and using any other file formats is that the other ones will always compress the data captured by the sensor on your camera. This way, the information will be lost and your processed, final photo will inevitably suffer in terms of quality. File formats like JPEG also produce a series of errors, which you can’t correct – as you would be able to in RAW. Here are the top four reasons for which you should always shoot in RAW format and nothing else.

RAW yields top quality photos

This one has been lightly touched upon above: when shooting in the RAW file format, you lose no data, of everything the sensor on your camera picks up on. And this format has even become accessible enough for compact point-and-shoot devices, so there’s no reason why you, the owner of a professional level DSLR should opt for anything else. If you opt for JPEG, you’re essentially allowing your camera to process the image as it sees fit, which takes a lot of your creative input and decision power out of the process of picture making.

RAW is smoother

To say that RAW file formats are brighter is an oversimplification: in fact, images shot in this format simply come with more levels of brightness than any other formats. Compare it with the JPEG – it’s only able to record 256 levels of image brightness, as opposed to the staggering 4,096 to 16,384 levels that RAW files are able to reproduce. In other words, while JPEG is only capable of 8bit image captures, RAW files can support anything from 12bit to 14bit. More levels of brightness means smoother transitions between different color tones in the image you produce. It also entails the freedom to correct exposure levels, highlights, shadows, recover distorted areas, and toy with the contrasts, to name but a few perks.

Always shoot in RAW format for correct exposure

A lot of photographers who do no action shoots will tell you that the file format is, at most, a last resort for correcting bad exposures. In a certain sense, they are right: you will always get the best exposure in camera. However, at times it’s next to impossible to expose the image right under pressing, dynamic circumstances such as those often encountered at weddings. That’s where all the information stored in a RAW file steps in and allows you to correct exposure levels in post-processing, without a sensible decrease in picture quality.

RAW gives you the right to decide on white balance

Do we need to explain just how important white balance is for photography in general, but for wedding photography in particular? Hopefully not – but since we’re trying to determine you to always shoot in RAW format, we’re just going to mention that, when you shoot JPEG, the white balance is automatically applied by the camera, without your specific input. RAW files do also record white balance levels, but they also allow you the choice to intervene later and adjust the amount, so that your colors come out just the way you want them to (and not your camera).

Family Photo Shoot Time: How to Photograph Kids and Pets

A recent post here at Virtual Photography Studio covered the often delicate issue of organizing and setting a price for photo shoots that involve newborn babies. And since we were on the topic of family photos, we’ve decided to tackle another related subject today: how to photograph kids and pets together. Two of the most difficult to approach subjects in family and wedding photography also often make for some of the most engaging photos in the field. They are also often to be found at weddings and family celebrations since, let’s face it, they’re often the stars of the affair. Now, you may already know how to take endearing pictures of the family pooch, or how to bring out the best in little Timmy’s personality in front of the camera. But what happens when you need to work with both of them at the same time? Here are some of the basic tips you can readily apply in such scenarios, to come up with lovely pictures of the whole family!How to Photograph Kids and Pets

Capture them on the go

What can be more genuine and lovely than a picture of a child frolicking with the family dog, on the freshly mowed lawn? Not many things, if you ask us, which is why it’s always a good idea to capture these subjects as they move about. Avoid asking kids to pose, if you can – you run the risk of coming up with a photo that looks contrived. Instead, follow them at play and capture spontaneous moments. The technique of action shots does require a good dose of practice, but it’s well worth it, after all is said and done.

How to photograph kids and pets? At their level!

The most engaging portraits, irrespective of the species you’re shooting, are taken at eye level. This, of course, means that when you’re photographing kids and pets together, you’ll be spending most of your time on your knees. However, a well-framed shot of a kid holding a kitten, eyes looking directly into the camera, can melt even the iciest of hearts. Of course, don’t take this to mean that you need to make your ‘models’ look into the lens – in fact, you should probably avoid this altogether. Instead, for great effects, try to shoot from the perspective of the animals and kiddos you’re photographing. This will make your work seem natural and candid, it will help you achieve even lighting, and will probably greatly improve the quality of the background, too.

Up, close, and personal

Another rule of thumb on how to photograph kids and pets is to use your viewfinder and/or camera LCD to fill up as much space as you can with your subject. The closer you get, the more personal the shot will look, in the end. Don’t shy away from using the camera’s zoom, either. Remember that your aim is to capture those moments that count and they usually happen when a close bond is formed. They’re not the kind of moments you can notice from a distance, you know? Remember to check out the closest zooming distance whenever you go in for the zoom, then fire away.


One of the biggest challenges that even professional photographers are faced with, when photographing more than a single subject, is that of blurry, out-of-focus pictures. It most often happens when you’re using the auto-focus function of the camera (which you never should do, anyway, as a professional photographer). Make sure to lock the focus on your subject, then fire away. With a bit of luck (and a lot of practice) you’ll get clear, focused shots of precisely what you had been aiming for: love.

Photoshop Tutorial – Depth Of Field Blur

Adding depth of field to your image can alter the look dramatically. In this video, instructor Richard Harrington from Photoshop from Video, will show you how to use depth of field blur to create backdrops for use in chroma keying. Check out this video: [Read more…]

Photoshop Tutorial – Panoramic Images on the Web

Photoshop CS3 includes a Zoomify plug-in that lets you take large images and place them within a website page without your clients having to wait for the download. Check out this video tutorial on adding Panoramic images to a webpage. [Read more…]

Photoshop Tutorial – Faster Color Adjustments

Photoshop Video Tutorial – Faster color adjustments in Adobe Photoshop CS4. See how modifications to this amazing program will streamline your color adjustments. Check out this video: [Read more…]

Photoshop Tutorial – Color Range Command

In this Adobe Photoshop CS4 tutorial, Richard Harringtion looks at the color range command used to select a user defined color range of an image.

Photoshop Tutorial – Convert Color to Black & White

Photoshop Video Tutorial – Convert your color image to black and white quickly with adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop. Check out this video and see how to use it: [Read more…]

Photoshop Tutorial – Advanced Masking with CS4

Advanced masking in photoshop video tutorial. See how CS4 has added great features to simplify masking. Check out this video: [Read more…]