Main Improve Your Photography: 50 Essential Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Volume 1)

Improve Your Photography: 50 Essential Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Volume 1)

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Improve Your Photography is a collection of 50 digital photography tips & techniques from digital photography author and instructor, Kevin L. Moss. Known for his easy to understand style, Kevin proceeds to describe individual techniques that will help you become a better photographer. Some tips are obvious, while other techniques are in the category of "why didn't I think of that?". You'll start out reading about the virtues of using a 50mm f/1.8 lens on your digital SLR or learning the importance of knowing how to use everything on your digital camera, then Kevin will throw you for a loop. He'll move on explaining how to create cool abstracts in Photoshop, and then on to explaining the details of a color managed workflow. There is something for everyone here. There is a wide variety of topics that are covered, including some important descriptions of technical concepts, such as image ratios and color modes in Photoshop. Kevin also gives ten tips on improving photographic composition, and even a section on HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. The book is enjoyable and beneficial for both amateur and advanced photographers alike. Topics in the book also includes how to manage your image library, extreme cropping, explaining 8 and 16 bit modes, using the gradient tool, understanding layers, Photoshop and Elements toolbox tools, file formats and sizing, proper ISO settings, infrared photography and simple lighting setups for the home studio. There are 50 digital photography techniques accompanied by beautiful color images and illustrations. Its easy reading, and its here for the photographer, no matter what level, to enjoy.
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Kevin L. Moss

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Table of Contents
Shoot With a Fixed 50mm F/1.8 .................................................................................................7
Get To Know Your Digital Camera ..........................................................................................9
Carry a Camera Wherever You Go...........................................................................................11
Photograph an Art Show...........................................................................................................13
Getting Images From Camera to Computer.............................................................................15
Manage Your Image Library.....................................................................................................17
Hold An Exhibit ........................................................................................................................23
Cool Abstract Art with Extreme Cropping................................................................................24
Making Power Lines Disappear................................................................................................25
Take A Photo Trip!....................................................................................................................26
Shoot in Color, Convert to Black and White Later...................................................................29
Invest in Good Lenses................................................................................................................30
Use a Color Management Workflow.........................................................................................32
; Explaining Color Modes in Photoshop.....................................................................................34
Shoot the Sky..............................................................................................................................36
Explaining 8 and 16 Bit Modes.................................................................................................37
Use the Gradient Tool For a Colorful Sky................................................................................38
Understanding Layers................................................................................................................41
Get Up Early and Shoot the Sunrise.........................................................................................45
Shooting and Stitching Panoramas...........................................................................................54
Essential Tools from the Toolbox..............................................................................................59
Photographing Waterfalls..........................................................................................................62
Photographing Fall Color..........................................................................................................65
Even Though its Digital, You Still Have To Start Out with Pristine Images..........................69
Understanding File Formats.....................................................................................................70
Image Size Explained.................................................................................................................74
Setting the Proper ISO...............................................................................................................76
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Understanding White Balance...................................................................................................78
Using the Histogram For Better Exposure...............................................................................80
Shooting in Aperture Priority Mode..........................................................................................82
Look No Further Than Your Own Back Yard..........................................................................84
Explore Self Publishing.............................................................................................................86
Understanding Image Size and Aspect Ratio............................................................................90
Shooting The Skyline.................................................................................................................94
Using Blur as an Element of Composition................................................................................96
Explore the World of Infrared (IR)...........................................................................................99
Great Pro Results With Simple Indoor Studio Lighting ........................................................104
The Thin Black Line................................................................................................................106
Abstract Studies With The Liquify Filter................................................................................108
Follow the Rules of Composition – And Occasionally Break Them......................................110
Improve Composition: The Rule of Thirds.............................................................................112
Improve Composition: Add Balance As An Element of Composition ..................................113
Improve Composition: Don't Cut Your Image in Half...........................................................114
Improve Composition: Shoot All Images in Both Portrait and Landscape Orientations.....115
Improve Composition: Get Underneath..................................................................................118
Improve Composition: Get Down Low....................................................................................119
Improve Composition: Get Up High and Shoot Down From Above.....................................120
Improve Composition: Shoot A Little Wider, Leave Room To Crop Later............................122
Improve Composition: Fill the Frame....................................................................................123
Improve Composition: Zoom Out, and Then Zoom In! ........................................................124
Discover High Dynamic Range (HDR) Images......................................................................125

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


About the Author
Specializing in a variety of photographic subjects over 30 years, Kevin has
since mastered the technology of digital photography, expanding horizons
from a traditional nature photographer to other disciplines as well. Portrait,
urban, still life, and abstract images are now included in Kevin’s ever
expanding photographic portfolio.
Kevin is the publisher of

Authored Works

Autumn in the Hills,
Createspace, ISBN: 1449581528


Photoshop Elements 7,
Digital Photography Series, Createspace ISBN: 14421981


Digital Nature Photography and Adobe Photoshop;
Thomson PTR Course Technology; ISBN 1-9863-135-7


50 Fast Digital Camera Techniques, 2nd Edition,
Wiley Publishing. ISBN: 0764598066


Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop for Dummies,
Wiley Publishing. ISBN: 0471774820


Photoshop CS2 and Digital Photography For Dummies,
Wiley Publishing, ISBN: 0764595806

ISBN: 1451508409
Digital Photography Series: Improve Your Photography – 50 Essential Digital Photography Tips & Techniques

Copyright © 2010 Kevin L. Moss. All Rights Reserved

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


What Kevin’s Students Say…
"Until now, I was a complete novice in Photoshop, had just acquired CS4 and was rather intimidated. Kevin puts
you absolutely at ease with his patience and humor, and you're assured that there's no such thing as a stupid Q. His
critiques are precise and to the point. ... You learn what's good about an image and receive suggestions for still
further improvement. Kevin is a gem ... His obvious enthusiasm for his subject is a gift to his students."
-Nancy F
“Thanks again for your help and instruction in "Photoshop for Nature Photographers". One of my photos, "Bryce
Canyon", was selected by Outdoor Photographer for honorable mention in the current "Celebrate the Seasons" photo
contest. My photo is in the April 2009 issue, and will appear on their website soon. Without your class to give me
the technical knowledge and the confidence to use it, this would not have been easily possible. Take care and enjoy
your next trip to the UP.”
-Chris S.
"This is an excellent course. … Kevin presents a lot of detail in the lessons, but it's presented in a clear manner with
good examples. Kevin was very willing to respond to questions and seemed genuinely concerned that students were
getting something out of the class."
-Sharon M
"Kevin Moss helped me to understand many Photoshop tools that I had been ignoring. He also was helpful on the
artistic concepts of composition and color. I learned a bunch! And my photos are indeed better."
-Fax S.
"Thanks for an information-filled and fun class! I had a lot of fun. Also, there is so much information here, I will
be studying these lessons for some time to come. ... Also, thanks for your patience with all the questions!"
-Mary I.
"Thank you for an excellent class! It was well-organized, and your instruction was individualized, constructive and
personalized. I learned a lot and got what I expected out of the course. I can now dodge and burn on my computer
like I used to do in my darkroom! ... Thanks again, Kevin!"
-Christer N.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Of all the books I've written and published and all the course materials I've developed and
taught, this book is more exciting for me than all the other projects. I've written this book out of
sheer fun. If it was “work”, it would have never gotten written. Actually, I'm not even charging
for the eBook version. I'm putting it out there for free for the readers of Digital Photography
Daily(, and my students at and The
Center for Digital Photography.
The idea for this book actually came to me a few years ago while doing presentations for my
local camera clubs in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Windsor, Ontario. I had developed a series of
slide shows that was packed full of fun and useful tips and techniques for the photographer.
Included was stuff like shooting with a 50mm fixed lens, shooting for color or abstracts, and
some fun tools to use in Photoshop. I had some of the material together already, so why not
share it?
Another fun part of writing the book is the fact that I wrote it in my own voice. None of that
second-person stuff that's for college textbooks. We're photographers, and we like our info
straight. Think about it. We read (at least I hope you do) a lot of magazines on photography.
Whats nice, is that we get to read articles by other photographers, often on new gear or
techniques, and we get to read the articles that are written in their voice. I appreciate reading
that style, and I also enjoy writing in that style.
I hope you enjoy the book, and get something out of it. Of all the tips and techniques listed and
explained here, some of them you already know, or maybe even already heard. Some of them,
you may not have been thinking of or expecting, so I hope you'll be able to get something out
of it.
Lastly, like everything I put my name to, I'm open to hear from you on it, good or bad. Please
feel free to contact me at I will get back to ya!
Very Best in Your Photographic Adventures,

Kevin Moss

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Shoot With a Fixed 50mm F/1.8
This one is for all the DSLR users out there. If you’re still using a compact digital camera (and
that’s fine!), keep this in mind when you upgrade to your favorite DSLR; use a fixed 50mm f/1.8
lens for your digital camera. I say this for a few reasons, the most important of which, is image
quality for the dollar. I’ve used both the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor and the Canon EF
50mm f/1.8 II Both lenses work
remarkably well.
If I’m shooting with one of my Nikon
DSLR’s or my Canon, I always have a
50mm f/1.8 lens in my bag. I use some
good lenses, but these little guys usually
rate at the top when it comes to quality.
Additionally, the lenses are tack-sharp
whether you’re shooting wide open at
f/1.8 or closed down to f/22.
Additionally, my 50mm f/1.8 is one of
my favorite portrait lenses. Teamed up
with a DSLR sensor with a 1.5X or
higher crop factor (like you’ll find in
the Nikon D90, Canon 50D, Canon
Digital Rebel and most digital SLR
cameras that aren’t full frame), you get
an actual 75mm portrait lens. If you’re
using a full frame sensor DSLR, you’re
getting the standard lens.
In any case, you’re getting top quality
for about $100 USD. That’s quite a
bargain given the quality you’ll get with
these lenses.
In this example, I used my second camera that I carry when shooting the occasional wedding. A
Nikon D80 fit with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. I shot this image without flash, hand held,
through a window. After getting the images from the wedding into Lightroom for a closer look, I
was amazed at the color and sharpness of the lens. I like to shoot my portraits with this lens
whenever possible.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


In addition to shooting portraits, weddings and
candid photo's with a 50mm f/1.8, I like to shoot my
still life and flowers with the lens. In studio or
outdoor situation, it’s my best flower lens.
The positives:


Tack Sharp: Due to the fact that the
manufacturers of these lenses don't have to
add a lot of glass to be used for zooming
through a large range, the design is fixed, and
Value For the Money: For around $100
U.S., you just can't beat the dollar-for-quality
value of these lenses.
Small and Lightweight: Both the Canon
and Nikon models are small and weigh about
½ of your kit lens.


No Zoom: We're spoiled these days. In the past, when we shot with fixed focal length
lenses with our film cameras, we did zoom, but we did it by “using our feet”.

In summary, if you're a DSLR user and you don't have one of these little babies, give it a try. The
cost of the lens is minimal, and the benefit of tack-sharp images far outweigh the negative of not
being able to go wide-angle to telephoto in one lens.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Get To Know Your Digital Camera
This one is for the beginners...
Preferring to stay “camera agnostic”, all of today’s leading digital camera manufacturers do a great
job. The cameras that have been on the market the past few years get us some great results. Folks,
the technical quality is now surpassing film cameras, and it didn’t take the digital camera industry
very long to get there. I was sold 7 years ago, when my little Sony compact digital camera (with an
excellent Zeiss lens) was getting me just as good, or better results than my film gear. At that point,
I never shot with my film camera again.
Back to you. You’re probably using a digital camera purchased recently, or even in the past year or
two. You may have shot a few hundred, or thousands of images already (probably in the green
labeled “A” for Automatic Mode). Probably got some good results here and there two, but you
want more, and trust me, your digital camera probably has more capabilities than even a pro would
ever use. The first key (the second key is you and your techniques) to improving your
photographic skills is mastering your photographic tool, your digital camera. Here is a step-by-step
guide to getting there.
In the past 5 years or so, just about everyone I know has gone out and purchased a digital camera.
If you haven’t noticed, all the consumer electronic circulars in the Sunday paper have entire
sections dedicated to digital cameras, accessories, and printers. Yep, right next to the cell phone
page. Digital cameras may be the latest rage, but unlike the iPod, I bet that most digital cameras
end up like old film cameras, collecting dust
on the shelf.
I know people who purchased their digital
cameras two years ago and never bothered
to learn how to transfer images to their
computer. After filling up their memory
cards, they display the pictures they took by
turning on the camera and reviewing the
pictures on the 2 inch LCD. Funny thing is,
these are the same people that are planning
on buying the latest and greatest that is
available on the market! The point here is to
learn the basics about how to use your
camera, load images to your computer, and
then go out and have some fun. Don’t
forget to make a few prints, by the way!

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Though all the hundreds of different digital camera models that are available today look different
from one another, they all have the same basic operation. All run on batteries that need charging
from time to time. All need some sort of memory card inserted. (Do this properly: They only go in
one way!) They all have an on-off switch and a shutter button. The most important part of your
digital camera is the users manual that comes with each one. Don’t forget to read yours!
Now lets get started. Using your digital camera is as easy as 1,2,3 . . .
1. Read the Manual!: This one seems obvious, but you'd be surprised. When you unbox
your digital camera, you get anxious to try it out. My suggestion, take the time to know all
the controls and menus on your camera. If you're lucky, out of the box, you might be able
to insert your battery, memory card, and turn the camera on. What you need to read in the
manual, is how to do some basic setup of your camera:
2. Learn how to turn on your camera: This step may seem a little basic, but each
manufacturer does it differently. Don’t be embarrassed: I admit I’ve fumbled a few times
with new cameras from my students during in-person instruction, finding out where the
simple buttons and gizmos are.
3. Get comfortable with your lens: Play around by zooming in and out. Most digital
cameras come equipped with a zoom lens with which you can zoom out for wide-angle
shots or for some cool landscape shots or zoom in to the image of person for a great
candid portrait.

If you are shooting indoors, turn on the built-in flash.

5. Make sure your shooting mode is set correctly: Automatic mode, surprisingly, works
for many shots you take. Automatic mode is great for now until we get into more technical
modes later in the book.
6. Compose your subject: Make sure you are not shooting into the sun, there are not any
power lines running across the horizon, there are not any telephone poles sticking out of a
persons head and make sure your scene is “square” and not tilted. Try to get in the habit of
taking the time to compose your shot: You will be surprised how much of a difference it
7. Shoot!: Depress your shutter halfway to focus, the rest of the way to take the image.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Carry a Camera Wherever You Go
The way to become a better photographer and get the most from your digital camera is to just use
the thing. Take it with you wherever you go. Get used to carrying it around and shooting some
images. Get over that embarrassed feeling of taking pictures of things when other people are
around. Just ignore them, or better yet, take their picture! As a bonus, you then have more images
to play with when you begin to edit them in Photoshop or Elements, or which ever image editing
software you’ll use.
I was doing a consulting gig a
few years back for General
Motors in downtown Detroit.
Often during lunch breaks, I'd
take a walk around the
downtown area, carrying one
of my digital cameras. I was
able to get many good shots of
the unique architecture the
downtown area offers. I
wouldn't have that opportunity
if I didn't carry a camera with
me each day I was working on
my GM Web project.
At that time, the Super Bowl
was in town, February 2006,
with the press center for the
week being held at Detroit's
Renaissance Center, the home
of General Motors World
media, sports and celebrity
world converged in the
building where I was spending
all my time. Great opportunity
for shots I normally wouldn't
have a chance to get.

Take a camera wherever you go, you'll discover images you normally wouldn't

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

particular, actually, I didn't have
the time. I was working on a large
Web project and deadlines were
looming. What I did manage to do
was walk around the huge
spectacle, and fire off a few shots
worth keeping. One in particular,
was of Aaron Neville, who was to
sing the National Anthem before
the game. I caught him in the
hallway after one of his many press

Aaron Neville, Detroit, Feb 3, 2006. Canon 20d, EF 50mm f/1.8 II

Summary: If you're like me, you may have a few digital SLR's that aren't too convenient to carry
around or leave in a car all day long. What I do, is carry a compact digital camera, one with quality
such as the Canon G11 or the Nikon Coolpix P6000 Both of these cameras will serve you well,
and fit into a pocket, purse, briefcase or backpack.

Tip: For one week, take your digital camera with you wherever you go. By taking pictures that week of
everything and everyone interesting to you, you'll be amazed on how many pictures you would have
missed had you not had your camera with you.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Photograph an Art Show
Every spring or summer, my area is booked with art shows. One of the most popular in the
country is the Ann Arbor Art Show, which takes place every July. There are also numerous art
shows which take place in almost every major community. You can go to different shows every
weekend of the summer, and never run out of shows to visit. Quite often, I'll know one or two of
the photographers displaying and selling their artwork, another incentive to go.
I like to go to as many art shows as I can for two reasons.
First, as a photographer, I like to view other
photographers work, and talk with them. I consider
myself an artist, and a great way to expand your artistic
horizons is to talk to other artists! Its one of the ways I
learn, and it gets me in touch with others with similar
interests. The second reason I enjoy art shows, is the
diversity in subject matter in which I can take
photographs. I always bring one of my digital cameras
with me.
While at the art show, I'll photograph whatever the day
presents to me. It may be a closeup of a sculpture from
an artist, it may be one of the musical artists that is
performing, or it may be one of the other people
enjoying the fair that day. No preconceived agenda, just
going with the flow, and photographing as I go.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions I have for you when you visit art shows, and carry
your camera with you:

When photographing other artists work, ask permission first. Ask the artist for their
business card (this is important), and explain to them you're just enjoying the day, and like
to photograph people and artwork. If the artist agrees, let them know that if you ever
publish any of the photographs that you'll first contact them and ask them for a release.
This is of respect for other artists and their work. If the artists objects, thank them, tell
them you understand, and move on to the next booth.


If the artists gives you permission, thank them. You can even take their photograph in
front of their booth, and email them a copy as a gesture of gratitude. Shoot for color and
abstracts. Personally, I am constantly adding to my abstract and color-study portfolios.
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Shooting close ups of artwork is one of my sources for these types of images. Don't be
afraid to get in close on sculptures and other pieces of art. You'll be pleasantly surprised at
some of the images you'll get.

Watch the people. Take a look around, and fire off some candid's of interesting people
attending the art fair.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Getting Images From Camera to Computer
Another one for the beginner...
Surprisingly, this is one of the most frequent questions I get on the street when someone becomes
aware that I teach digital photography and write books on the subject.
Don't have a card reader?
The simplest way for the beginner is to plug their
camera into their computer if they don’t have a
card reader. Every digital camera is packaged
with a CD that includes software utilities for your
camera. Before you can transfer pictures from
your camera to your computer, you need to install
the CD on your computer. The other item you
need is that USB cable that came with your
camera. It’s that cable with the big thingy on one
end and the little thingy on the other. Refer to
your owners manual to locate the cable
connection on your camera: It can be hard to find!
Have a card reader?
If you have a card reader, this is the easiest way to transfer images to you computer. Card readers
are devices that connect to your PC via USB cable. These devices often accept multiple memory
card formats, such as Compact Flash, SD Cards, XD Cards and Memory Sticks (for some Sony
models only).
The common process for transferring images from your camera to computer is:
1. Make sure you turn your computer on.
2. If transferring directly from your camera, make sure you turn your camera off.
3. Plug the camera or card reader into your computer by inserting the camera end of the USB
cable into your digital camera and the computer end of the USB cable into an available
USB connection on your computer.
4. Turn on your digital camera if transferring directly from the camera or plug in a memory
card into the card reader.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

5. After a few seconds, your computer should recognize the camera or memory card and
prompt you to choose your next step.
6. Your computer either prompts you to choose the method to copy your images, or your
camera’s software prompts you.
7. Choose to either copy the images to the default folder on your computer or better yet,
choose a specific directory you created to copy these images to.
Create a folder on your computer where you can copy all your images to. This way your folder
won’t be buried in the windows default images folder.
Your camera’s software may automatically assign a folder name each time you copy images to your
computer. Get familiar with the way your folders are set up. After your images are copied safely to
your computer and they are backed up, then you can then reformat your memory card in your
camera to make room for more pictures.
Warning: Always make sure you have a backup of the images that are copied to your computer before
you reformat your memory card. You want to make sure that these images are not only on your
computer, but backed up to CD or DVD for safe-keeping. If you accidentally delete the images on the
computer or the hard disk fails, at least you still have the images on CD or DVD.
Tip: Invest in a USB card reader. Prices for these devices have come way down and most of these can
read multiple memory card formats. Using card readers to download images is quicker and safer. Some
computers even have these built right in!

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Manage Your Image Library
An excerpt from The Digital Photographer Series: Photoshop Elements 7
As a photographer out in the field shooting great photos, you’ll
be eager to get back to your computer so you can mess around
with your shots. After downloading your images, you’ll be
excited to open Bridge, view the images you’ve just taken, and
then process the best of the litter.
The next thing you know, you’ll have run the nature images
through Elements, made a few prints, and then moved on to
something else, such as cruising the Web to do some shopping
for more digital camera gear! The downloaded images will then
sit in their folders, maybe soon to be forgotten.
If you’ve been using a digital camera for a while now, and you take thousands of nature and
landscape photos like I do, you’ve probably noticed how quickly images pile up on your hard drive.
Every time you download photos from a memory card to your hard drive, you could be adding
hundreds of digital images to an already crowded storage space, even one or two gigabytes at a
time. They then sit there, pile up, reduce the amount of available disk space, and maybe get lost or
Whether I’m shooting nature images in the field, downloading pictures, organizing files, or
working with images in Elements, I have a workflow for everything. A workflow is a step-by-step
progression of actions you take on a consistent basis to ensure that proper techniques are
consistent from shooting a photo to creating the final print.
An image-management workflow will work equally well when you’re managing those hoards of
images I’ve been warning you about.
By spending a few minutes planning your file management approach, and then by following your
workflow, you’ll be much better organized, more productive, and saner. And best of all, it doesn’t
cost you anything!

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Creating a file management system doesn’t start and end with your computer. Implementing use of external storage and backing
up to optical disk should be part of your image management workflow as well.

Creating a file-management system starts with three simple tasks:

Plan how to organize and store your images on your computer . All photographers
have different needs. Make a plan — the simpler the better—to organize all of your
images, not just your nature stuff. If you’re like me, you’ll have nature images divided
between wildlife photos, landscapes, macros, and maybe even abstracts.
Like many photographers, you might also have images of family, friends, or even some
commercial clients for whom you shoot images. You need a plan of organization to keep
all of those images straight.
For your photos, you might want to separate images into categories, such as family,
architecture, plants, animals, flowers, or geography. You can also divide up your images by
region, such as the Midwest, Southwest, Australian Outback, or whatever world regions
you photograph in and about. Really, I have many students from Down Under!


Create folders to store categorized images. Whether you’re using a Windows PC or a
Mac, first create a master folder to contain all your original, working, and final output
images. (I call my master folder “Images”, but you can name yours anything you want.)
The next step is to create subfolders within your main images folder to classify each major
step of your workflow.
With the thousands of shots you make in a given timeframe, try to keep it simple. Set up a
master folder called Digital Images. Within that folder, set up folders for original images,
working images, and finally output images.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


All you need is one folder to hold your original, working, and output folders. Backing up all of your images will be easier when they
are all held in one folder.


Back up all of your images in one step . When all of your images are contained in one
folder (that contains all of your subfolders), backing up to a CD, DVD, or external hard
disk or file server becomes a lot easier.

Manage Those Files!
Now that you’ve thought about your strategy for how you are going to store and back up your
image files, consider following a simple workflow for your everyday work. The following steps
might not exactly match how you approach your work, but you can use them as an example of an
image-management workflow.

Make a backup in the field. I haven’t yet spoken of this in detail, but if you’re out on an
extended field-shooting expedition, consider carrying a portable storage device, such as the
Epson P-7000, or one of those new mini notebook computers (some carry over 160
Gigabyte hard disk drives, and they are small, and inexpensive!) or even an Apple iPod.
These devices are small and battery-powered, and they can also play music and audio
books! I recommend making backups of your memory cards if you’re away from a
computer. Memory cards can easily be lost or damaged in the field. And one more line of
defense doesn’t hurt.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

An additional piece of advice I have for when you’re using a portable storage unit in the
field is, don’t be comfortable enough to reformat your memory cards after you’ve
downloaded the images to your computer or other portable device. These devices can fail
or get lost also! I only recommend using these devices for backup purposes (and on a
temporary basis at that) until you get your memory cards downloaded to your computer.
You might think this step is a little excessive, but I’ve heard horror stories. Recently, a
friend of mine lost most of his shots when he misplaced a 2-gig memory card on an
airplane on a trip back to the U.S. from eight days of shooting in England. He wasn’t a pro,
but most of his shots, including those of Stonehenge, London, Avebury, and Wales were
Tip: I suggest labeling memory cards with your name and contact information to create a possibility
that the memory card will be returned.

Download your memory cards to your computer. The first thing I do when I get back
to my hotel room, my office, or my home after a day of shooting is immediately download
my images to my computer. I create a subfolder in my “Original Images” folder, usually
named in sequential order with a date and a descriptive name for the images taken that day,
such as: IMG0041 May 30 England, IMG0042May 1England, and so on.


Back up your images to DVD and/or a series of backup hard disk drives. Right after
downloading my images to my “Original Images” folder, I back up to DVD — twice! A
DVD holds more than 4.5 gigabytes of data, about the amount for a typical 4-gig
CompactFlash(CF) or SD card full of images. I often go through at least four or five cards
when shooting nature photos all day. Raw images are quite large. One DVD usually holds
500 to 600 images, depending on the size of the files you are capturing. I make two copies
of my DVDs, one to keep onsite in my image library and one to keep offsite in my safety
deposit box.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Back up those files to DVD!

You can purchase blank DVDs inexpensively now. Great bargains are available at your
local computer and office supply stores. Whether you’re using DVDs to archive your
images, be aware that optical discs are not all alike. DVDs, like many things, are available in
different levels of quality.
There are some cheap discs on the market, but they might be cheap for a reason. They
might scratch easily or they might be susceptible to quicker chemical deterioration than
other discs. When buying blank CDs or DVDs to archive your images, buy name-brand
premium discs, archival quality such as Delkin Archival Gold or Verbatim DataLife. These
discs are supposed to hold up for many years, even decades if they’re carefully handled and
Backing up twice to optical disc might seem a bit extreme, but your original images are like
your original negatives—if they get lost or destroyed, you always have an extra copy offsite
as a last resort. Some photographers will mail their disc backups to their addresses at home,
to prevent that the loss of their equipment during travel means the complete loss of

Back up your hard disk. In addition to backing up my original images to DVD, I also
back up my “Digital Images” folder to an external hard disk every night. You can never
have enough backups of your important image files and documents. As close friend and
long-time photographer and Mac guru tells me, “There are two kinds of people — those
who have lost data and those who will.”

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


If you don’t have an external hard disk to make nightly backups of your data files — not
just your images, but all of your other personal work — I recommend getting one, or two
(I have several, and upgrade these yearly). You can purchase external hard disk drives with
capacities of more than 500 gigabytes for less than the cost of a couple of large capacity
memory cards. For a couple hundred bucks, you can rest easy knowing that your valuable
data is protected in case your computer’s hard disk fails.

The perfect backup system for your irreplaceable images, the Western Digital's My Book® Mirror Edition™ dual-drive storage
system offers RAID-based continuous data protection and user-serviceability.


Use Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements Organizer, or Picasa as your
image-management system. The next step in the image-management workflow is to
work with your images using software you already might have. Photoshop comes with
Bridge (pro -quality), Adobe Lightroom is world class, and if you're using Elements, the
Organizer is the best dollar for dollar deal out there. The Organizer is worth the price of
Elements alone in my opinion. . From within these software titles, you can organize your
photos into one large Catalog that includes all of your images, or even separate Catalogs,
and within those catalogs, you can even further organize your images into Albums.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Hold An Exhibit
And Show Off Your Work
All the fruits of your digital photography efforts deserve a showing. Photographs are meant to be
displayed and enjoyed by others, what way to best show off your work than to hold an exhibition!
Invite your friends, family and co-workers and show them the artist that you truly are.
Suggestions to holding an exhibition include:

Print, mount, matte and frame 10 or 20 of your best photographs.


Find a location to hold your photography exhibit. Local bookstores, community
centers, places of worship or neighborhood art centers are all good places to start. There
probably won’t be a fee involved and these organizations like it when you bring people into
their establishment.


Set a date and time for a reception intended to launch your exhibit.


Send out personal invitations. Print your invites on photo paper with a sample of your
work to the people you would like to invite to your personal art exhibit.


Advertise your exhibit by contacting your local newspaper of the event. Many
newspapers will list your notice for free in their weekly or daily art-exhibit section. If you
have blog, even better, send an email to your subscribers! (if you don't have a blog yet,


Have a sign-in sheet and grab email addresses. If you hold the event, make sure you
collect names and email addresses of the people visiting your exhibit. You can use these
email addresses as follow ups, and to notify your “fans” of new events or offerings.

Tip: If you intend on selling your framed photos at the exhibit, make sure you keep a few extra prints of
each photo in the exhibit on hand, you may be surprised how well your art will sell! Check with the
establishment you are exhibiting your photos in and see what their policy is for selling your work.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Cool Abstract Art with Extreme Cropping
...with help from using the Motion Blur Filter
One of the things I like to do with photos,
especially flowers is to crop a small portion of the
image to create a fine-art abstract. I especially like
strong colors on my abstracts with simple subject
matters. I shoot a lot of flowers, and have just as
many “duds” as I do have good images. I don't
discard the lousy photos, just in case I want to
create abstract images out of them by messing
with them in Photoshop or Elements and
cropping closely to only certain parts of the image.
Its my reoccurring theme of “rescuing lost
Original "dud" image. Nothing special here!

To create an extreme abstract:
1. Choose a photo where a
small portion would make for
an interesting abstract.
2. Click on the Crop tool in the
Toolbox. Don’t forget to type
in the Width, Height and
Resolution for the image you
are cropping.
3. Crop that portion of the
image using the Crop tool
located in the Photoshop
4. Apply
adjustments. Perform any
additional edits needed to the
photograph. For this image, I
simply used 2 filters: Filters-->Blur-->Gaussian Blur, and then I applied the Filters->Blur-->Motion Blur filter in Photoshop CS4.
©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Making Power Lines Disappear
More Photoshop and Elements Techniques
One of the most disappointing things when
shooting photos is when you get a great shot, only
to find out there’s a power line or a streetlight in
the way. You may not have noticed them when
taking the photo, but they sure appear when
browsing with Bridge in Photoshop. Many times
these things that you didn’t notice will ruin a shot.
No more! To make these pesky lines go away:
1. Open a photo where something ruined
the shot. Like a power line.
2. Create a new Editing Layer (trust me
on this one):
3. Click on the Spot Healing Brush Tool
located in the Photoshop or Elements
4. Enlarge or reduce the size of the brush
by clicking the [ or the ] key.
5. Click and drag the Spot Healing Brush
over the lines you want to make “go
away” like in the photo shown. Short
strokes are best as the area surrounding
the paintbrush is used by the software to
clone out the power line.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Take A Photo Trip!

Monument Valley, Arizona

One of the best photography experiences I've ever had was traveling with a small group on a
photography trip. A few years ago, I was searching the Internet for a travel photography adventure
in America's southwest.
I was pretty anal about the locations I wanted to
photograph. I searched and searched, and spoke to
many travel photography outfits advertised in
Outdoor Photographer magazine and on the
Internet. All but one didn't seem practical for me.
The one that did, was John Baker's Travel Images.
John and I do not have an official affiliation, that
is, I'm not getting paid for this! Just being honest
with you, when I see good value for
photographers, I'm going to write about it. This
one's coming from my heart. I had such a good
experience, I wanted to fill you in on it.
Back to my story. I did call Travel Images, and
John returned my call ASAP. We talked for a
while, and I let him know what type of trip I had
in mind, which nobody else was doing. I wanted
first to hit the slot canyons in Northern Arizona,
primarily, Antelope Canyon. I also wanted to
spend time in Utah, mainly Monument Valley,
Canyonlands, and Arches N.P. John didn't have
Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

anything scheduled for that area at the time, but he asked me to give him a few days, and he'd
come up with something.

Monument Valley

What John came up with, was the Red Rock Trip. Two weeks in the America Southwest, pure
photography. I was pleasantly surprised! Our time frame was August, and John proceeded to
schedule the trip in between a few fall color trips he already had booked up with his photography
clients. October it was. Thankfully, John was able to get a great group of other photographers to
join us for the Red Rock trip, and rest is history (I'm still close friends with the people on that trip,
as well as John).
John had scheduled a great two week excursion. A few days in Page Arizona, including Antelope
Canyon. A few days in Southeast Utah, Monument Valley. Mexican Hat, Goosenecks State Park,
Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park. I was getting my Red-Rock-On! For two
weeks, it was pure photography. Without John as a guide, I never would have known 1/2 the
places to go at these sites, and what times were best for photography. It was money well spent to
have a guide, just for the extra 100% photo-op's it offered.
John is always mixing up his destinations, and he does have a very interesting variety of trips
worldwide, often top photo destinations. Machu Pichu anyone? Nova Scotia? Yellowstone?
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Galapagos? John has them all. Not only that, he's very experienced in knowing where and when to
photograph sites in all of these world locations.
In summary, if you want to take that dream photography trip, strongly consider going with an
experienced trip leader, who also is a photographer.
You can view more at, and follow the links to get in touch with John, tell him I said hello!

Arches National Park, Utah

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Shoot in Color, Convert to Black and White
One of the best practices an experienced photographer should be aware of, is to shoot all of your
photographs in color. Almost all digital cameras give you the ability to take images in black and
white mode, but its not needed. Whether you're using Photoshop, Elements, or even Picasa, all
these software titles gives you the ability to convert your images to black and white later.
The reason to shoot all of your images in color even if you prefer black and white at times? Easy,
more options. If you shoot in color, you always have the option of processing the image in either
color or black and white. If you shoot your images in black and white mode right out of the
camera, you lose the ability to process the image in color later. Why limit your options?

In summary, if I would have shot this image in black and white mode in-camera, I wouldn't have
the option of utilizing the image in color. As you can see, in color, the image has a lot of color and
impact. Its just as much dramatic in black and white. This image of the Eye in London is a good
example of why you want to give yourself both options for an image, color and black & white.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Invest in Good Lenses
Knowing a lot of photographers over the years, my students, readers, or my contributing to and
lurking in online forums, I'm amazed at the frequency photographers upgrade their cameras. Some
upgrade every time a new replacement comes out for their already very serviceable cameras. I can
understand that, photographers are gadget junkies, and I'm no exception. Personally, I'd rather
spend my money on other things, like travel, college tuition for the kids, or a new bathroom.

My suggestion when you get the itch to get that hottest new Nikon or Canon, is to first look at
your overall camera arsenal. The first question you should ask yourself is “do I have the right
combination of lenses?” Chances are, there are one or two you're shy of. Another question you
should ask yourself, is your camera still serviceable, fairly new, and producing acceptable images?
If you're shooting with a compact digital camera and want to move up to a DSLR, go for it, you'll
be glad you did. If you are using a DSLR, and its only a year or two old, that's another story. I
shoot and write as a profession, and I still can't justify in my mind upgrading to the latest model in
my “range” just because the manufacture announced a new improved model. When I invest in
equipment, I personally like to get 3 years usage out of it, and for lenses, even longer, sometimes
much longer. The DSLR I'm using now was state-of-the-art 2 years ago, and I have a feeling that
I'm due for a new one in a year or so. Until then, I'll hold back my urges, and instead lean toward
high quality lenses to add to my arsenal. I'd advise the same for you.
Lastly, when you invest in a digital SLR, you're investing in a “system”. Whether it be Canon,
Nikon, Pentax, Sony (formally Minolta) or Olympus, you're buying into those manufacturers
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

specific lens systems. Camera bodies may come and go, but the real value is building up your
system of lenses and accessories.
Here is just a sample (just for Nikon and Canon) of some of the high-quality lenses that cover you
from 14mm all the way up to 200mm, each considered best-in-class that you might consider
adding to your system:
Nikon Lenses To Dream For

Canon Lenses To Dream For

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Use a Color Management Workflow
Color Management Explained
Imagine a scenario of just getting home from photographing an event that results in a compact
flash full of once-in-a lifetime images. Photographs worthy to be placed upon the pristine white
walls of the Metropolitan Museum. OK, maybe just some great pictures of your loved ones that
you would know to look great behind the glass of an 8 X 10 frame located your desk at work. The
point is, you have just captured images that you know will blow your hair back once they are

Printed without Color Management

Viewed on Computer Monitor

After loading your images to your computer, you gleefully view what looks like to be your favorite
image of the bunch. After a few tweaks, you send the image to the printer. To your dismay, your
photograph comes out of the printer with a reddish cast and is too dark. Not exactly what you
edited in Photoshop. You tweak and print the same image a few more times and poof, same result.
The print does not match the image viewed on the monitor.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

By applying a few important color management concepts to your computer and your editing
software, you make sure image you are viewing on your computer monitor matches the
photograph printed as close as possible. At a price of about one dollar per 8x10 for photo-quality
paper and ink, you’ll save a bundle and a bunch of frustration-caused emotional breakdowns too.
Consider color management workflow the Prozaca of digital photography.
One of the most important tools you’ll need to make sure that the images your viewing and editing
on your computer display is what is going to be printed, is a colorimeter. A colorimeter is a color
measurement tool that attaches to your display, and in conjunction with software, is used to create
a monitor profile you’re computer uses. When calibrating your monitor with a colorimeter, you’re
more closely matching the colors seen on your display to the print that’s being churned out on
your printer.
Two of the top selling calibration tools include the Datacolor
Spyder3Pro and the X-Rite colormunki. You’ll find that
investing in these tools will be well worth the price, and
calibrating your monitor will save
you dollars by reducing the amount
of paper and ink used in a “trial and
error” process.

The most important step of implementing color management into your workflow is to calibrate
your monitor. It is important to calibrate on a regular basis as the colors, brightness and contrast
of your monitor change over time. Whether you use one of those old big clunky computer
monitors (once called CRT’s), one of those sleek new LCD monitors or a laptop computer, the
rule remains the same, calibrate on a regular basis.
While calibrating your monitor, you are making actual adjustments to the brightness, contrast and
color balance to match what your calibration software uses as its standard. These adjustments are
actual physical changes to the operation of the monitor and are necessary to produce an accurate
profile that you computer will use.
By calibrating your monitor you have effectively set yourself up for a successful color managed
workflow. If this step is skipped, you are almost guaranteed that you will be making adjustments to
digital files based on false information!

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Explaining Color Modes in Photoshop
Before you begin work on a photo, it’s
a pretty good idea to know what the
image is going to be used for. Is the
image to be printed on your inkjet
photo printer? Displayed on the Web?
Used for prepress? The answers to
these questions will determine which
color mode you chose.
The color mode simply lets you
determine which color method
Photoshop is to use to first display
your image while editing and then to
output (print) your image. Color
modes represent particular numerical
color describing methods, also called
color models.

Use Adobe RGB 1998 for editing and printing, convert to sRGB for images
to be viewed on the web

Choices for color modes used for digital photographers in Photoshop include:

Bitmap: Not used for digital photographs. Uses black & white or color values to represent
pixels in an image


Grayscale: This mode would be used if the original image opened in Photoshop were
already a black and white image. Most of your photographs captured with a digital camera
or acquired using a film scanner will be color.

Tip: To produce black and white photos in Photoshop, stick with editing the image in your normal color
mode and converting to black and white later.


Duotone: Not usually used for digital photographs, duotone is a mode used for specific
printing purposes related to two-color print jobs. Its also used for advanced black and
white printing techniques.


sRGB: Digital cameras are usually set to this color space, but on most digital SLRs, you
can set your default color space to Adobe RGB 1998 as well. sRGB is the best color space
to use for photo's that are to be viewed on the web. If you edit your images in Adobe RGB
1998 as I suggest (you have a larger color gamut to work with), you should convert your
images to sRGB when you're ready to size and output an image for viewing on a web page
or attaching to an email.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Adobe RGB 1998 (Red, Green, Blue): For digital photographers, RGB is the standard
color mode used for editing photographs in Photoshop. RGB is the default color mode
and is automatically setup for you when you install Photoshop. In North America, the
standard editing mode for photos should be Adobe RGB 1998
Unless you are preparing images for prepress or other special purposes, leave RGB as your
standard color mode for editing your images in Photoshop. It offers a wider range of
colors to edit with.


CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black): Another standard color mode used in
Photoshop, CMYK mode is used mostly for preparing images where color separation is
needed for printing press processes.
When it’s necessary to submit images for commercial printing, edit your images in
RGB mode, then convert your image to CMYK for your final submission.


Lab: Lab color mode is the intermediate model used by Photoshop to convert from one
color mode to another. For digital photographers, Lab color mode will rarely be used,
however I know of a lot of photographers that edit their images in Lab mode. Not sure
why! They probably read an article somewhere.


Multichannel: Not normally used for digital photographs. Multichannel mode is used
only for specialized printing applications.

For most photographers in the Americas, I suggest the following color profiles:

In Camera: If you print some, and put some up on the Web or email, set you camera to
Adobe RGB 1998. Edit your images in the same color space. When preparing images
for the Web or email, I suggest then converting your images to the sRGB color space.


Photoshop & Elements: As mentioned, edit your photos in the Adobe RGB 1998 color
space. The reason? Larger color gamut. You can convert to other color spaces later after
you make your color and tonal corrections.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Shoot the Sky
This isn't for everyone, it is for me though, you
should try it. Shooting the sky is something I teach
all my Nature Photography students in my courses. It gives them an idea of
something that's simple, and is always there!
Looking for some great nature subject matter?
Consider developing a portfolio of sky
photographs. Just the sky, nothing else. Where else
can you obtain images nobody else has? The sky
changes minute by minute, and is never the same.
That's right, no two photographs of the sky are the
same, and they'll never be the same either. All you
have to do is point your camera up, and shoot.
Here are a few of my suggestions for shooting the

Set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode. Set
your aperture to f/5.6. You're shooting with a focal
length set to infinity anyway, f/5.6 is probably your
lens “sweet spot”, or where its at its absolute


Use a tripod in low light situations. Unless
you're shooting at a shutter speed over 1/500 of a
second, use a tripod to insure utmost sharpness.


Shoot the sky just before sunrise, or just after
sunset. That's the time where you're going to get
the best color in your images. Shooting at mid-day
is going to give you uninteresting sky's, unless its
storming out or you have some great blue skies
with a nice mix of clouds.


Shoot at a low ISO setting. To ensure low-noise
images, set your ISO to the lowest setting on your
digital camera.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Explaining 8 and 16 Bit Modes
RGB images are made up of either three 8-bit or 16-bit grayscale channels. Each of the three
channels represents shades of red, green or blue (hence the acronym RGB). RGB represents the
combination of the primary colors of light we see. 8-bit images contain up to 16.7 million unique
color definitions of RGB. 16-bit images contain up to 35 trillion unique color definitions of RGB.
Your choice for image modes to setup for working with your images in Photoshop is to choose
either 8 or 16 bit mode to work in. Whether you edit your image in 8 or 16 bit mode may also
depend on your original image. If you capture JPEG images in your digital camera, the only choice
you have is 8-bit mode. If you have your digital camera set to capture RAW or TIFF images, the
wonderful world of 16-bit color awaits you.
OK, this technical stuff is interesting, but how does it affect editing our digital photos in
Photoshop? The answer is simple. Every time we make an edit to an image, we wind up throwing
away image information. The extensive our edits are, say changing exposure, color saturation or
contrast, we throw more data into the trash. We want to make sure we have plenty of information
to work with to guarantee our image edits do not degrade the color quality of an image.
The bottom line with which mode to use to edit images in Photoshop is to if you can choose 16bit mode to guarantee you are editing images with as much information available as possible.
Not all Photoshop or Elements features are available to you in 16-bit mode, however with each
new version of Photoshop, more functions become available. If you are shooting JPEG images
with your digital camera, you will only be given the option to edit your images in 8-bit mode.
Features available for use in 16-bit mode include:

All tools in the toolbox except the Art History brush tool.
All color and tonal adjustment commands (except Variations)
Layers and adjustment layers.
An assortment of filters.
Crop, rotate and image size adjustments
Support for PSD and TIFF files

If you need to use a Photoshop tool or filter that is not compatible with 16 bit mode, save a copy
of the file to retain its 16-bit mode status, then convert the image to 8-bit mode to enable you to
use the tool or filter. Elements users need only to worry about 8 bit mode, as you can only make
edits and adjustments in 8 bit mode in Elements.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Use the Gradient Tool For a Colorful Sky
One of the most requested techniques received from my students is how to color up a dull or
“bald” sky. A sky in an image that is either vacant of any detail, or just plain dull. I'll often use a
tool that is often overlooked by many Photoshop and Elements users, the Gradient Tool. Located
in the toolbox, its an easy-to-learn tool that gives you many coloring opportunities that would be a
great addition to your arsenal.
To add a little “punch” to your image, often to
the sky or even the foreground;
1. Process your image like you normally
do. Make your color and tonal
corrections using Camera Raw, or
adjustment layers in Photoshop, and even
the Quick or Full Edits in Elements (I
just love the Quick Edit in Elements).
2. Create a new “editing” layer. Type

Original Image. F/25, ISO 100, 6 sec

3. Select the Gradient Tool from the Photoshop or Elements Toolbox.
4. Select your desired Gradient Color. Click on the Foreground Color Selector in the
Toolbox to choose your color. For this example, I chose the color Red.
5. From The Option Bar, Click on the Linear Gradient icon shown in the illustration
6. Choose Darken Mode from the Mode Selection Box.
7. Set your Opacity to 33%. You can apply the gradient many times until you get the
darkening that you want.
8. Click the top middle of the image and drag the Gradient Tool ¾ of the way down.
Repeat as necessary.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Using the Gradient Tool

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Other suggestions for using the
Gradient tool for modifying a sky, or
even other parts of an image include
different colors. Be a
creative or abstract artist. Select
different colors from the color palette.
Click on the Foreground color button on
the bottom of the Toolbox, deselect the
Only Web Colors selection box, and
choose any color in the spectrum.





©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Understanding Layers
Working in Layers: The Sandwich Theory
An excerpt from The Digital Photographer Series: Photoshop Elements 7

The Layers Pallet

I like to use the analogy of a big sandwich to describe the use of layers in working with images in
Photoshop or Elements. I start with a couple slices of bread, or maybe three (you know, doubledecker sandwiches)—the basis of every good sandwich. I then add a layer of lettuce, one of
tomato, a layer of salami, and a layer of rare roast beef. Add a little layer of mustard, another layer
of cheese, and I’m in heaven: a layered hero-sized sandwich. The idea is the same when you’re
using layers in your Elements images.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Like making a sandwich, editing images in Photoshop or Elements is also based on the premise of
performing each individual change to an image on its own layer. Think of each layer as a
transparency, and each transparency as containing a particular change. When you open an image
file, the original image is used as a background layer. Add a layer to make an adjustment, and that
layer is placed on top of the background layer. Each new edit is contained on a new layer, stacked
from the bottom on up. Stack the images together, and you have a composite image: a finished
product, just like my sandwich.
Now I’m getting hungry!
The Layers palette contains all the layers that make up an image. You use the Layers palette to
control all layers; you can create new layers, hide layers, and work with groups of layers. With all
these layers, maybe we should be calling images processed in Elements digital sandwiches.
By default, the Layers palette is visible. If you
inadvertently close the Layers palette while you’re
working in Elements, you can always start it up again
by choosing Windows, Layers or by pressing the F7
Following are some important facts about working in
• Background layer.
When you’re opening an image file, Elements
and Elements creates the bottommost
background layer. There are certain changes
that cannot be made to the background layer in
Elements: You cannot delete, reorder, or
change the opacity or blending mode of the
background layer.

The Layers palette, shown with the Create New Fill or
Adjustment Layer flyout menu

Tip: Before editing your image, always make a duplicate of the background layer. It is a best practice to
not perform edits to the background layer. Reserve that layer as the original on which to base all your
edits: It’s your backup parachute in case anything goes wrong.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


To show or hide the contents of a layer, click the eye icon. If the eye icon is visible,
the contents of the layer are visible. If the eye icon is not visible, the contents of the layer
are hidden.


Rename layers by double-clicking the layer name and typing the new name. You
want to make sure that your layers are named correctly, pertaining to the particular
adjustment or edit you are making to that layer. It helps you remember what you did in that
layer later if you save the file, and then go back to it days or weeks later.


Click and drag to change the layer order. To change the order of your layers, click a
layer and drag it to the position where you want that layer to appear.


Create new layers from the flyout menu. Click the Create a New Layer button. Choose
the layer type from the flyout menu. You can also create a new layer by dragging an
existing layer to the New Layer button, which is located on the bottom of the Layers


Drag to delete layers. Click the layer and drag it to the trashcan icon located on the
bottom right of the Layers palette. You can also right-click the layer and choose Delete
Layer from the flyout menu. If you’re using a Mac, simply select the layer in the Layers
palette and click the delete button on the keyboard.


Flatten layers. Flattening layers combines all layers into one. When you flatten an image,
your ability to make changes to individual layers is lost. Flattening layers is usually
performed to create a version of an image to print or to submit for publishing.
If no layers are selected, the entire image is flattened into one layer with the top layer’s
name. If two or more layers are selected, only those layers are combined into one layer,
again taking the top layer’s name.

Tip: To maintain your image edits, save your image before flattening it and save the flattened version of
your image file using another filename.

Adjustment and Fill Layers
Adjustment layers allow you to change color or tonal values of an image without affecting the
original (background) image. When you create an adjustment layer, changes made in that layer are
viewable along with all the adjustments you made in the layers underneath it. You can use
adjustment layers to make enhancements to levels, curves, color balance, brightness/contrast, and
color saturation.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

An adjustment layer affects all the layers beneath it in the Layers palette. The advantage is that a
change made to an adjustment layer doesn’t need to be repeated in the layers stacked beneath it.
For example, if you want to change the brightness of an image, you only have to make that change
once to the overall image.
Fill layers allow you to fill the layer with solid colors, gradients, or patterns.
The following list describes the types of adjustment and fill layers you can use in your imageediting workflow.

Solid color. A solid color layer is considered a fill layer. Create a solid color layer to fill an
image with a color. You can also use it to create a colored background for an image.


Gradient fill layer. You can use gradients to apply a color in a transition from light to
dark. They are useful for creating dark-edged vignettes for some images or for creating
transitioned color backgrounds. You can also use gradients to create some cool image
special effects. You can also experiment with images by adding or reducing the opacity of
the fill layer.


Pattern fill layer. Create a layer containing a pattern from the Pattern menu. Adjust the
layer’s opacity to strengthen or weaken the pattern effect.


Levels adjustment layer. This is the first tonal adjustment I make in my workflow. You
can make adjustments to levels of red, green, blue, and midtones in this layer.


Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. Want to “punch up” the contrast in the image?
Use the Contrast slider in a subtle manner.


Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. This is my favorite of them all. One of the last steps
in your image-editing workflow is creating a Hue/Saturation layer and punching up the
color saturation in your image to make the color in your images pop.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Get Up Early and Shoot the Sunrise

ISO 100, f/16, 1/250 sec. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR, Nikon TC 14E II Extender

As a photographer I'm known for my extensive portfolio of sunrises and sunsets. I've been
photographing these for years, and I will the rest of my days. Its a personal pursuit and an effort
that involves lifelong learning. For years, I've had enough images for a photo book on the subject
matter, however, for most of my outings, I'm just doing it for personal enjoyment. I'll be getting
around to publishing that book eventually, my problem is going to be choosing which 150 of my
best sunrises and sunsets to choose.
Whether on family vacations or photo expeditions, if I'm near water whether it be lakes or oceans,
I always make it a point to get up early, an hour before sunrise, and travel to the shore to greet the
new day shooting the sunrise. With coffee of course.
Why sunrises you ask? For me, its a reason to get up early. Artistically, you also can't get more
original subject matter to choose from, either day to day, or minute by minute. No two sunrises (or
sunsets) are the same. Not only that, the sky changes by the minute, 30 minutes before the sun
rises all the way to an hour to after the sun appears on the horizon. The water is different, the

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

clouds are different, the haze is different. The birds are different. No two images will be same.
Now that is originality!
I do have a set technique that's consistent from morning to morning for shooting the sunrise, but I
do have a few habits that I start the day out with first:

ISO 100, f/11, 1/125 sec

1. Make the coffee first. I don't know about you, but I need that boost of caffeine in the
morning to get me going. Its the first thing I do, quietly! I prefer fresh ground Starbucks by
the way. Double cream, no sugar.
2. Check my equipment. I actually do this the night before, but If I forget, I'll do this while
the coffee is brewing. Make sure I'm using charged batteries. Check to make sure my lenses
and protective UV filters are clean. Make sure my settings are where I want them on my
camera. Lowest ISO setting for optimal quality, set to Auto White Balance (too early to
mess with custom settings for me!), and set to Aperture Priority.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


ISO 100, f/16, 1/250 sec

3. Make sure my tripod is clean: Shooting sunrises and sunsets also means that your tripod
has to be clean of mud and sand. Sand is the enemy of a well functioning tripod and
ballhead. I don't want to get to the site, and have an equipment malfunction! Its happened
before to me, and I've learned from that mistake.
4. Take out the Dog and Feed Him: Not to be in danger of the dog waking up everyone, I
always make sure I take the cutie out, and then feed him before I make my way down to
the shore. That way, I'm not dealing with angry family members woken up by a hungry dog
when I get back. Trust me on this one!
As far as technique, I have have a few that have served me well:

Get to your location a minimal of ½ hour before sunrise. This gives you a chance to
give yourself time to setup your spot in the optimal location. Do you want to get right on
top of the water if you're shooting over a body of water, or to a mountain range to get the
sun rising over the horizon? Give yourself a little extra time to pick an optimal spot. Once
the sun starts to rise, you want to concentrate on shooting, not moving.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


ISO 100, f/16, 1/4 sec


Don't wait for the sun to rise before shooting. Some of the most breathtaking images I
get are taken within a few minutes before the sun breaks over the horizon. The same could
be said for sunsets. You'll get the most dramatic skies just before the sun comes up, or
after the sun goes down.


Use a steady tripod and good quality ball head. I can't stress this point across more
throughout this book. The key to sharp images is good technique, backed up by a high
quality tripod and even better-quality ball head. I shoot the majority of my images on a
tripod, and learned a long time ago not to skimp on these two. You could have the best
quality camera and lenses, but without good sharp shooting technique and equipment, your
images will be of poor quality.


Focus Mid-Foreground to the Horizon. My focus point is half-way to the horizon. If
that's a great distance (more than infinity), I'll feel setting my aperture to f/8, the sweet
spot of my lens. By focusing ½ the distance to the horizon, you can be assured that both
your foreground and background of the image will be in focus.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Use a Remote Shutter Release. For low light images, it is essential that you shoot with a
remote shutter release or your camera's self-timer. You don't want to introduce vibration
in the camera by your finger pressing the shutter. Both Canon and Nikon offer inexpensive
remote shutter releases.


Take time to compose your image. I see a lot of other photographers work. Often,
especially when shooting sunrises over water, the photographers will have a tenancy to
compose their images with ½ the frame to the sky, and ½ the frame to the foreground,
thus cutting the image in half. I recommend composing the scene 2/3 to the sky and 1/3
to to the foreground, or reverse.


Add the human element. To add scale to your image, don't be afraid to add a human
element to the foreground of your scene. A boat dock, a fence (as seen above), a small
building will add drama to your sunrise or sunset.


Be patient and wait ½ hour to 45 minutes after sunset or sunrise. The event with the
magic light doesn't exist at any certain time before or after the sun rises or falls over the
horizon. Lighting and color of the sky changes by the minute. Arriving ½ hour before
sunrise can result in your best images, depending on the conditions. Same goes for the 45
minutes after sunset. The color in the sky deepens, and you can get some excellent shots of
the sky far after the sun falls for the day. Be patient, and you'll be rewarded.

30 minutes before sunset, Canyonlands National Park, ISO 200, f/13, 1/2 second

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


The Importance of a Good Tripod
As a nature and still life photographer, I shoot 98 percent of my photos on a tripod. It’s a habit I
grew into years ago and I can swear by the results. A tripod is the second most important piece of
equipment you could ever use; the first most important piece of equipment is a good tripod.
To help drive my point home, I’ll tell you a little story. While out on a recent photo trip to the
American southwest John Baker and Travelimages, I was shooting some scenes at Monument
Valley, Utah. One scene, shown in Figure 3.1, was particularly difficult. I tried different angles, but
our tour leader had a better idea—get as low as you can to obtain a better angle. It was a great
shot, but I got lazy and thought I had enough light for a sharp photo, even at f/22, so I hand-held
the shot so I didn’t have to reconfigure my tripod. Wrong! I noticed after I got the photo in
Photoshop and zoomed in that parts of the frame were not focused to my taste.

This photo was taken without a tripod. Further
examination after zooming in shows where the
image is “soft” and not too sharp. This is bad if
you want to enlarge your photo to larger than 8X10 inches.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Different Tripods for Different Folks
When friends ask me what type of tripod they should get, I get stumped. That blank and confused
look briefly appears on my face until I formulate an answer in my head. After composing myself, I
break the rules and answer a question with a question: What type of shooting do you do? You see,
I can recommend a number of different models of tripods, but the answer depends on what type
of shooting people do, how physically fit they are (some of these three-legged wonders can weigh a
lot), what type of camera equipment they haul, and finally, how much money they have to spend
on one.
If you don’t have a tripod or feel you need to upgrade the one you have, keep the following criteria
in mind:

Camera type. The type and weight of a camera greatly
determines the tripod you can use. Nature photographers
often take long hikes and prefer to carry the lightest
tripod, but one that is sturdy enough to reduce any
vibrations. If you’re shooting with a compact digital
camera such as the Canon G11 or the Nikon Coolpix
6000, you’re probably not going to need a 12-pound
tripod; a lighter-weight tripod should do the trick. The
Hakuba MAXi-343E weighs just 1.9 pounds and is easily
strapped to your camera bag for those long hikes. The
model has been replaced by others, but if you’re using a
lightweight camera, one of these sturdy, lightweight
tripods should do the trick. I should know; I traveled
across Wales and England with one this year, and it was a
pleasure not to haul a 10-pound tripod along. I was
shooting with lightweight cameras and lenses, and the Hakuba sells sturdy, lightweight tripods
Hakuba served me just fine.
that fold to 17.5 inches and weigh less

The Manfrotto 055CXPRO4
weighs less than 4 lbs but can
handle up to 17 lbs of gear

than two pounds. This is perfect for use


Weight. The one determining with a compact digital camera, such as
my compact Nikon, shown here.
factor that’s more important
than most others is the amount of weight your tripod has to
support. Although a light was great for a compact digital
camera while traveling abroad, most of my shooting in the field
is with digital SLRs and big, heavy pro-model zoom lenses. The
combined weight of my digital camera and zoom lens exceeds
five pounds, and I opt for one of my heavier duty models.


Material. Another consideration in your decision is the
material your tripod is made of. Metal is less expensive, but if
you can, you should seriously investigate purchasing a carbonfiber tripod. These carbon-fiber models are becoming very
popular with nature photographers; they weigh a lot less than
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

metal and are a pleasure to take on extended hikes. Be prepared to spend 50 percent or
more for carbon-fiber models though; they are more expensive, but to many of us they are
well worth the price if our photography adventures take us on extended hikes.

Versatility. I hate using that word—it sounds like I’m in advertising, which I’m not.
However, one of the features you want in a tripod is versatility—the ability to not only
extend the legs wider than the standard setting, but also to use interchangeable tripod
heads. For shots where you need to get down low to the ground, you need a tripod with
legs that can extend outward, allowing you to mount your camera only 12 inches or so off
the ground. I’ve found this feature extremely valuable in the field. On some models, you
can even reverse the tripod stem and mount the camera upside down.

It’s All in the Head
When you make a decision about a tripod, the next thing you’ll need is a tripod head. The same
rules used when selecting a tripod hold true for selecting a tripod head. You’ll need to take into
consideration the weight of the equipment you’ll be attaching to the head, the type of head that
will best fit the type of shooting you’ll be doing out in the field, and of course, the price. Basically,
there are two types of tripod heads nature photographers prefer:

Good for a heavy load: Manfrotto 3030 Pan/Tilt Head attached to my Manfrotto
3221 Wilderness tripod,


Pan tilt heads. Pan and tilt heads are the most popular tripod heads used by
photographers, and for most of your nature shooting, a pan and tilt model should serve
you just fine in many situations. Pan and tilt heads allow you to move your camera
vertically and left to right (for panning), and to flip your mounted camera to the vertical
position for shooting in portrait mode. Its a sturdy head, more than a match for my heavy
lenses. I used to use one of these before switching to a sturdy ball head.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Whatever tripod head you choose, make sure you purchase a quick-release model. A quick-release
trip head lets you attach a plate to your camera’s tripod socket, which in turn is inserted into a slot
on the tripod head, and then secured with an easy-to-use clamp you can tighten with your thumb.
Quick-release heads let you attach plates to multiple cameras and lenses with tripod mounts, giving
you a fast option for changing cameras or lenses without screwing in your camera to a tripod every
time you want to use it.

Ball heads. I’ve had other nature photographers
bug me because I’d often travel with only a pan
and tilt head attached to my tripod. Finally, on a
recent trip, I tried a ball head. I immediately fell
in love with its versatility, and I can see why
users of ball heads brag. They are fun to use and
give you better flexibility for shooting wildlife or
scenes where you have to point your lens high,
toward the sky. The figure shows the Manfrotto
486 Ball Head, like the one I’ve used in the field.

The Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head is a popular model
among nature photographers.

If you're not setting up more than 5lbs, I strongly suggest the
Manfrotto 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ball Head

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Shooting and Stitching Panoramas

Lake Huron. 3 separate images stitched with Photoshop CS4 Photomerge

With the popularity of stitching software and hence great improvements to Photoshop and
Elements in recent years, its now easier to stitch separate images together to create dramatic
panoramic photos. The hard part, is shooting these with the purpose of stitching later. Unlike
single frame photographs, shooting a series of 3, 4 or even 5 images and making them exact in
exposure and composition is another challenge.
Upon special requests from my current Elements and Photoshop students, here is a quick lesson in
shooting, and stitching panoramic images.

Basic Necessities for Shooting in the Field
When you're in the field, shooting panorama's takes a little practice, a little patience, and a little bit
of technique. Here are a few necessities that I recommend:

Have a good tripod. I stress throughout my
writings that a good tripod is a necessity. The
tripod and head will allow for smooth and
accurate panning that will be needed when
shooting panoramas, and ensure that you're
getting crisp images.


Use a level. If you're tripod head doesn't
come with a level, I recommend one of those
nifty levels that you can get for under $50 U.S.
that will fit right in you're camera's flash head.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Shooting Panorama's
Shooting panorama's should be included your everyday photographic “toolbox”. When you're out
in the field, pre-visualize any scene, and make decisions on how you want to compose those
scenes. Some scenes are more appropriate to be
shot in portrait mode, while others are more
appropriate for landscape mode. Additionally,
some scenes may be good candidates for
3 frames, overlapping by 1/3 of each frame, taken left to right panoramic mode as well. Three or four
overlapping images that compose a wide angle from left to right, a composition that you just can't
take with one frame.
When shooting panorama's, try this technique:
1. Level your camera. Keep your camera mounted on a tripod, and pan the scene left to
right while viewing the scene through your viewfinder. Make adjustments to your tripod
head to make sure that the scene is level, and that when you're panning, your not
“crooked” from left to right.
2. Plan how many frames you'll be shooting. Typically, I try to capture my panoramic
images in three or 4 shots, maximum.
3. Zoom wider than needed. This is an important tip. Shooting at a wider zoom setting
than you feel is needed for the composition gives you the option to crop the scene to the
composition you want later in Elements or Photoshop. By shooting at a wider angle, you
can then compensate for lost content when the frames are stitched together. Trust me on
4. Focus the scene with manual or autofocus. When you're finished focusing, turn off the
autofocus on your camera. This way, your focus will be locked, and consistent from frame
to frame.
5. Meter the scene. I use spot metering a lot, but may use one of many metering schemes
depending on the lighting conditions of my subject matter. Whatever metering you choose,
when complete, use the A/E lock feature on your camera, or, you can read the f/stop and
shutter speed, and dial in these settings in manual mode. Regardless how you do this, the
f/stop and shutter speed must be the same for each frame you are shooting.
6. Take your series of photographs. Now that your camera is level (at least the best you
can), focused and metered, you're ready to go. Compose your first shot to the left, and
take the photograph. Slowly “pan” to the right, but not all the way, you want to leave 1/3
of the frame “overlapping” from the previous frame. Take the shot. Repeat panning to the
right, overlapping 1/3 of the frame over the previous frame. Take the shot again.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss

7. Review your 3 or 4 shots on your LCD. Scroll through the images on your cameras LCD
to make sure you have good exposure, and that the frames are reasonably level. If needed,
make metering, leveling or focus adjustments, and repeat the process.

Using Photomerge to Stitch Panorama's
Here comes the fun part!
Both Photoshop and Elements comes with a nifty feature used to stitch panorama's called
Photomerge. The steps to stitching together your panorama frames are:
1. From Bridge hold down the CTRL (CMD key on the Mac) while clicking on the
images you want to stitch together. You can do the same in the Elements Organizer for
Elements users.
Step 2: Select Tools-->Photoshop-->Photomerge...

Step 1: While holding down the CTRL key, select the images to stitch

2. Choose Photomerge from the Tools Menu. Click on the Bridge Tools menu, and select
Photoshop-->Photomerge. Bridge will then proceed to open the images in Photomerge.
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

Elements Users should choose New from the File menu, and choose Photomerge from

In Elements, Photomerge is selected from the File-->New-->Photomerge Panorama menu

3. Select Photomerge Options. The Photomerge file window will next appear in
Photoshop. From this window, you can select options for how your images will be
arranged when they are stitched together in Photomerge. Here you choices for layout,
blending, vignette removal and geometric corrections (Please note, blending, vignette
removal and geometric corrections are not an option in Elements). For our purposes, I'm
leaving the defaults shown. Click OK to proceed to the merging your chosen images.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Stitched images shown in Photoshop CS4, with crop outline shown

4. Crop your panorama. Shown in this illustration, you'll see that Photomerge has stitched
the images together. This composition is a good example of why your camera should be
level when shooting your frames, panning from left to right. Because the camera was not
level, you'll see why I recommend to shoot your images at wide angle, as you need to then
crop your image at this point.
5. Complete edits, color and tonal corrections. My plan for this image, is to first crop the
image in Photoshop, and fill in the upper portion of the image with a sky painted in with
the Clone Stamp Tool. I'll then add adjustment layers to improve Levels, Curves and
Hue/Saturation to finish the image off.

Completed Panorama

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Essential Tools from the Toolbox
V Move
M Rectangular Marquee
L Lasso Tool
W Magic Wand
C Crop
E Eyedropper Tool
J Healing Brush
B Brush, Pencil Color Replacement
S Clone Stamp, Pattern Stamp
Y History Brush Tool
E Eraser, Background Eraser
G Gradient, Paint Bucket
R Blur, Sharpen, Smudge
O Dodge, Burn (Improved in CS4!)
P Pen
T Type
A Path Selection

I've stated in many articles and books that there is always more
than one way to skin a cat in Photoshop or Elements. For every
process you go through, whether it be a color adjustment or edit
to an image, there are probably 5 or 10 other ways to accomplish
the same thing in Photoshop or Elements.
The Photoshop or Elements toolbox gives the photographer a
number of editing tools in which to make changes to a photograph
or graphic. Last I counted, there were over 80 of these tools
available in the toolbox. Mastering all probably isn't necessary, but
for photographers, there are a few that you might want to practice
on. Whether you're using Elements or Photoshop, most of these
tools work the same.
• The Paintbrush. The Paintbrush in Photoshop and
Elements includes the Color Replacement, Impressionist
Brush, and the Pencil Tool. Just Right+Click on the
Paintbrush, and you'll see those other tools as well. The
Paintbrush is a tool often used by graphic artists and
photographers alike. Choose a Foreground color by
clicking on the Forgeround/Background color tool in the
bottom of the toolbox, pick a color, and paint in the color
anywhere in the image or graphic.

Color Replacement Tool. Use this tool to select a color
from any spot in the image (just ALT+CLICK on any
spot), and paint that chosen color elsewhere in the image.


Pencil Tool. Like the Paintbrush tool, the pencil tool
paints in color you choose, however with harder lines.


Impressionist Brush Tool (In Elements Only). This
tool is a little artsy, and is available in Elements only.
Choose this tool to paint in an Impressionist painting

U Shape Tools
K 3-D Rotate Tool (New in CS4!)
N 3-D Orbit Tool (New in CS4!)
H Hand
Z Zoom
Swap Foreground/Background Color

Q Quick Edit in Quck Mask Mode

The Elements Toolbox

Rectangular Marquee Tool. Used often to outline a
portion of an image in order to crop. After outlining the
portion of the image to crop, go to the Image menu, and choose Crop.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Lasso and Magic Wand Tools: These tools are used to make selections in images. Used
often in order to make edits or color/tonal adjustments to selective portions of an image.
These tools take time to master, so pick images to practice on! The Quick Selection Tool
and the Magic Wand tool are the selection tools of choice for the photographer.


Crop Tool: I use this tool for almost every image I work with in Photoshop or Elements.
You can specify the height, width, and dpi for the image in the Option Bar, then click and
drag your crop to both crop the image, and to resize it according to your Option Bar


Eraser Tool: Located in both the Photoshop and Elements toolbox's, the Eraser tool is
used to erase previously executed edits. Change the Eraser tools Opacity setting in the
Option Bar, and you can “reduce” painted in effects or edits previously made to your
image. Leave the setting at 100%, and you'll completely erase painted in effects.


Smart Brush/Detail Smart Brush (Elements Only). Nice additions to Elements. With
these brushes, you can make a selection AND make color/tonal changes to your selected
part of your image both at the same time. Options for effects made to the selected areas
are available above on the Option Bar.


Clone Stamp Tool. Used often by photographers, this tool allows you to choose a portion
of the image you want to paint in another part of the image. Again, first choose the
“source” by ALT+CLICK (OPTION+CLICK on a Mac) on an area of your image, then
paint in the “cloned source” to another part of the image. I often use this to clean up the
sky, or to even remove power lines. The Pattern Stamp tool works similar, however
instead of choosing a source from the image itself, you choose the source from the
Photoshop or Elements pattern library. A potential “cool” special effects tool!

Tip: When making edits with these tools or adding effects from the Filters menu, create a new editing
layer by typing SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+E, or on a Mac SHIFT+CMD+OPTION+E. You'll create a new layer
that includes all your previous layers in which you can make edits. Remember, you can't make edits in
Adjustment layers...

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Photographing Waterfalls
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is blessed with some of the most dramatic waterfalls in the country.
Often, I’ll return to the same sites to shoot the same waterfalls I might have shot years ago. My
techniques keep getting better, and sometimes, weather conditions are better one year from the
other years. My suggestion: Never be hesitant to return to the same sites you’ve visited before.
Practice can make perfect! With repeat visits, you’ll learn the area better, familiarize yourself with
the best lighting conditions for the subject, and compose your shots differently than in the past.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula. ISO 100, f/20, 1 second exposure

My tips for optimum waterfall shooting include:

Lighting: Like shooting trees in autumn, the best lighting is overcast, especially in between
rain storms. In the Upper Peninsula, it rains almost every day in the fall. You want that
dark diffused lighting in order to slow down your shutter speed.


Shutter Speed: In order to get that blurred-smooth-flow look to your waterfall scene, you
need to shoot at a shutter speed of 1 to 1.6 seconds. In order to achieve a properly
exposed scene at those slow shutter speeds, you’ll need to set your aperture to a setting of
f/16 or smaller, up to f/22. You’ll get great depth of field, with the ent ire frame in focus
too. If the lighting is too bright to bring your shutter speed down to 1 to 1.6 seconds, try a
neutral density filter.
©2010 Kevin L. Moss


ND Filter: A neutral density (ND) filter is a
must for waterfall shooting. Placing an ND
filter over your lens reduces the amount of
light, thus decreasing the shutter speeds to
accommodate the reduction of light, without
affecting color in your scene.


Tripod and Remote Shutter Release: At
shutter speeds of 1 to 1.6 seconds, use of a
tripod, a good tripod is a must. Additionally,
at those speeds, you’ll also need the
assistance of utilizing a remote shutter
release. Using a remote shutter release
eliminates any vibration introduced to your
camera when your finger actually presses the
shutter. Trust me, a remote release, available
for almost all camera models, makes a huge
difference in obtaining sharp images. If you
don’t have a remote shutter release, try the
"poor-persons remote shutter release".

Your Camera's Self-Timer: Using your
cameras self-timer feature will accomplish
the same effect as using a remote shutter
release. When this feature is set, you press
Bond Falls, Michigan. ISO 100, f/22, .8 sec
the shutter, and the camera doesn’t expose
your film or image sensor for a pre-set number of seconds. Setting your self timer to 5
seconds will allow for any vibrations to cease when pressing the shutter button.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Wagner Falls, Munising Michigan. ISO 200, f/18, .5 second exposure

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Photographing Fall Color
One of the tricks to photographing spectacular fall color, is knowing where and when to go. Living
in the U.S. Midwest, areas of peak fall color differ greatly within each region. For instance, peak
fall color along the shores of the Great Lakes often lag a few weeks from peak color just 20 miles
inland from any point. Factors such as altitude and shorelines have a big impact on timing. The
type of vegetation also has an impact.

Porcupine Mountains, Lake of the Clouds, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. ISO 100, f/8, .4 second exposure. First week of
October, 2007 with the Motor City Camera Club.

Often, I make a trek to Northern Michigan during the last week of September through the first
week of October. From experience and trial and error spreading thousands of miles over the years,
I have learned that the eastern half of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (also called “the UP”) was
heavily logged over the years and replanted with pine tree’s, wasn’t a good choice to look for color.
Lets face it, pine tree’s look the same in all four seasons, green!
©2010 Kevin L. Moss

The place to go in my neck of the
woods for fall color in the U.P. is
the western half, where plenty of
hardwoods abound, and that
means some blazing color. That
area peaks the last week of
September, while the eastern half
of the peninsula peaks one to two
weeks later. Lower latitudes within
the state can peak 2 to 3 weeks
later. Michigan isn't any different
than any other northern state or
depends on geography.
Your window for fall color
shooting in your area is probably
only a few weeks a year.
Additionally, you don’t have to
travel far. You can get some great
fall color shots within a mile of
your home if you look hard
enough, maybe even as close as
your own backyard.
One of my favorite types of tree’s
to photograph any time of year, is
Munising, Michigan. ISO 200, f/20, 2 sec exposure
the birch tree. The white bark of
the birch tree provides great contrast in images where your type of flora is mixed. In other seasons,
I’ll look for groups of birch trees, and often develop those images as black and white, but in
autumn, I look for birch trees as my main subject, contrasted with color.
I’ll offer some of my tips for fall color shooting:

Look for overcast or rainy days to shoot: That’s right! Bright sunlight can wash out the
colors of the leaves, leaving you with “flat” looking images. The best time to shoot fall
color is right after it rains, when there is still cloud cover, but the trees are wet, giving you
nice dark bark contrasting with the color of the leaves.


Shoot on a tripod: Surprised? Again, this is a must for sharp images, especially those shot
with small aperture settings and long exposures (under 1/100 of a second).

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Use a small aperture setting: I often shoot my fall color shots at f/16 to f/22, small
aperture settings, in order to get sharp foregrounds and sharp backgrounds, especially for
wide-angle shots of trees.

Petosky, Michigan. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125 sec exposure


Get in close: Make it a habit of shooting your scenes wide-angle first, then proceed to
zoom in for another series of close-up shots, maybe just of sections of trees and colorful
leaves. Lastly, move in even closer for close-ups of maybe a handful of colorful leaves.


Use a circular polarizer: Your best friend for many scenes of fall color, is to put a
circular polorizer over your lens. The circular polorizer will reduce glare from the leaves,
and help saturate colors in your shot. Experiment with rotating the filter element so as not
to “overdue” it, darkening the scene too much. Just rotate your element enough to reduce
the glare of the leaves, and to make the colors “pop” just a little.


Watch for windy days: You may have to make adjustments for faster shutter speeds in
dark days and in windy conditions in order to make sure the tree limbs and leaves remain
sharp. Alternatively, a little movement in some images add a nice effect. Experiment!

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Munising Michigan, 1994. Fuji Velvia 35mm slide film, scanned and processed in Photoshop CS4

A few ideas for composition include:

Color reflections in water. If you're shooting fall color and there is a body of water
nearby, check out the colorful reflections that can be had.


Zoom in. If you have a longer lens in your arsenal, like a 70-200 or 70-300mm lens, put
that baby on, and zoom in on your subject matter to get a different perspective.


Include the human element. You don't have to be a nature purist, if you can shoot an
interesting fall color shot with a fence line, building, or even person in it, you'll get more
“scale” in the image, and make it more interesting.


Close Ups. If you have a macro lens, our your camera has macro capabilities, try some
extreme close ups of a leaf, or a group of leaves.

©2010 Kevin L. Moss


Even Though its Digital, You Still Have To
Start Out with Pristine Images
About 6 years ago, I went on a
photography trip u