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By Jim Heid | Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shooting Silhouettes

Ben and Musician

Sometimes shapes tell a better story than details. When you photograph a subject in silhouette, you emphasize body language instead of facial expressions. A silhouette can be a powerful way to tell a story or convey a scene in an abstract way.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, February 06, 2014

Scanning Polaroid Negatives

shot of ben

A couple of months ago on The Practicing Photographer, fashion and portrait photographer Troy Word joined Ben Long for a discussion of the joys of instant photography—specifically, using a Polaroid camera along with beautiful black-and-white film manufactured by Fuji.

Fuji’s film works in what are called “pack-film” Polaroids. After you shoot a photo with these cameras, you pull the exposed film out, wait a specified amount of time, and then peel the print away from its backing. It’s that process that earns this format its other name: peel-apart. And it’s that peel that holds such appeal to Ben Long in this week’s The Practicing Photographer. When you separate a sheet of peel-apart film, you end up with your photo (obviously) and a negative.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, January 30, 2014

Panning for Blur

Panning for blur: The Practicing Photographer

Blur. We buy tripods and motion-stabilized lenses to avoid it, and we use Photoshop filters to try and fix it when it creeps into our shots.

But blur can also be a powerful tool for conveying a sense of motion in a static medium. A speeding car or motorcycle, a galloping horse or bounding dog, a cyclist on a track, a kid on a sled—subjects like these are natural candidates for some motion blur.

Blur is the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer. Ben Long and his motorcycle are joined by lynda.com videographer Josh Figatner, and the two explore various techniques for capturing motion blur as Ben rides down a deserted highway.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Importance of Warming Up

warming-up-your-photo-skills-lynda

No athlete would take to the field, and no musician would take to the stage, without first warming up. But what about photographers? Do you really need to do stretching exercises before pressing the shutter button?

In this week’s installment of his series, The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long discusses the importance of warming up your photographer’s eye when you go out to shoot.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Raw+JPEG Workflow for the iPad

raw-jpeg-ben-practicingphotographer

The best way to extract every bit of image quality from your camera is to shoot in its raw mode. A raw image contains the exact data recorded by the camera’s sensor. By comparison, when a camera creates a JPEG image, it discards significant amounts of data in order to make the image more compact.

But life is full of trade-offs. Raw files provide far more flexibility when adjusting exposure and color balance in a post-processing program such as Adobe Lightroom, but use far more storage space than JPEGs. Many cameras have a “best of both worlds” mode in which they create a companion JPEG file along with a raw file. This lets you use the JPEG for minor edits but fall back on the raw file should the image require significant adjustments that, with a JPEG, could compromise quality.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, December 19, 2013

Portrait Photography Lighting Exercises–With an Egg

classroom

Ben Long would like you to have an egg. As a photo subject, that is. In this week’s installment of his weekly series, The Practicing Photographer, Ben issues an assignment: Photograph an egg in a way that conveys emotion. How do you get emotion out of an egg without drawing a face on it, Ben asks? Through lighting and composition. As this week’s two-video installment unfolds, we join Ben and photographer Troy Word in a classroom at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, where Troy gives his students this very assignment.

Troy demonstrates various lighting schemes, which you can replicate using anything from a studio light to a desk lamp or work light. As he moves the light around, changing its angle and its distance from the egg, the shadows on the egg change—and the mood in the resulting photos changes along with them.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, November 14, 2013

Exploring your photographic themes: The Practicing Photographer

Ben shoots a bike

Whether you call yourself a photo enthusiast or a pro, whether you shoot with a phone or with film, you probably have themes that crop up frequently in your photography. By intent or by accident, certain subjects or themes surface in your photos—whether dogs or rivers or carefully crafted coffee drinks.

Or bicycles. Ben Long likes bikes, and he finds himself photographing them frequently. As he describes in this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, he hasn’t yet photographed The Perfect Bicycle shot, but he keeps practicing. And that’s what it’s all about. Maybe one day he’ll find a perfect bike in a perfect setting with perfect light, but in the meantime, he’s refining his eye and building a library of thematic shots—photographic studies of the lines and shapes of bicycles.

By Jim Heid | Thursday, November 07, 2013

Should You Bother Using a Lens Shade?

Ben Long demonstrates a lens shade

The lowly lens shade might just be the least glamorous piece of gear in your camera bag. It’s that plastic ring that attaches to your lens and helps guard against flare—those bright circles that appear when your camera is pointed near the sun or another bright light source.

Most new lenses include shades. So why does Ben Long confess to rarely using them—indeed, to having a “completely irrational fear” of the things? That’s the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer.

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