How To Use Instagram For Photography Inspiration (and Who To Follow)

Instagram has become so many things. It’s a place to share your personal photos, videos, and fun selfies with friends. A place to look for fresh travel ideas for your next trip. And finally, a place to find photography inspiration.

For all you photo enthusiasts we put together this list of top 10 famous photographers from all over the world who regularly share creative content on Instagram. Each of the profiles is “must-follow” material, not just for those interested in photography, but also for those who enjoy art and aesthetic beauty.

1. Dave Yoder @daveyoder

Talking about the power of beauty and art in photographs, our first pick is Dave Yoder. A National Geographic photographer, Dave has an Instagram account full of inspirational photography pieces often with powerful messages attached.

The photographer also seems like a true citizen of the world. Follow him and you’ll get an insight into the lives of people from every corner of the planet.

2. Nick Knight @nick_knight

If you understand and love fashion, Nick Knight’s works will make a perfect source of inspiration for you. The British photographer has worked for fashion magazines like Vogue and W. The brands he’s shot include Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Calvin Klein. Nowadays he doesn’t just do photography but also directs music videos for pop divas like Bjork and Lady Gaga.

Alternatively, if you don’t know a lot about fashion, you can appreciate Knight’s works for its aesthetic beauty. Many of his works will remind you of art masterpieces, like Alphonse Mucha’s posters.

3. Ira Block @irablockphoto

What can we say, National Geographic clearly has some of the best photographers working for them.

Ira Block is an American photographer from New York who has been shooting fantastic stories since the 1970s. To say his Instagram account is diverse is an understatement. From busy streets of America’s cultural capital to the natural wonders of South East Asia, follow Block on Instagram to be a part of that journey.

4. Theron Humphrey @thiswildidea

Theron Humphrey was born and bred in coastal North Carolina. It’s almost like his pictures have this comforting sandy soil and log fire feeling to them.

Yes, Theron’s magnificent pet Maddie is the star of good 80 percent of his Instagram pictures. Did it have anything to do with Theron’s Instagram making it to this list? No comment. But whether you’re an animal lover or not, the photographer’s ability to capture everyday life moments and turn them into original art is truly impressive.

5. Pete Souza @petesouza

Bunny ears, 2014. C’mon admit it, you knew this one was coming.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Now that you have your share of cute dog pictures, introducing you to the works of the President’s photographer seems like a natural step forward.

Pete Souza has previously made his way into MakeUseOf articles with his documentary “The President’s Photographer“. Pete’s photography is just as impressive as his documentaries. He’d been the chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama since 2008. Follow his Instagram for an exclusive insight into a life of the politician, the White House, and beyond.

6. Jonathan Mannion @jonathanmannion

Jonathan Mannion’s photography is centered around hip hop culture. He has shot over 300 album covers and has previously worked with hip-hop stars like Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Aaliyah, Outkast, Nas, Nicki Minaj, and Kendrick Lamar.

The photographer’s lens has also captured actors, athletes, artists, designers, and other tastemakers. Jonathan has a special ability to connect with the people of creative professions on a different level and bring out their enigmatic personalities. His works are some of the most iconic images of the people who define the modern world’s art industry.

7. Asa Sjostrom @asasjostromphotography

Asa Sjostrom is an award-winning documentary photographer based in Sweden. Most of her pictures focus on social issues and human rights, especially those concerning women and children.

Asa describes her mission as a photojournalist as “creating awareness and striving for intimate situations between [her] and the people in [her] photographs.”

8. Mike Kus @mikekus

Canal townhouse reflections on a beautiful morning!

A post shared by Mike Kus (@mikekus) on

Our next pick is that rare case when the number of followers on Instagram actually tells you something about the photographer.

Mike Kus is a graphic designer and a photographer based in the UK. He was one of the first designers to start using the network. Mike’s creative pictures have clearly won Instagram users’ hearts (or at least the hearts of his 800,000 users). Follow him for some truly inspired photography of the (sometimes) gloomy but romantic British landscapes.

9. Ami Vitale @amivitale

Photo by @amivitale. Mary, one of the wildlife keepers from the local Samburu community, watches over orphaned or abandoned reticulated giraffes at the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya. Reticulated giraffe number less than 8,700 individuals — as a distinct species, it makes them some of the most endangered large mammals in the world. Though scientists long classified giraffes as one species with multiple subspecies, new research revealed that giraffes should be four species. The goal is to eventually release these giraffe back into the wild. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary (@r.e.s.c.u.e) and Sarara Camp (@sararacamp) are part of the Samburu-owned Namunyak Conservancy. @nrt_kenya @lewa_wildlife @ConservationOrg @nature_africa @tusk_org @kenyawildlifeservice @sandiegozoo @natgeo @natgeocreative @thephotosociety @nikonusa #giraffe #savegiraffe #retetielephants #kenya #northernkenya #magicalkenya #whyilovekenya #africa #everydayafrica #natureisspeaking #nikonusa #nikonlove #nikonnofilter #nikonambassador #nikond5s #photojournalism #amivitale

A post shared by Ami Vitale (@amivitale) on

If your heart stops when you think about traveling the world, discovering new places and cultures, and wanderlust, then Ami Vitale’s pictures are your cup of tea.

It’s safe to say that Ami has seen and experienced it all. Having been to more than 80 countries, she’s witnessed poverty, violence, and destruction of life — but also “surreal beauty, and the power of the human spirit.”

Her photographs have been exhibited in museums all over the world and published in international magazines. At the moment she is working on conservation stories in Kenya. Spoiler: be prepared for some of the most endearing pictures of Kenyan wildlife.

10. Dustin Vaughn-Luma @dvl

For the grand finale, we present you Dustin Vaughn-Luma – a photographer from San Jose, California. When he’s not busy photographing laughing people, peculiar stairs, street graffiti, and vintage cameras, he works as a contributing writer for @casual_photophile.

His pictures are rich with details and often show you surprising perspectives. Importantly, Dustin’s pictures always have a unique point of view.

Is That All?

What are 10 Instagram accounts in comparison to the 600 million network’s users? There are maybe hundreds more imaginative photographers that would make perfect inspiration sources. Like these professional photographers with compelling Instagram profiles, these nature photographers, or these 8 photographers based in India.

Who do you follow on Instagram? Do you use the network as a source for inspiration? Are there any talented photographers on Instagram that you didn’t find on our list? Share your personal picks in the comments below!

10 Free Adobe Photoshop Plugins For The Best Creative Suite

Photoshop plugins and extensions are an easy way to add functionality to the leading image processing app and to improve your workflow.

You can find plugins for almost anything. Some will simplify the professional skin retouching you’d expect to see on the cover of a glossy magazine, and cost hundreds of dollars. Others take care of boring, repetitive tasks. All will make your life a whole lot easier.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at 10 essential free Photoshop plugins that you should start using right away.

1. Nik Collection

The best free Photoshop plugin is actually a set of seven that also function as standalone apps. The Nik Collection started out as professional photo processing software that cost $500. Google bought it and eventually made it available for free, but it’s no longer in development. As a result, the software will one day cease to be compatible with your computer. But for now, it is the gold standard of plugins.

The collection consists of:

  • Analog Efex Pro 2 — Replicates the look of classic analog cameras and film stock.
  • Color Efex Pro 4 — A huge collection of filters and presets for color correction and image processing.
  • Dfine 2 — High-end noise reduction, with more control than Photoshop’s built-in tools provide.
  • HDR Efex Pro 2 — Create stunning but natural looking HDR photos.
  • Sharpener Pro 3 — A powerful sharpening tool to bring out the subtle details in your shots.
  • Silver Efex Pro 2 — Create beautiful black and white conversions.
  • Viveza 2 — Selective control of tone and color for making local adjustments.

nik collection photoshop plugins

Each tool installs as its own self-contained program, with the option to add it to Photoshop or Lightroom. If you only choose one of our recommendations from this list, the Nik Collection should be it.

2. Pexels Plugin

Pexels.com is one of our favorite free stock image sites. The free plugin the site provides enables you to access its content without ever leaving Photoshop.

Go to Windows > Extenstions > Pexels to open Pexels.com in its own panel. Here, you can browse images split by Recent or Popular, or view popular searches and tags under the Likes tab. There’s also a search option.

pexels plugins photoshop

Just click a photo and it will download and insert itself onto a new layer in your open Photoshop file (or will create a new one if none are open). Stock photos are great if you ever need to add a texture to an image, change the background, or for countless other purposes. Having a stock library essentially built into Photoshop really helps simplify your workflow.

You can also get plugins for commercial stock photo services like iStock and Getty. These are free, but you need to pay for the images.

3, ON1 Effects

ON1 Effects adds Instagram-style functionality to Photoshop. It provides a massive array of presets covering generic looks like “Hipster” or “Cinematic”, to those fashioned around specific film stock. It also offers a large number of filters that can enhance the colors and tone of your image.

on1 effects photoshop plugins

ON1 Effects works as a one-click panel in Photoshop, or you can open the accompanying standalone app for more granular control over how you apply the presets to your photos.

4. Ink

Ink is an add-on for web designers who put their layouts together in Photoshop. It converts the elements in your document into HTML and CSS code so they can be faithfully recreated on a web page.

ink photoshop plugins

The information Ink generates is pretty detailed. It’ll give you info on fonts used, and their size, color, leading and tracking, and so on. It’ll create code for shadows and gradients, and also pixel-perfect measurements between the various elements that make up your design.

5. CSS3Ps

Another tool for web developers, CSS3Ps turns individual layers into CSS code. Photoshop has some of this functionality built in, but the plugin goes further by giving you SCSS and SASS code as well.

css3ps photoshop plugins

CSS3Ps can also be quicker when you’re working on complex designs, as it’s all cloud based. It’s an excellent tool, and takes a lot of the pain out of designing buttons, especially when using shadows, glows, and other effects.

6. SuperPNG

Photoshop offers support for many file formats into which you can save your images. PNG is one of them, but the options you get when saving are very limited.

superpng photoshop plugins

You get a lot more control with SuperPNG. There are more settings to find the right balance between speed and quality — somewhat counterintuitively a lower quality image takes longer to save, due to the sluggishness of PNG compression. You can also retain transparency in an image, and keep or remove the metadata.

7. Fontea

When you’re working with typography in Photoshop you’re limited to using the fonts you’ve got installed on your computer. There are a few plugins that can give you more fonts — fonts.com has one — but sometimes these cost money, and you have to check the usage rights for each font.

fontea photoshop plugins

A simpler choice is Fontea, which gives you access to Google Fonts. They’re all free and open source, so there’s no issue with usage. Just browse through the fonts, filtering down to the styles that you’re after. Each font will download automatically when you need it, and you can remove them just as easily.

8. Long Shadow Generator 2

Some of the most essential Photoshop plugins and extensions are the ones that simplify common tasks. That’s certainly true of Long Shadow Generator 2, which does exactly what its name suggests.

long shadow generator photoshop plugin

The options are deliberately sparse. You can adjust the angle, length, and darkness of the shadow you want. You can also choose between a flat shadow or one that fades the further it travels. And you can produce white shadows when your text or objects are on a dark background. But if you prefer, you can do it all with just one click.

9. Layrs Control 2

Layers are an integral part of Photoshop, but once you’ve got a lot in your document managing them becomes a tedious task.

Layrs Control 2 makes the process a lot easier. It makes seven common layer management actions accessible through a single panel. They are:

  • Layer name editor.
  • Remove unused effects.
  • Flatten all layer effects.
  • Delete empty layers.
  • Rasterize smart objects.
  • Find similar files/folders.
  • Convert to smart object.

layrs control 2 photoshop plugin

You’d usually have to do all these tasks manually, or find or create your own scripts to handle them. That’s no longer the case with this plugin, which is a real time saver.

10. Font Awesome PS

If you ever need to drop a Twitter or Shopping Cart icon onto your website you probably use Font Awesome to do the job. With Font Awesome PS you can now use the same iconic font in your Photoshop designs as well.

font awesome ps photoshop plugin

There are 675 icons to choose from. They’re added to your image as vector shapes, so they can be resized, colored, and edited with no loss of quality.

Working With Photoshop Plugins

Plugins and extensions install and work in different ways. Some are installed just like regular programs. Some download in ZIP files and need to be copied manually to the Photoshop plugins or extensions directory — check the website for instructions in these cases.

If the add-on is in the ZXP format, try the app ZXPInstaller, available for both Windows and Mac. This replaces the now defunct Adobe Extensions Manager, which used to be used to install these files.

zxp installer

You can access the add-ons in one of a few different places. You’ll normally find them under Windows > Extensions. Sometimes you’ll find them in the Filter menu. In the case of SuperPNG, above, you’ll find it as a file format in the Save As… menu.

All the plugins work non-destructively. Any edits they make to your images go on separate layers, leaving you free to experiment to find the ones that best suit how you work.

Do you have any favorite Photoshop plugins or extensions? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This Website Tells You How Long Your Speech Will Be

If you’ve conquered your fear of public speaking and are preparing to give a speech, congratulations! Whether you’re speaking at a company meeting, wedding, or teaching something, public speaking is a lot less nerve-wracking when you’re prepared.

A great way to get prepared to give a speech is to know if what you’ve written is long enough (or short enough) for the time slot.

To find out, you can use a pair of websites to get an estimate of how long your speech will be.

Using SpeechInMinutes.com, you enter the number of words in your talk (use free word counting tools to find out) along with how fast you speak. The average speed is 130 words per minute, but this can be adjusted to 100 or 160 words.

This page also provides a ballpark estimate of some common speech times — a five minute speech is roughly 650 words, for example.

For more info about your specific speech, head over to ReadTime.eu. Here, you can paste your speech text in and the site will let you know how long it will take to read that text, on average.

If you think you’re a lot slower or faster of a speaker than the average, you can use the site’s built-in stopwatch to time a sample reading and adjust the scale of your reading speed from there.

Another great feature of this site is the ability to add breaks in your speech, from one to 99 seconds long. This lets you account for planned emphasis pauses, giving you a more accurate idea of how long the talk will be.

Now that you’ve got everything timed out, make sure your accompanying PowerPoint is just as awesome!

Are you comfortable giving speeches? Or do you shake and quiver in anxiety? Did these tools help you at all? Let us know below!

Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj via Shutterstock.com

Fit More Into 15 Seconds With Instagram’s New Hyperlapse Videos

We live in an age of short-form content; say what you can in 140 characters, show what you see in 6 to 15 seconds. But there are always cheats and tricks, and that’s what Instagram’s new app feels like. Meet Hyperlapse (free).

What Is Hyperlapse?

Put simply, Hyperlapse takes videos that play back faster than normal, like those old Charlie Chaplin movies. Whip out your iPhone (it’s available only on iOS right now) and start shooting any scene. On the left, you’ll see how much time you have actually been shooting. On the right, you’ll see how many seconds that is when played at high speed. That calculation on the right depends on the speed you want, ranging from 1x (normal) all the way up to 12x. Simply put, a 60-second video at 6x would end up being 10 seconds long after it’s sped up.

The app could be used for time-lapse videos too, but there’s one basic difference between the two. Hyperlapse photography relies on the photographer (or camera) moving with the scene, which leads to videos like this. Time-lapse photography uses a stationary viewpoint while the scene moves. But you shouldn’t worry about this technicality, for all practical purposes the Hyperlapse app lets you do it all.

To sum up:

  • Hyperlapse takes a video, which is then sped up.
  • It shows actual footage time as well as 6x sped-up time, while shooting.
  • Speed goes from 1x to 12x.
  • You can instantly share the video on Instagram or Facebook.

Why Should You Care About Hyperlapse?

The Hyperlapse app has a few things going for it that make it a must-have app. In fact, it’s the first currently iOS-only photography app that has made me say: “Wow, I wish this was on Android too.”

Instagram-Hyperlapse-shoot-speed-share

Creating Hyperlapse videos is incredibly easy, and this can’t be stressed enough. The simplicity of Hyperlapse is its biggest draw. You don’t need to know anything. Start the app, shoot your video, choose the speed, whether or not to share it – and you’re done. It doesn’t get any easier than that and the end result looks like something that should have required a lot more effort to achieve.

Because it’s free, there is no reason not to download Hyperlapse. You don’t need an Instagram account, and all of your videos are automatically exported to your Camera Roll. Sharing to Instagram is done using the separate Instagram app, and so is browsing uploaded content.

Hyperlapse is also able to stabilize your footage. Apple added auto image stabilization in the iOS 7 camera app, but video didn’t get any love. That changes with Hyperlapse, which will remove the effects of your shaky hand so you get steady video. To enable this you don’t actually need to do anything – check it out in action in the video above.

One limitation with Instagram videos is that they can be no longer than 15 seconds. With Hyperlapse, you can shoot a long video (10 minutes on iPhone 4, 45 minutes on iPhone 5/5c/5s), and then speed it up to fit in those 15 seconds. Just like that, your 15 second-limitation is lifted.

Instagram-Hyperlapse Math

If you want to share your hyperlapse on Instagram, you’ll have to remember the 15-second limit on video. By default the app shows the amount of video you have in real-time (left) and sped-up at 6x speed (right). You have the option of doubling this speed to 12x, which halves the time of your resulting hyperlapse. Using this as your basis, any videos you want to upload to Instagram should be no more than three minutes long at 12x speed, or one and a half minutes at 6x.

It’s also woth remembering that this is a video recording app, and so will drain your battery pretty quickly.

Get Inspired With Great Hyperlapse Videos

Hyperlapse is brand new, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some stellar examples of the app already on Instagram. We hit the best sites to discover Instagram videos and rounded up some of the best hyperlapses and tips to inspire you:

1. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

When you are shooting in a place without enough light, Hyperlapse will tell you to move to a brighter space. You don’t need to always listen to the app. For example, if you are in a dark place but the thing you are shooting has bright, moving lights, you will get fantastic images. For example, if you are shooting traffic at night from afar, or like these videos from a train in a tunnel and a concert:

2. Showcase Art And Crafts

No one has the time or inclination to watch a 5-minute video of an artist drawing a cool comic, or a baker frosting their cupcakes with immaculate precision. But when you take that long process and condense it to a 15-second clip of high-speed human movement, it almost seems like magic. You get to show the effort required for your handiwork and people are more likely to watch it.

3. Control Focus And Exposure By Tapping

Like with any iPhone camera app, Hyperlapse uses auto-focus technology to lock in on certain objects in your frame. But you can control this, which lets you figure out how to best capture the scene rather than rely on your smartphone’s algorithms, which can make a mistake. As PhotoJojo explains, “We love how Nick Hornig used exposure lock on the darker part of his scene so that the li’l boat he shot rode off into extra bright sunshine.”

Download: Hyperlapse for iOS (Free)

Seen a great Hyperlapse video or shot one yourself? Share it in the comments, we’d love to watch!

How To Create A Text Highlight Effect In Photoshop

An increasingly common way of sharing more information than Twitter’s 140-character limit allows is to share a screenshot from an article. If you want to point out a specific line or two in a paragraph, you can create a fake highlight effect using an online tool. Or if you have access to Photoshop, you can actually do this offline.

Step 1

Take a screenshot of the paragraph of text you want to highlight and open it in Photoshop. Open the brush tool in Photoshop from the tool menu or using the keyboard shortcut B. A regular round brush will do the trick but if you want, you can download a marker brush set to make it even more authentic.

Step 2

Create a new layer in your image by going Layer > New > New Layer, or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + N. Make sure you are on the new layer and not on the layer with the screenshot before going to the next step.

Step 3

Select a bright yellow color. In the screenshot below I used #f2ea10. Holding down the Shift key, drag the brush across the text. Using the Shift key allows you to draw a straight line. The text will be completely covered by the color, but the next step will take care of that.

highlight1

If you’re highlighting more than one line, you might find that when you go to the next line, Photoshop tries to link your previous highlighted line with the new one. If this happens just use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Z to undo and that connection will be severed when you go to draw the line again.

Step 4

Once you’ve covered all the text you want to highlight, right click the layer with the yellow lines and select Blending Options. Under General Blending you can select a Blend Mode from a drop down menu. Select Multiply. An optional step is to adjust the opacity, but that really depends on your personal preference.

blending-options

The final product will look like this:

highlight2

The use of a second layer is a good way to have complete control over the highlighting without accidentally making irreversible changes to your original screenshot.

If you prefer, however, you can simply skip creating a new layer and work directly on your screenshot. When you select your brush in the first step, you can also select the blending mode from the brush properties. Choose Multiply, and when brush over your screenshot, you will be able to see text beneath it.

brush-properties

Do you have any tips and tricks for creating a faux highlighter effect on screenshots? Let us know in the comments. 

How To Put Your Face On A Different Body Using Gimp

Admit it, playing around with image editing tools such as Photoshop and GIMP can be pretty fun, depending on what you’re trying to do. Virtually anything can be done with these tools, from some simple photo touch-ups all the way to creating impressive graphics from scratch (or some combination of both).

However, it’s not as fun if you only have an idea and you don’t actually know how to do it. Don’t worry though. Today we’ll be covering a classic – how to put your face on another body using GIMP.

Why GIMP?

I like writing articles about GIMP instead of Photoshop because, legally speaking, GIMP is freely available for everyone to use, and it’s definitely got some powerful tools. You simply have to take some time to learn it, and it’ll become a very worthy alternative to Photoshop. In any case, even for the inexperienced, Microsoft Paint is a disgrace by a long shot when compared to GIMP.

If you don’t already have it, you can download and install GIMP from their official site. GIMP is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Getting Started

gimp face swap

When you’re ready to go, fire up GIMP and open one image with your face and another with the body you want to put your face on. You can minimize the picture with the body for now, as the main task at hand right now is “extracting” your face from the other picture.

“Extracting” Your Face

gimp face swap

In the left panel of buttons, you’ll need to find the one that I highlighted in the screenshot, named the Paths Tool. With this tool, you’re going to make a path that goes all the way around your face until it makes a complete loop and selects what’s inside of it.

Technically you can also use the Free Select Tool, but you’ll have to make your loop in one go, and trust me, it will not look as good.

Making The Loop

gimp face swap

With the Path Tool selected, you can begin clicking around your face. Each click will make a point that the line/loop has to go through, as you can see in the screenshot or once you do it yourself. Therefore, the more zoomed in you are, the more accurate your loop will be.

Preferably, you should place the loop on the edge of your face. You can also bend the lines between points for more accuracy by right-clicking on the line and moving the mouse around.

Don’t forget, you can always undo everything you do, so if you misplace a point, you can always undo it and try again.

Finishing The Loop

gimp face replace

It’ll be normal for all of this to take a couple of minutes, especially if you’re working with a high-resolution photo. You’ll have to keep going all the way around your face until you meet up again with the first point that you made.

Once you do, click again on the first point that you made to complete the loop.

It’s fine if a line doesn’t actually appear between the first and the last point; it be fixed in the next step. This last line won’t be curved though, so if a high level of accuracy is required, try to make your last point as close as possible to the first one.

Final Steps

how do i put my face on a different body using gimp

With the loop laid out, you’ll find a button labeled Selection from Path at the bottom of the left panel. Click it, and a selection will be made using the loop.

You can copy over the selection using Ctrl + C or by going to the Edit > Copy. Next, you can move over to the other image with the body, create a new layer (which will make it easier to work with), and paste your face onto that image.

Finally, you can resize and move your face around until it’s where it’s supposed to be.

How Did Your Face Turn Out?

I have to admit, unless you have some major luck, the lighting will probably be off and your face, therefore, won’t perfectly melt into place as if it was an original image.

There are a couple things you can do to make it less obvious, but all of that is a topic for another article. However, it’s still a fun effect, and the phrase “practice makes perfect” rings true in this case.

What’s your favorite thing to do with GIMP? Considering all aspects (including price), do you prefer GIMP or Photoshop for use by anyone who isn’t a total professional? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Will Smith (Wikipedia), Dwayne Johnson (Wikipedia)

Feature Image Credit: Bystrov via Shutterstock

How To Compare Lightroom Edits To The Original Image

One of the reasons Adobe Lightroom is such a powerful photo editing tool is its non-destructive nature. You can make a ton of edits to a photo, export the image as a new copy, and quickly reset all those changes with just one click of a button. And it also makes it easy to compare your edited photo to your original.

There are two main ways you can view your comparison.

Method 1: Side-by-Side Comparison

In the first method, you have three different view options.

  1. To start editing your photo, go to Lightroom’s Develop tab.
  2. Once you’ve made some edits, you can turn on the comparison feature by clicking the YY button underneath the photo.How to Compare Lightroom Edits to the Original Image Lightroom Comparison 1 670x437
  3. The first time you click it, you’ll see two photos side by side: your original photo on the left and the edited version on the right. How to Compare Lightroom Edits to the Original Image Lightroom Comparison 2 670x318
  4. Click it again, and you’ll see half of the photo with the edits on the right, and the other half will be the original image on the right.How to Compare Lightroom Edits to the Original Image Lightroom Comparison 3 670x346
  5. Click it again, and you’ll see the original image on top, and the edited photo beneath it.  How to Compare Lightroom Edits to the Original Image Lightroom Comparison 4

To turn off the comparison feature, click the button with a square beneath your photo.

Method 2: Toggle Switching

With the second method, you can toggle between the original and edited photo with a keyboard shortcut. Tap the Backslash key, which is usually found above the Return or Enter key on most keyboards.

Tap the button once, and you’ll see the original image before any edits were applied. Tap it again, and you’ll revert back to the edited version of the image.

Why You Should Use This Feature

Being able to compare your original and edited photo is a great way to make sure that you’re not losing certain elements of the image in your edits. You might find that you’ve desaturated a color you wanted to keep, or darkened a part of the image and lost definition of a subject you wanted to highlight.

Stepping back and comparing your edits to the original image is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the exact look you were going for.

How To Create A Double Exposure Effect In Photoshop

There are some video and image effects that, once you’ve seen them, you’ve got to learn how to recreate them. The opening credits to the wildly popular True Detective television series is one such example.

Cool, right? The effect of transposing an image inside within image — called a double exposure — is surprisingly simple to create. It requires only a few Photoshop fundamentals to achieve. Here’s how!

The Simple Science Behind Double Exposure

Multiple exposures were originally created by exposing film to multiple images, transposing one picture onto the other. This effect is replicated through simple masking and layering options, which essentially transpose the contents of one image into the other.

double exposure effect
Image Credit: /u/fishlimbs

The general quality of your double exposure will depend on a few factors, such as the size of your images and the extent of your color correction. A good double exposure effect maintains a few visual aspects of both images so that one image turns into the other smoothly. Such is the case with the example below.

double exposure effect
Image Credit: Andreas Lie

We’ll be creating a simple double exposure of two images. The best double exposure images typically use a human or animal subject as the containing image, and a landscape picture as the transposed object.

That said, you can use whatever two images you’d like.

Step 1: Cut Out Your First Exposure

First, you’ll have to cut out your subject in order to use it as a base image. I’ll be using the following image.

double exposure effect
Image Credit: Timothy Paul Smith

You can use a variety of methods to cut out images in Photoshop. If you’re looking to cut an image out quickly, or are working with a very simple image, use your Pen Tool.

Trace the image and connect your two ends.

double exposure pen tool

Then, right-click your image, click Make Selection, feather the radius a few pixels (1 or 2 should work for most images) in the subsequent window and select OK. A selection will then be created of your shape.

You can also use the Select and Mask tool present in Photoshop CC 2015 and on, which gives you tools to create a more accurate selection.

The more time you take to cut out an image, the better your image will be. After you’ve selected your image, press Ctrl + C and then Ctrl + V to copy and paste it into a new layer. Select the layer with your cut-out image and desaturate it with Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

double exposure effect

This will give your double exposure its general shape.

Step 2: Mask Your Second Exposure

I’m going to transpose an image of the sea onto the one displayed above. Drag and drop the second image into your Photoshop panel. Ensure it’s layered above your previous cut out. Then Ctrl + Click your cut-out shape in your Layers panel to select its shape and click the Add Layer Mask button in the same panel.

double exposure effect

Your second image should appear as a cut-out of your first. You can move your image within the mask by clicking the link located between your background and your mask, selecting the background, and pressing Ctrl + T on your keyboard.

double exposure effect

Next, copy your original cut-out subject by selecting the layer and clicking Ctrl + J. Place this copy top-most. Then change the layer type to Multiply. You should now see a bit of overlap between the background and foreground images.

Apply another layer mask to this newly created layer. Then, with the layer mask selected, activate your brush tool. Increase the size of the brush and lower its Hardness to 0%. Ensure you have Black as your foreground color and your brush’s Opacity is set to 40%. Brush around your subject until you can only note the prominent features — in my case, the eyes and hair — of your image. Your Layer layout should now resemble the following:

double exposure effect

Finally, with your top image layer selected, press Ctrl + L on your keyboard. This will open up your Levels panel. Shift the Shadow, Midtone, and Highlight values until you can make out the details of your subject. Once done, click OK.

double exposure effect

Now that your effect is largely achieved, we’ll create a fitting background.

Step 3: Create a Background for Your Double Exposure

Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer button in your Layers panel and select Solid Color.

double exposure effect

Click OK in the following window and place it bottom-most in your Layers panel. Then double-click the thumbnail of your color fill layer and click on the outer boundary of your double exposure image. Your color fill should change to the color selected.

double exposure effect

To finalize the image, create a copy of your imposed image (the landscape image) using Ctrl + J and delete the layer mask by right-clicking the copied layer and selecting Delete Layer Mask. Drag this layer so it is directly above your Color Fill in the Layers panel and change its layer type to Soft Light.

double exposure effect

Finally, lower its Opacity to around 50%.

Double Exposure, Exposed

The following is a result of our double exposure technique.

double exposure effect

While the above reflects my own personal usage of the various tools available in Photoshop to achieve this effect, feel free to play around with the tools — or adding a few adjustments of your own — to achieve an even better rendition. Happy editing!

Did you like our explanation? What other Photoshop trickery would you like to learn? Let us know in the comments below!

The Beginner’s Guide To Adobe Illustrator

Advertisement

Want to get started learning Adobe Illustrator, but feel overwhelmed? Check out “Getting Started With Illustrator,” the first Illustrator manual from MakeUseOf. With easy-to-follow instructions and plenty of annotated screenshots, this manual makes learning Illustrator simple.

This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download The Beginner’s Guide To Adobe Illustrator now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.

Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing program. It is often used to create logos, icons, illustrations, charts, infographics, t-shirts, business cards, stationery, envelopes, packaging design – you name it. All in all, it is mostly used to create high resolution graphics, which can later be printed as well.

Unlike Photoshop, which stores image information in dots, Illustrator uses mathematical equations when you draw shapes. Vector drawings can be scaled to fit skyscraper-size banners; raster images cannot. Because of this, Illustrator is used to make drawings that needs to scale easily – things like logos.

This Adobe Illustrator manual explains basic tools needed for making a logo, so check it out. Open Illustrator yourself and follow along to really get a feel for Adobe’s amazing vector art program.

Table of Contents

§1–Introduction

§2–The Illustrator Workspace

§3–Creating a Logo in Illustrator

§4–Creating a 3D Text in Illustrator

§5–Some useful tips

§6–Conclusion

1. Introduction

If you have decided to learn Illustrator, then you need to start with the basics. It’s a really powerful program, but also a complex one. Once you get familiar with the interface, basic tools, palettes and workspace, you will save a lot of time and nerves and your workflow will seem smooth and pleasant.

Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing program. It is often used to create logos, icons, illustrations, charts, infographics, t-shirts, business cards, stationeries, envelopes, packaging design – you name it. All in all, it is mostly used to create high resolution graphics, which can later be printed as well.

Unlike Photoshop, which stores image information in dots, Illustrator uses mathematical equations when you draw shapes. What’s that about?

It means that vector graphics (like an Illustrator drawing) can be scaled or zoomed to any size without losing quality, while raster images (like an image edited in Photoshop) will pixelate as you scale:
adobe illustrator
Basically, vector drawings can be scaled to fit skyscraper-size banners; raster images cannot. So if you plan to use your work for various sizes, use a vector based program like Illustrator.

• Advantages of Vector Graphics:

• High resolution at any size;

• Small file size;

• High quality print;

• No resolution loss while editing.

Disadvantages:

Hard to produce realistic drawings (but still possible).

Okay, so you are still reading this guide. That tells me that you really want to get closer with Illustrator, so I am here to share my knowledge with you. In this guide, I will introduce you to the workspace, basic tools, shapes and we’ll create our first logo using this awesome software.

Please note that I am using Illustrator CS5 on Windows, so Mac users will have to use slightly different key combinations: Command key instead of Ctrl and Option instead of Alt.

2. The Illustrator Workspace

If you are familiar with Photoshop, then the Adobe Illustrator workspace won’t surprise you much, since the main parts of it are basically the same:
adobe illustrator
You will primarily use the Tools panel, since all of the tools that you need are there. To configure an active tool, you will use the Control panel, where all options for the current tool are kept. And, of course, the panel docking area – it keeps such important palettes as Color Swatches, Layers, Stroke options, Appearance, Gradient settings, etc. (all palettes can be switched on or off in Windows menu).

Let’s check out the Tools panel first.

2.1 Tools Panel

There are many tools available in the toolbox, but you don’t have to memorize everything. Just a few of them will do the job.

Here’s a reference table (some tools, like Rectangle, contain more tools inside, which can be selected by holding the tool icon):
adobe illustrator
I always say that the best way of learning is practicing. So, let’s learn the basic tools by actually using them.

3. Creating a Logo in Illustrator

I usually use Adobe Illustrator to create logos for my clients. Why don’t we try one?

Let’s call our awesome company “LimeWorks”. We’ll need to create a lime and put the name under it. Like this:
adobe illustrator tutorials
Keep in mind though, that we will create a simple logo, just so you get familiar with some tools and methods. Let’s start with drawing lime segments.

3.1 Using Pen Tool

We’ll use the Pen tool, which is one of the most used tools in Illustrator. It is used to create all kinds of shapes and objects. Select it by clicking on its icon from the toolbox or use the P key.

Using the Pen tool, create your first triangle by clicking three times where you want the edges to be:
adobe illustrator guide

Note: as you see, I use Grid (Ctrl+”) to be more precise.

To close the path, click on the first point:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 6
Now it is ready to be filled with a color. Make sure the triangle is selected (click on it with Selection tool, V) and choose a yellow tone:
adobe illustrator tutorials

3.2 Making Round Corners

We need round corners in order to make our lime segment (triangle) look smoother. We’ll use the Round Corners effect:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 8
In the Round Corners dialog box, put something like 4 mm (I use millimeters as units) and click OK to apply changes:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 9
Looks good. Now let’s add some texture, so it looks more realistic.

3.3 Adding Photoshop Effects

In Adobe Illustrator, when you go to the Effects menu, you will see that there are Illustrator Effects and Photoshop Effects:
adobe illustrator tutorials
We will use Stained Glass (Effects->Texture->Stained Glass).

But before that, we need a copy of our triangle above the original layer.

3.4 Copying Objects

I’ll show you some quick tips on how to easily copy and paste objects above the current layer and below, while keeping the exact position.

To paste a copy of a selected object above the original one in the exact position, first copy it (Ctrl+C) and then paste it using Ctrl+F (if you use Ctrl+V it will paste it in the middle of the screen). To paste it below the original object use Ctrl+B:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 11
OK, so now you know the copy/paste tricks.

Copy and paste our triangle right in front of itself (Ctrl+F), and fill the pasted object with white color:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 12
Open the Stained Glass dialog box and set as mine (Cell size=17; Border thickness=2; Light intensity=0):
adobe illustrator guide

3.5 Expand Appearance

Expand Appearance is located in the Object menu and is one of the most important tools in Illustrator. It may require a separate guide to describe in detail, but today we are only learning the basics.

So, in simple terms, Expand Appearance is used to divide an object into separate paths or images after an effect is applied to it. Well, that sounds a bit confusing. Let’s just use it and see it in action.

Make sure you have selected your white triangle with the Stained Glass effect on it and go to Object->Expand Appearance. Now our object is an image:
adobe illustrator tutorials

3.6 Live Trace

Another cool feature of Adobe Illustrator, Live trace is used to convert raster images into tracing objects. There are some default tracing presets already, but we’ll use Custom settings.

Go to Object->Live Trace ->Tracing Options and set values as below:
adobe illustrator

3.7 Expand

Expand is used to convert tracing objects into editable paths (vector). After tracing a raster image, you should use Expand.

As our textured object is now traced and ready to be returned to paths, we will use Expand:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 16
As you see, our texture is now a set of paths, but we need to change its color from black to white. This time we will use Stroke (since the texture is a set of strokes):
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 17
OK. But it’s now a bit too sharp. Let’s blur it a bit.

3.8 Blur Effect

Go to Effects->Blur->Gaussian Blur, set radius to 2,8 pixels and you should have this:
adobe illustrator guide
At this point, we are done with our lime slice. The rest is easier.

3.9 Grouping objects

At this point our wedge of lime is ready, and we need to duplicate it. But it is composed of multiple layers (objects), so to make things easier while duplicating, let’s Group them.

To group a set of objects, select them all by dragging your mouse around them and clicking Ctrl+G. Another convenient way of selecting multiple objects is holding Shift and clicking on objects.

But since we don’t have any other objects on our artboard you can instead select all objects (Ctrl+A) and group them (Ctrl+G):
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 19

3.10 Using Rotate tool

Rotate tool (R) is used for … guess what? Yes, to rotate objects or shapes.

Select the Rotate tool and Alt+click at the top of the triangle to set our center of rotation. In the pop-up box set as follows and click Copy:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 20
You should have this now:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 21

3.11 A little trick

There’s a little trick (one of many) that will make your Adobe Illustrator experience easier in future projects. The trick is just a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+D). It repeats or applies the latest transformation to the selected object.

It’s handy for our practice as well. Select the new slice and use Ctrl+D 6 times:
adobe illustrator
Voila! We have a tasty lemon. Now for some details.

First of all, group all the slices together to keep things in order. Then make sure nothing is selected by clicking somewhere else on the artboard.

3.12 Drawing a Circle

Select a light green color for Fill and none for Stroke:
adobe illustrator guide
Select the Ellipse tool (a sub-tool under Rectangle or hit L):
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 24
Hold Shift+Alt, point your mouse to the center of the lime and drag the mouse until you get a circle which covers the whole lime:
adobe illustrator tutorials
Note: you don’t have to find the exact center to start with – we will align objects later.

3.13 Arranging Objects

As you see now, the green circle is in front of or above our lime. To send it back or below, select it and hit Ctrl+[ (Ctrl+] to bring it above current layer):
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 26
Good. Select that circle and duplicate it below itself (as we did in 3.4.) with Ctrl+C and then Ctrl+B:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 27
Change its fill color to a darker green and make it a little bigger than the first circle by holding Shift+Alt and dragging one of its reference points:
adobe illustrator guide
That looks pretty good. Even better: we’re done with the hard part.

3.14 Adding Text

Let’s add our company name below the lime. Select Type tool (T), click under the lime and type “LimeWorks”:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 29
Now let’s align everything to center.

3.15 Aligning Objects

To align objects perfectly, use the Alignment tools. Those tools are located in the Control Panel, when the Selection Tool is active. See below to understand various alignments:
adobe illustrator
Note that these examples are true for Align to Artboard:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 31
If you choose Align to Selection, then objects will be aligned with respect to the outer boundaries of the selection.

OK. Select all objects (Ctrl+A) and from the control panel, click on Horizontal Align Center (number 2):
adobe illustrator guide
That’s it. Now you can play with sizes and colors if you want.

If you make the lime smaller and change the text colors it will look much better:
adobe illustrator tutorials
Alright, congratulations with your first logo!

Let’s get to Saving and Exporting.

3.16 Saving and Exporting

To save your Illustrator files, just hit Ctrl+S (as always) and it will save it in .ai format.

If you want to save your logo in .png, then you can make use of one of two ways: File->Export or File->Save For Web and Devices.

While the second way exports the whole Artboard, the first way lets you export only your object(s).

Here’s an example:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 34
Note: you can always change the size of your Artboard (File->Document Setup and click on Edit Artboards). After that, when you use Save For Web and Devices you will see that the image size is the new size of your Artboard.

Also note: you can check Transparency when saving for web and you will have your logo with a transparent background.

Let’s go through another tutorial to learn other basic tools. We’ll create a 3D text with a grungy background.

4. Creating a 3D Text in Adobe Illustrator

While vector graphics are typically two-dimensions you can create nice-looking 3D objects as well. In this tutorial we will create a simple 3D text with a grungy background like below:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 35
As I said, we are now learning the basics, so that you get more familiar with the interface and some useful tools. Once you are, you will see that there are no limits to what you can do with Illustrator.

4.1 Adding a Grungy Background

Let’s start with a cool background.

Go to your favorite website for free textures and backgrounds and find a nice grungy background. I took one from Stock Image:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 36
Copy and paste it into your Adobe Illustrator document. Most probably it will be way too big, so you will need to scale it down. Use Transform Panel to control the size of your image:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 37
Note: you can use your own values, just make sure it fits the document.

Now we have our background image ready, but let’s add some more effects to it. First, we’ll create a rectangle and then we’ll add Inner Glow effect and use the Transparency panel to change blending between the image and the rectangle.

4.2 Creating a Rectangle

Select Rectangle from Tools (M), draw a rectangle, same size as your background image (you may want to use the Transform panel to set exact values) and set the Fill color to light brown and no stroke:
adobe illustrator tutorials

4.3 Adding Inner Glow Effect

Go to Effect->Stylize->Inner Glow and set values as shown:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 39
Here’s what you should have:
adobe illustrator

4.4 Using Transparency Panel

You can always use Transparency panel to change the way an object or a layer blends with layers below. First off, let’s send our rectangle behind the image. Select the rectangle by clicking on it and use Ctrl+[.

Now select the image layer by clicking on the image and open Transparency Panel (Window->Transparency) and choose Multiply as the blending mode:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 41
Nice. We’re done with the background. Let’s get to the 3D text itself.

4.5 Working with Type tool

Using the Type tool (T) write “MakeUseOf” with some nice font (I chose Diavlo Bold, which can be downloaded at exljbris Font Foundry). Make it big enough like 65pt, set tracking to -20 and choose the White color:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 42

4.6 Creating Outlines

Use Create Outlines – right-click on the text and choose Create Outlines, to convert text into vector paths:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 43

4.7 Adding 3D Effects

3D effects can be applied to any objects as well as text. Select the text, go to Effect->3D->Extrude & Bevel and apply as following:
adobe illustrator guide
This is what you should have this far:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 45
Now we need to separate the faces of the text and our 3D effect from each other. Use Expand Appearance to do that (Object->Expand Appearance).

With Direct Selection Tool (A), select only the faces of the text (hold Shift to select multiple objects):
adobe illustrator tutorials
Tip: while selecting, make sure that the anchors are blue and none of them white. To do that, zoom in a little bit and click somewhere in the middle of the objects (here – text faces).

4.8 Using Unite from Pathfinder panel

Now copy and paste your selection and use Unite from Pathfinder panel to join all selected faces into one grouped path:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 47
Place the new layer on top of the old one and set its Stroke Color to white and Stroke Weight to 1pt:
The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator illustrator 48
We’re almost there.

4.9 Adding Gradient Style

Adding the gradient is pretty easy – just select the object, click on the Gradient panel on the right and set up your colors. Moreover, you can always make use of pre-defined Libraries from Window->Swatch Libraries->Gradients. But this time, let’s set it up manually.

In the Gradient panel, set Type to Linear, set first color at 0% location to dark red, second color at 80% location to orange and the final color at 100% to bright red, Angle to -90°:
adobe illustrator
Tip: use the upper slider to control the color range of the gradient.

4.10 Adding Shadow

To give our text some depth, let’s add some shadow to it. We’ll use the Gaussian Blur effect.

First, copy (Ctrl+C) our new layer and paste it in-front (Ctrl+F). Then, change its color to black and set stroke to none, send it behind the 3D effect layer with Ctrl+[ (make sure it is above the background layers):
adobe illustrator guide
Move it down by using arrow keys (you can also change Y coordinates from the Transform panel to be more precise):
adobe illustrator tutorials

4.11 Applying Gaussian Blur

Our shadow doesn’t look realistic now; we need to blur it a bit. Go to Effect->Blur->Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 9 pixels:
adobe illustrator
We are done!

5. Some useful tips

Tips and tricks are endless, but I will show you some of them:

• Lock layers – when you want to select some small objects which are in front of other objects (like a background), instead of Shift+clicking on each one you can simply lock the background with Ctrl+2, or put a lock sign in the Layers panel.

• Always check the Layers palette – when working with many objects and layers, it is really useful to name your layers and check how your layers are aligned (whether a layer is above or below the other one, is it locked, etc.);

• Re-edit layer styles any time you need – yes, you can always change style or effect settings that you have already applied to an object or a layer before through the Appearance panel (Window- >Appearance);

• Use Libraries – there are some nice pre-defined Libraries to make use of in your works. Go to Window->Libraries and select from Brush Libraries, Swatch Libraries, Graphic Style Libraries or Symbol Libraries. There are lots of them.

6. Conclusion

I hope everything was clear enough for you to start loving Adobe Illustrator. What I’ve covered in this guide is just the basics. Next time I will show more complex usages of other amazing tools and tricks. Until then – practice.

Guide Published: August 2012

What Are Photographic Filters And Why Do They Matter?

The deeper you get into photography, the more gear you realize you might need. While it’s possible to take great photos with just a basic camera, for certain kinds of shot you’ll need special equipment.

Filters are one of the most important photographic accessories, especially for landscape photographers. They manipulate the light entering the camera so you don’t always have to resort to techniques like exposure blending to get the shot. If you want to use protect your lenses, use slower shutter speeds, or limit certain kinds of undesirable light, you need to use a filter.

Ultraviolet Filters

Ultraviolet filters were initially designed to block out UV light on bright, sunny days. Some kinds of films (which I touched on in my intro to RAW images) have greater sensitivity to different parts of the light spectrum; this can extend into the ultraviolet range. If you shot images with one of those films out in daylight your images could end up with a blue color-cast.

Digital sensors, however, don’t have this problem. They’ve got almost no UV sensitivity. Even still, some people like to use them for one reason: they provide an extra layer of protection for your lens.

Ultraviolet Filter Photography Broken

UV filters only block UV light — they don’t block a noticeable amount of visible light from getting through so they won’t affect how your images look (except in really unusual circumstances). This means you can leave one on your lens and if you drop or scratch it, the filter will be damaged before the actual lens elements.

How much protection you get is debatable, however, because they are quite cheap, I like to use them just in case. They also have the advantage of weather-sealing some lenses.

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral density filters block visible light. Depending on how strong the filter is, they can block anything from a third of a stop all the way up to ten stops of light.

Where neutral density filters come in handy is when you want to work with a slower shutter speed than the natural conditions allow. If you want to shoot a long exposure image in broad daylight then you need to use a neutral density filter to lower your shutter speed.

Neutral Density Filter Photography Effect Example

Neutral density filters are especially useful for videographers. The physics of camera shutters and digital video recording are complex but in most cases, videographers work with a shutter speed of either 1/24th of a second, 1/30th of a second, 1/50th of a second, or 1/60th of a second. All of these would be pretty slow shutter speeds for photography. If you want to shoot video on a sunny day and come away with cinema quality footage, you need to use ND filters. Most cinema cameras come with them built in.

There are two kinds of neutral density filters: solid and graduated. Solid ND filters have the same level of neutral density across the whole filter. Graduated filters have a gradient instead. These are designed for landscape photographers who want to expose for both the sky and land at once. By taking the sky down a stop or two, you can avoid blowing highlights in camera and come away with a better base image.

Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters are one of the hardest to understand. They rely on some pretty complex physical properties of light. Rather than dive deep into a physics lesson, let’s just focus on what a polarizing filter does to your photographs.

A polarizer prevents light of a certain polarization from entering the camera. Polarizing filters are used almost exclusively in landscape photography. The two main times you’ll notice polarized light are when you are shooting a blue sky or a reflective non-metallic surface.

Polarizing Filter Photography Effect Example

Bright skies have a high proportion of polarized light. As well as a graduated neutral density filter, one way to darken them is to use a polarizing filter. You don’t get as much control over how much darker the sky gets but the advantage is you don’t have to worry about lining a gradient up with the horizon. If you’re shooting something in the far distance, they can also reduce atmospheric haze.

The most common situation when polarizing filters are used is when you’re shooting a body of water or something made of glass. Unless you want reflections, they tend to detract from the final image. A polarizing filter significantly reduces them.

Filter Systems

When it comes to filters, you have two options for how you mount them to your lenses. The first is to use threaded round filters, the second is to use a filter mounting system. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Threaded filters screw directly onto the front of your lens. Each lens has a filter diameter written somewhere on the barrel. A lens with a diameter of 77 mm will take a 77 mm round filter. Apart from graduated neutral density filters, you can get threaded versions of every kind of filter I’ve mentioned.

The advantage of threaded filters is that they tend to be cheap. They also mount more securely to your lenses. If you want to use a UV filter for protection, it needs to be a threaded one. The main disadvantage is that unless all your lenses are the same diameter (which is only the case with professional lenses) you’ll need to get different filters for each one. There are step-down converters available but if the filter is smaller than the lens diameter, they don’t work.

The other option is to invest in a filter system. While they are initially more expensive, you get a lot more flexibility. Most filter systems have a mount that attaches to the front of the camera. You then slot square or rectangular filters into the holder. With a filter system, you can normally stack multiple different filters — for example, you can use a polarizer, graduated neutral density filter and regular neutral density filter at the same time.

If you’re serious about landscape photography, a dedicated filter system is the way to go. If you’re just looking to occasionally dabble in long exposure photography or protect your lenses, threaded filters are a better option.

Wrapping Up

Filters are one of the accessories that as you get more into photography you’ll be more tempted to invest in. If you’re just starting out you really don’t need to worry. Work on developing your skills instead. When you’re ready to explore more complex areas of photography, then it’s time to invest in filters.

Image Credits: Sven Wolter via Wikimedia, Robert Emperley via Wikimedia, PiccoloNamek via Wikimedia