As we roll into the season of longer nights, we don’t think the extra darkness this should cut down on the amount of time you spend with your camera.
Low-light photography can be intimidating if you’re new to photography, but it’s easier than you think…. and you can take some amazing photos that take much more patience to capture when the days are bright and long.
Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind to keep you shooting (and sharing) photos through the darkest time of the year.
Know Your Gear
Photography is all about physics, but even if you weren’t a science major you can take a few minutes to learn the only tip you ever need to learn.
Photography is about capturing light, so low-light shooting means maximizing the amount of light hitting your sensor. There are three ways to do that:
- Allow more light through the lens
- Keep the shutter open longer
- Boost the sensitivity of your sensor
How? Widen the aperture of your lens, slow down your shutter speed, or raise your ISO, respectively. If you’ve never done any of this before, dig up your camera’s manual (or Google for the PDF version) and get to know these three things now. Shooting in your camera’s Manual mode is the most tricky – but most surefire – way to learn these principles, but you can also try Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes to fix one of the settings and let your camera automatically calculate the rest.
Knowing which buttons to push and which dials to turn is a priceless skill to have, and you should commit it to muscle memory now so you don’t end up panicking in the dark.
Additionally, your camera and lenses often have specific limitations. If you have an older camera, for example, you may not want to push the ISO above 1600. And some lenses simply don’t open up wider than f/5.6. If you’ve been thinking about trying new equipment but aren’t sure it’s the right gear for you, check out our own, in-house gear reviews to get an idea of what’s out there before you drop thousands of dollars.
Embrace Your Grain
Even if your images come out a bit grainy from pushing your ISO, that’s OK. Think about all the film photos you’ve probably seen from 30 to 50 years ago and you’ll notice the grain adds a lot of character to the image. It makes sense to embrace it and get to know it a little better.
Grain itself can contain quite a bit of color that may not be found otherwise in your scene. To minimize it, try third-party noise-reduction software, or experiment with the noise-reduction feature in programs that you’re already using, like Lightroom and Photoshop. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Alternatively, try converting your image to black and white and playing around with the contrast. Photos that look weird at first look rock ‘n’ roll once the color’s stripped out. To do this, give it a quick conversion using SmugMug’s Image Editor, PicMonkey, or (our favorite) Lightroom.
Make More Light with Lightroom
Modern digital cameras give you quite a bit of leeway with the exposure, so if your image came out a bit dark (which happens because your camera’s LCD often gives a brighter impression of your image than you actually took), it’s OK to bump the exposure in post.
For most, pushing the “Exposure” slider is sufficient, but some pixel peepers may suggest using the more specific sliders you can find below that: highlights, whites, and shadows. These boost only the pixels you need without harming the rest. Experiment with what works best for you to get the look you want.
Once that’s done, don’t forget to publish your goodies to SmugMug and show the world what you’re capturing after the sun goes down.
Seek the Moment, Not Perfection
Above all, don’t stress about getting the perfect shot every time. Blurred motion, being too dark (or too bright) are all details that take your photo beyond basic shape and color. So be sure to capture the action, the intensity, and the joy of what you and your friends are doing. Even if it’s not textbook perfect, we guarantee that as soon as you share your photos, they won’t be thinking of anything except how much fun they had.
We’ll be sharing a few more low-light tips in the weeks coming, so stay tuned for more creative ideas to keep shooting in the dark!
Don’t let your photos die in the digital graveyard! Even though we live in the iPhone age and highly recommend that pro photographers offer digital downloads as part of their business models, we think that a trusty, traditional, physical print still has a place in every home.
Here are four reasons why.
1) Prints Bring Photos to Life
Prints have presence. There’s never any doubt about that, as any framed photo or tangible image in your home draws the eye every single time. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a physical print when you’re not actually faced with one, but once you unwrap your print, feel the weight of it in your hands and see the light shining from its surface, you’ll see what we mean.
Particularly if you opt for metallic paper finish, or one of SmugMug’s modern print options like MetalPrints and Box Frame Prints. Guaranteed to stop every guest in their tracks.
2) Not Everyone is Online
Facebook may hold its fair share of friends with whom you share photos, but we’re willing to bet that your social group isn’t 100% online. For all the people you care about who aren’t on the web, prints are the medium of choice.
Whether this includes your mom, your grandpa, or your pen pal from 3rd grade abstaining from the internet, we’re pretty sure they’ll be delighted to receive a print, album or even a photo book in the mail.
3) Rare Means Care
Since we’re all guilty of taking digital photos for granted, prints are rare and (by basic laws of economics) will command more attention because of their relative scarcity. You know you’ll already captivate your online audience with your unlimited SmugMug galleries, but we’re pretty sure one meaningful print in your hallway will grab their attention, too.
For those of you looking for the most bang for your buck, prints are perfect for you. And who wouldn’t want something special hanging on their wall?
4) Your Memories Exist Even If Your Computer Explodes
Imagine you’re rummaging around your desk and find a priceless snapshot from 1992 that you took on one of those disposable cardboard cameras. Wow!
It’s definitely easier to drag and drop your files around folders on your hard drive (or in your SmugMug Organizer), but real photos are a joy to unearth. While not completely immune to discoloration, fire or fading, so many threads of history have been woven into a larger tale because of photos, crisp and bent with handwritten notes scrawled along the back.
Wouldn’t you want physical proof that you lived, even after the ‘Off’ button was pressed?
Let Your Photos Grow Up on SmugMug
We have four great print labs for you to choose from at SmugMug. EZ Prints is available for Basic subscribers, and Bay Photo, WHCC, and Loxley Colour are additional options (with additional print and mounting choices) for Portfolio and Business accounts.
To see the complete list of all print sizes and products available on your account, simply log in and view your Account Settings > Business tab to view your Pricelists by lab. Basic and Power Users can just click the Buy Photos button in any gallery to open the available items in the shopping cart.
Print your photos. No matter if you’re just snapping moments on your iPhone or documenting in RAW with a top-of-the-line DSLR, whether you just snap photos of your friends or if you’re a full-time pro, it’s up to you to make the most out of your life. So buy a print, hang it on the wall and keep those memories close at hand.
You won’t regret it.
Links to love:
- Pros, don’t leave money on the table. Sell digital downloads
- SmugMug’s four great print labs
- Paper pixel peepers, look here for full details on our print specs
- Photo Extras at Bay Photo: Frames, mountings, finishes and more
- Turn your SmugMug galleries into custom photo books in minutes
- 4 Reasons Why the Organizer is the Best Thing to Happen To Your Photos
- How to price, sell, and make money on SmugMug
- All about your Account Settings
You may get confused about the difference between the two, so here’s a cheat sheet to help you get better acquainted with each one, and some ideas for how you’d use them in your everyday photo lives.
How are Collected Photos and Make a Copy Different?
Both of these features are found in your galleries underneath each photo. And both will duplicate your image. But that’s where the similarity ends.
Collect Photos puts a virtual copy of your image, be it in the same gallery, in a different gallery, or into someone else’s gallery (on another account, if you allow this). The original continues to live where it lives, and any changes you make to the original, such as adding keywords and changing the watermark or cropping, will show up on all virtual copies.
Make a Copy creates an exact duplicate file, which can then be moved to a different location on your own site. The two files then behave completely independently of each other, meaning that any changes made to the original won’t impact the copy, and vice versa.
When to Use Collect Photos
Collect Photos is perfect for curating beautiful, succinct groups of images to tell your story. After all, SmugMug’s unlimited and you’re probably emptying whole memory cards into your galleries. With the power of Collect Photos, that’s totally OK!
Here’s some ways you can use it:
- Upload all your images into unlisted galleries organized by date, and collect just the ones from around town into your public Street Photography gallery.
- Collect just your best guest images from the wedding to share with the bride’s family.
- Collect any time you want a photo displayed in multiple galleries on your site, and you want to be able to update the keywords and caption on it everywhere it appears.
Tip: Pros! Collect Photos is the power behind our Favorites feature in Events, which allows your top clients to choose the photos they love best out of your proof galleries. See if Events are for you.
When to Use Make a Copy
Make a Copy is fabulous for whenever you want to try something out on a photo that you’ve uploaded into a gallery, but you’re not quite sure if you want to lose the original.
Some example opportunities:
- When you’re creating a new custom Watermark or Printmark and want to know how it looks next to your existing marks.
- If you think that your pic may look better with a teeny bit of cropping.
- Any time you’re playing around with color effects in your Photo Tools. (Converting a color photo to B&W is one popular example)
Tip: You can also edit your SmugMug photos with PicMonkey, but they’ll offer to automatically save a copy so you don’t have to worry about it.
We hope this installment of Smug Tips comes in handy and helps you share and enjoy your photos even more. Confused about a feature, need help with your workflow, or just have an idea for more tips? Let us know in the comments!
- See more Smug Tips in the archives
- Collecting photos: What, how, and why
- Photo Tools, where you’ll find Make a Copy
- How to change keywords, title, or captions
- How to create, apply, and change your Watermarks
- (Permanently!) Cropping your uploaded photos
- Moving folders, photos, and galleries around your site
- Let your guests mark their favorite photos
- Why Events are best for your business
- Printmarks: Leave your stamp on your prints
- How to apply color effects to your photos
- Edit your SmugMug photos for free with PicMonkey
… and use your powers for good, not evil.
A quick update this morning for pros who use right-click protection to stop thieves from grabbing your pics: we’ve added the ability to customize the message that displays when viewers right click your protected photos.
This is something that you could do using CSS customization in Old SmugMug, but we think it’s such an important piece of building a great experience on your site, we wanted to make it drop-dead simple for you to do this in the new, beautiful SmugMug.
Get It Set Up
Visit your Account Settings and look under your Privacy tab. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a brand new “Right-Click Message” field. Fill that out, save your changes, and test right-clicking on photos in your protected galleries to see how it looks. Here’s more help.
Tip: We recommend being firm but friendly. If you have prints for sale, ask them to look for the Buy button to grab one of your photos in a legit way.
A Word About Image Theft
As always, we want to share some helpful info about image protection and what to expect. After all, if you’re paying us for a pro-level account, you should get the best bang for your buck!
We hear a lot from ambitious pros who rely on tools like Right-Click Protection way more heavily than they probably should. Why’s this bad? Right-Click Protection is just a deterrent, and if someone really wants to download a free copy of your image, there are several things they’ll try. For example, they can snap a screen grab, so be sure to use the full suite of image protection tools if you’re really worried about this. Here’s a quick review of your options:
- Right-Click Protection. Displays a popup window when any part of the gallery is clicked. Fabulous when coupled with a warm, friendly message encouraging fans to buy.
- Display Size. Limits the size of the images viewers can see. Great for foiling screen grabbers.
- Watermarking. Logo or text placed over your display copies. Add your URL, enable sharing, and you’ve got yourself a ton of free advertising for your biz. The best bit? Your prints still print clean.
We hope this helps those of you who are new to SmugMug, are new to photography, or who just haven’t fiddled with your site lately and are looking to brush up on the basics.
And as always, be sure to let us know if you have questions, problems, or just need some advice getting your site working the way you want. We’re here.