What is Composition in Photography? A Beginner’s Guide

Composition is everything in photography. It can mean the difference between an average-looking image and an absolute show-stopper.

A mediocre photographer can take a decent shot if they have the right equipment. The only way for that photographer to improve their photos, however, is to get to grips with the fundamentals of composition.

We’re not miracle workers — we can’t transform you into a professional photographer with this article alone. What we can do is introduce you to some basic concepts that should steer you in the right direction.

This post is written as a beginner’s guide to composition in photography. We’ll explore what it is, how to get better at it, and how to improve your photo-taking skills in general. Read on to learn more.

In a Nutshell – What is Composition?

In short, composition in photography refers to how the different elements of an image are arranged. This includes a number of factors including:

  • Where your subject is placed in relation to the rest of the image
  • The lines, shapes, and textures highlighted in the photo
  • The lighting environment of the shot
  • The contrasts and highlights featured
  • The color palette used
  • The focus point of the photo

The final result of any image you take is determined largely by its composition. The better you understand compositional techniques, the easier it will be to improve your photography.

Meeting Expectations VS Going Against the Grain

Once you’re more familiar with approaches to composition, it’s worth exploring the power of both meeting a viewer’s expectations and challenging them. Arranging your images in pleasing, predictable ways can produce incredible results.

At the same time, however, a mark of a true professional is knowing when to go against the grain. Once you’ve put in some practice, it can pay dividends to ask yourself how you can flip the script.

Is it possible to do something totally unexpected with your subject? If so, it might be worth exploring this avenue further. This kind of thinking can produce photos that win awards.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before we jump into the specifics of composition in photography, we wanted to emphasize that reading about composition will only get you so far. The best way to improve your skills as a photographer is to get out there and use your equipment as often as possible.

We know it sounds obvious, but it can be so easy to fall into the trap of reading theory without executing it in the real world. “Practice makes perfect” is a cliche for a reason. Once you’ve read our guide, implement our tips in the real world as often as you can.

Things to Consider When Composing Your Shots

Let’s get into it! The list below isn’t exhaustive, but it contains the fundamentals that are so important for a beginner to understand. Have a read-through and think about how you could explore these elements when you next take photos in the real world.

Subject Position

If you consider nothing else when exploring composition, you should focus on the position of your subject in relation to its surroundings. Subject placement plays a pivotal role in how photos are perceived by their viewers.

It’s your job as a photographer to decide how you want to influence your viewers. Ask yourself which aspects of your photo you want to highlight.

The Rule of Thirds and the Phi Grid

While we’re on the topic of subject placement, your best friend as a newbie photographer will be the rule of thirds. This is a compositional tool designed to make it easier to arrange your shots in a way that pleases the eye.

The general idea is to position your subject(s) within an area of the grid where two lines intersect. If you compose your shots so that they’re in one of the nine ‘boxes’ that the grid creates, you stand a much better chance of producing an image that’s nice to look at.

Taking things one step further is the phi grid. If you know anything about art theory, you may have read about the golden ratio before. First proposed by Italian mathematician Fibonacci, it’s a sequence found in visual elements throughout all of nature.

In short, it’s a cheat sheet for composing gorgeous images. The phi grid is derived from the golden ratio and is used in much the same way as the rule of thirds. Most cameras have a built-in overlay that can be used when taking images. Try out both when taking shots to improve your skills.

Check out our in-depth guide to the phi grid.

Backdrop

Another critical element of photography composition is the backdrop of your image. It’s important to think about not only what you’ll be using as a background but also how much of it you’d like to be in focus.

Think about how your chosen backdrop can complement, highlight, or stand in contrast to your subject. As mentioned earlier, experiment with both meeting and challenging expectations in this regard.

If too much of your backdrop is in focus, it can distract from your chosen subject. That said, certain backgrounds can really elevate the final result of your photo, so it’s worth staying open to aspects that are calling out to you.

Leading Lines and Shapes

A great way to think about photography composition is in terms of your audience’s attention. When you compose your image, you’re deciding where you’d like your viewers to look.

One great weapon in a photo composer’s arsenal is the lines and shapes they choose to highlight in a given image. “Leading lines” are exactly that — they’re lines that lead a viewer’s attention where you’d like it to go.

More skilled photographers can send their audience on a journey, expertly leading them from one part of an image to the next. When first starting out, it’s best to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What aspects of my subject do I most want to highlight?
    1. Are there shapes and lines within my subject that demand more attention?
  2. How can I make sure my viewer focuses primarily on these aspects?
    1. Are there other lines and shapes that might help me frame the shot?
    2. Where can I position my subject to improve its visibility?

Establishing a habit of asking these kinds of questions early on can have fantastic results as you grow as a photographer.

Textures

Texture is easy to overlook as a beginner photographer, but it can really elevate your shots when used effectively within your composition. Is your subject particularly smooth? Sharp? Texturally unique? It’s a good idea to think about how best to highlight these textures.

Conversely, it can also pay to explore how to draw attention away from textures or other elements that you’d rather not feature prominently. Getting to grips with what works in this regard can significantly improve your skills as a photographer.

Lighting

Lighting is of monumental importance in practically every aspect of photography. Composition is no exception. At an absolute minimum, it’s vital that you make sure your subject is well-lit and visible when taking photos.

The next stage in this line of thinking is experimenting with how your light sources are interacting with your chosen subject. Think about the conclusions you came to when considering the lines and shapes within your scene.

Would these elements benefit more from side lighting? What about a unique, backlit setup? Do you want shadows for a dramatic flare in your images, or would you like to eliminate them altogether?

Answering these questions can make it much easier to make decisions when it comes to setting up your shoot and finalizing your composition.

Check out our lighting guide for more tips.

Framing

Framing is adjacent to subject positioning but it deserves its own discussion here. In addition to choosing where your subject is placed within your scene, it can be valuable to think about how the other elements of your photo can compliment it.

In the same way that leading lines can direct the attention of your viewer, framing is all about telling your viewer where they should look. In the real world, improving your framing skills involves a process of trial and error.

Experiment with how you arrange your scene. Decide which element you want to highlight and play around with how you can position your other elements to do so.

Colors and Contrasts

Color is a huge part of good photo composition. People respond very powerfully to a well-executed color palette. Take the time to look at your chosen subject carefully. Which colors immediately stand out to you?

Tweak the settings of your camera to find a color temperature that will best highlight these colors. Alternatively, consider whether a black and white image might be the best way to do your subject justice.

The dramatic flair that black and white images bring can be brilliant for emotional or more ‘serious’ shoots.

Composition Challenges

In case we haven’t driven this point home enough already — practice makes perfect. The more you can get out there and put the tips described above into practice the better. This section contains a few real-world scenarios that offer a perfect opportunity to try out what you’ve learned. Check them out below.

Architecture

harsh lines in an architecture photograph

Check out the harsh lines of this building.

Architecture offers a rich vein of challenges for the budding photographer. Some buildings present harsh, sharp lines. Others use curved glass and smoother elements. It’s also possible for buildings to use both of these elements in tandem.

Find some interesting buildings in your local area and experiment with capturing them. Use the tips we discuss above to experiment with how you compose your scene.

How can you highlight the natural shapes presented by a building? Conversely, how can you “work against” them?

Nature

Nature is packed full of brilliant subjects. In fact, the genre is so diverse that we outline a couple of more specific examples below.

Landscape Photography

lake landscape photo

Which lines call out to you in this image?

The broad, sweeping landscapes found in the great outdoors are a brilliant subject for a new photographer to sink their teeth into. Choose a wide focal length and practice capturing these scenes in all their glory.

In terms of lines and shape, the horizon is a huge element to consider with this type of photography. Another important consideration is focus. With such a broad scene, how best can you focus your camera to do the image justice?

Other Examples

Other examples of excellent nature subjects include:

  • Animals (can you compose a shot that emphasizes their movement?)
  • Trees (what lines and shapes capture your imagination?)
  • Foliage
  • The sky

Macro

macro dandelion photo

Where do your eyes first fall when viewing this image?

Moving in the opposite direction now, macro photography is a phenomenal world of ultra-close-up shots. Your tolerances for focus and movement will be much smaller with this kind of work.

Framing and leading lines are more important than ever with macro photos. The vivid details you’ll be capturing can take a little practice to get right. Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts don’t come out the way you expected.

Check out our guide to macro photography.

Portrait Shots

 

portrait of a girl in flowers

Note how the photographer has framed this model with the plants in the foreground.

Human beings are an excellent subject to practice composition with. The primary reason for this is that everyone’s face needs a slightly different approach. Different models will look better with different lighting, framing, and compositional setups.

Ask a few friends if they’d like their photo taken. Pay attention to what makes each model look best. You may find that different people need wildly different approaches to produce an image that’s flattering.

Learn about the 3/4 view here.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to feel intimidated by composition in photography. The reality is, however, that it’s less complicated than many people think. We strongly recommend getting out there and practicing with your camera as much as possible.

Taking photos in the real world will improve your skills far more than any article ever could. Use the tips we’ve outlined on this page when shooting and experiment with how you put them into practice.

You’ll be composing shots like a pro in no time!

 

Do you tip photographers? (And what services to tip for)

Ah, tipping! Tipping is a really hotly debated topic in the professional world. Some are for it, others are totally against it. Today, let’s talk about a question that will come up during most of your special moments: do you tip photographers?

What is a tip, really?

A tip or gratuity is money given by a customer to a service provider. The service provider can be in a wide variety of industries: food service, hospitality, transport, and the like.

The Wikipedia article on tipping notes an interesting point about tips: they are irreversible, whereas the amount charged for the service can be refunded.

You can also refer to the article to see in which countries tipping is customary/expected and in which countries it is not. Interestingly enough, research has found that in countries like Australia where there is no tipping, the service is just as good as in the USA, where tipping is expected.

Do you tip independent contractors or agency photographers?

This is a bit of a hot debate and I am going to take a controversial position here.

The initial philosophy behind gratuity was that employers could get away with paying minimum wage and unloading the rest of the burden of paying their workers well onto their customers(who are already paying them money).

Tipping actually started during Prohibition, which is an interesting story in case you’d like to check it out.

When you hire an independent contractor, they’re basically charging you for their own time, and they’re the boss of the price they set.

If they feel their skill set and services are worth $150, they’ll charge $150, and if you feel that’s a good price, you’ll pay the $150 and they go home $150 richer for their services.

In some cases where they have to go above and beyond just regular camera work(like being extra patient with kids), they’ll generally factor that into their charge.

So as a general rule, I would not tip independent contractors.

(I told you this was going to be controversial!)

However, if you buy services from an agency and they send someone over, you may wish to tip them. You don’t know how much they’re being paid, and while certainly not obligatory, you can say an extra thank you to them if they did a good job.

Are tips expected?

At this point we’re in the debate of whether tips are expected or not. If you’re in the United States and you go to a restaurant, you’re expected to tip, period.

In other industries, it’s a little dicier. I scoured the internet and read up on people’s opinions regarding tipping photographers and before I get into the gist of what I found, here’s something to think about:

When hiring a photographer, ask about all the service they’ll provide. Will they call the venue? Will they do this? Will they do that?

If everything is a part of their package, then it’s covered by their rates. But if a photographer decides to go the extra mile for you and does something for you that they did not have to, you should consider tipping and leaving a good review.

Tipping for wedding photos

Interestingly enough, the general consensus behind tipping for wedding photos is that you can tip for wedding photos.

Please note that can and should are not the same thing.

However, many people feel they wish to say an extra thank you to the photographer who was with them on their special day, so they do tip.

Many people justify wedding tips as an extra boost for the multitude of coordination, photography, editing, and delivery that photographers have to do(in many cases, photographers actually direct the wedding as it happens!)

Again, I’d like to bring to mind the point I raised above: independent contractors know this and they will have factored the time and effort cost of everything into their rates.

If they haven’t, they’re not running their business correctly!

Weddings are special, though, and saying thank you with a little money may be appreciated. Another (and perhaps better) way to show your appreciation is by leaving them a good review or referring them to your friends, which would go much further than the amount of money you give them.

Tipping for engagement photos

Engagement photos are special much like wedding photos, but they’re not too complex. Generally, the shoot is not as time consuming as a wedding and there isn’t such a wide variety of shots.

As such, most people do not tip for engagement photos.

Tipping for family photos

Family photos can be tough, especially with little kids. Kids are not used to sitting still for more than one tenth of a second, and to get them to sit still, pose nicely with a smile, and take a photograph in that much time requires patience and skill.

Again, though, if a photographer is offering family photos, they knew what they signed up for, and their rates will reflect it.

Still, if your kids were particularly noisy or antsy during the shoot and the photographer did a really good job, you may like to say thank you with a tip.

Tipping for headshots

What about professional headshots for your LinkedIn and social profiles?

In these settings, it’s usually very cut and dry and there’s not much involved. I don’t think you should tip, nor would the photographer expect a tip.

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Closing thoughts

The rates that photographers set should include all of their services from start to finish.

While tipping is not customary for photographers, some photographers have started to accept/expect tips and personally, I feel that they should reflect the value of their services properly in their rate cards.

Tipping should be totally optional and by no means obligatory. You should never feel compelled to tip.

Finally, while a tip is good for buying a coffee or a nice meal(depending on how big the job was), a positive review and referrals go much, much further in advancing the photographer’s business.

So if you really want to say thank you, don’t just stop at a tip – leave a good review. The tip will be spent, the review will help them attract more business.

Note: I wish to clarify here that by leaving a review, I mean after you’ve properly paid them for their services. Offering exposure INSTEAD of payment is a NO NO.

What Is A CR2 File And How Do You Open It?

CR2 files are RAW images shot with Canon digital cameras. CR2 stands for Canon Raw Version 2. Since CR2 files are similar to TIFF image files, you can expect them to be very high in quality and big in size.

CR2 RAW files should not be confused with another kind of CR2 file which is created by a 3D modeling program called Poser. Poser CR2 files are used in 3D modeling for storing data about joints, bones, and how they move. These would commonly be used when modeling human forms.

How To Open A CR2 File

CR2 files can be opened using IrfanView and UFRaw, both of which are free.

Some Windows versions are able to preview CR2 files in the folders themselves, but you’ll need to have the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack or Canon RAW Codec Software installed.

For a more professional application and a wider variety of options, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are ideal. To be able to open CR2 files in Adobe software, you’ll need to have the Camera RAW update installed, which you can find here.

CR2 file vs JPEG

CR2 files are RAW images. As the name suggests, RAW images store a lot more data in the picture than a typical JPEG your camera would capture.

While JPEG files capture a single exposure, RAW files actually hold the entire range of exposures in the file itself, which allows for a lot more post-processing.

If you did not get the exposure right in the shot, or you want to bring out some highlights and shadows, you can do so with a RAW file and the end result will seem like it was taken directly from the camera, not edited.

However, since there is so much data in CR2 files, the size can get quite big, and when you deliver or store photos, you’ll want to use JPEG. As such, it may take a long time to edit and export hundreds of CR2 files into JPEG.

That’s why most cameras that shoot RAW images actually shoot RAW and JPEG at the same time, so you have JPEGs ready for shots you are happy with, and RAW CR2 files available for anything you want to edit.

Converting CR2 files to JPEG

To convert CR2 files to JPEG, your best bet is to use Adobe’s free DNG Converter. DNG files are still RAW files but they’re more universal and you can easily open them in a lot more programs.

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You can also use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional, which comes bundled with most Canon EOS dSLR cameras. DPP is a very powerful image organization and editing suite much like Lightroom, but optimized for use for Canon cameras.

Once you’re done with editing your CR2 files in DPP(adjusting exposure, HDR, RGB/Tone Curves, Noise, to name a few), you can batch export them as JPEG files for easy sharing.

With Photoshop or Lightroom, you can export CR2 files as JPG, PNG, GIF, and other common image formats.

There are also online tools like this one but since CR2 files are so large, it may be impractical to upload and convert so many files. Online tools are OK for converting a handful of files, but you’ll run into trouble once your files get into the hundreds.

Please note that when you simply convert the CR2 file without editing it, the JPEG saved will look exactly like the preview. If you want to edit the photo in any way, you must edit and export individually.

How to Unlock an SD Memory Card? (Remove Write Protection)

You’re gearing up for the perfect shot, you click the shutter, and your camera flashes the dreaded message:

“This SD card is write protected.”

Oof!

Even if you have tried reinserting the card again and again on your device, it would have been fruitless.

Reinserting a locked memory card will probably be flashing the line above or something like this: “the data cannot be written to the sd card” or “the sd card is locked”

However, there’s no need to despair. Unlocking an SD memory card is really easy, and here are three ways to do it.

Solution 1 – Slide the lock switch upwards

Step 1

Unmount the memory card from the camera/computer menu(if applicable) and remove it from your device. (Although you can unlock it without taking it out, unmounting will be safer for data protection.)

Step 2

Memory Cards come with a locking switch. Locate the switch on any one of the corners of the card. (The switch will be a sliding plastic knob.)

The switch will be down towards the bottom of the card. You will notice “lock” written there.

Unlock position will be at the upper end of the card. (“Unlock” will be written there.)

Step 3

Slide the switch up all the way towards the top of the card, up till the end with the corner notch. This will unlock the sd card.

Insert the sd card back into your device.

Step 4

Confirm if you are able to modify data or not. If you can modify the already loaded data – then the memory card is unlocked.

You will be able to load and store more data into it.

This should solve your problem, but in case it doesn’t, keep reading.

Solution 2 – Toggle the lock switch

Sometimes even after pushing the switch upwards does not work. The reason being that although the plastic switch is slid upwards it has not affected the inner circuit.

In this case, you’ll need to toggle the switch a few times to engage the circuit.

If your memory card is behaving this way, I recommend picking up a new card. The solution below is piecemeal at best and is just enough for you to get back home and replace your card.

Step 1

Slide the “Lock” switch down to the “Lock” position and keep it there for 10 seconds.

Step 2

Slide the lock switch up and down for three to five times. And this time slide it with a little force.

Step 3

Again put the switch back to its unlocked position. And your will be able to work with it again.

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Solution 3 – Permanently unlock the card

If you are still (after sliding the card up) not able to modify or save files on your memory card – the sd card is still locked.

Lock Switches are not made up of high grade plastic. And it is simple friction between the switch and the plastic beneath which restricts its movement.

So a little degradation in its material will cause it to slide down because of any movement. This will cause it to go from unlocked to locked state pretty easily.

Sometimes it will start moving downwards to the locking position – if subjected to little jerky movements and shocks.

So here is what you need to do:

Unlock the card and give it a tap (with a little amount of force).

If the switch goes back to the locking position, then you need to do some DIYing.

Step 1

Move the switch back up to the unlock position.

Step 2

Apply a little amount of adhesive glue at the bottom of the switch. Try applying it below the switch too – so that the switch becomes glued to that position. This will probably permanently unlock your card.

Step 3

Copy all the necessary data to another memory card, Because your current memory card will not last long.

You can continue using it until it does not gets permanently damaged. But most probably you will not be able to lock it again ever.

Step 4

If your card is in warranty then contact the manufacturer – to replace the faulty card.

Remember some cards come with a lifetime guarantee and some with several years of damage protection. So before throwing your card away, check once if it is covered or not.

Benefits of Locking Your Card

Memory cards store a variety of data file. It can be your vacation photos, selected music folders and other extremely important documents.

Today a memory card can be used in many devices including desktops, laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras and even in handheld gaming consoles.

Sometimes while exchanging a memory card on different devices can lead to data loss.

Locking memory cards is helpful if you have some extremely important data – that you don’t want to lose.

Secondly keeping the card locked is important if others use your devices, especially kids.

An unlocked card can accidentally lead to files being deleted. Sometimes you can lose all your work or important data – because of this.

Prevention of modification of your data is also important.

Another important factor to notice is that a locked memory card is less at risk of malicious spywares and viruses.

There is a lesser chance of viruses hitting your card because a locked memory card does not accept any new files. You can’t even transfer files to a locked memory card.

If you do not use a device frequently than it is highly advisable to keep the memory card in it – locked.

Unlocking is not that difficult. It will hardly take 30 to 45 seconds to unlock your card.

Better to unlock it in 45 seconds – than to lose your data!

Best Picture Organizing Software in 2021

These days, everyone and their grandma is carrying around a powerful camera in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. For this reason, good picture organizing software has never been in higher demand.

There’s a whole lot of choice out there and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed if you’re new to photo management.

Luckily for you, we’re huge photography nerds. We love everything about the craft and that includes photo organizing software! We’ve trawled through reviews online in an attempt to reach a consensus.

This article contains our recommendations for the best picture organizing software available.

Read on to find the best solution for you.

Best Picture Organizing Software – Our Favorites

The list below contains our top picks for the best photo organizer in 2021. We’ve considered feature sets, performance and price to find options to suit a broad range of requirements.

If you’re still unsure after reading through, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide towards the end of this page.

It’s packed full of tips and tricks to help take the hassle out of finding a good photo organizer.

Magix Photo Manager Deluxe

magix-photo-manager-deluxe-website-image

Supported OS: Windows

Price: $50

Link: here

First up is the convenient Magix Photo Manager Deluxe. At around $50, this photo organizer is more expensive than some casual photographers will be used to. That said, it comes with a ton of features that begin to justify the price tag.

Super Smart Selection Wizard

If you’re a professional photographer, you’ll know firsthand how frustrating it can be to import your files from multiple devices. The intelligent import wizard that comes with Magix Photo Manager does a great job of knowing how to filter your files.

Dud shots and duplicates will be automatically avoided.

Tons of Supported File Formats

When it comes to good photo organizing software, one of your main considerations should be how many file types a program can support. Magix Photo Manager accepts RAW files, AVCHD videos as well as all conventional formats. It can take practically anything you throw at it!

Killer Editing Tools

This photo organizing software comes with a set of excellent tools to help you perfect your images. Not only will your photos be well organized, but they’ll look great too. Choose from tons of filters, tweaks and templates to perfect your collection.

Pros:

  • Makes importing your shots easy
  • Loads of file formats supported
  • Strong editing tools
  • Great privacy protections

Cons:

  • No Mac or app support

Magix Photo Manager – Who It’s Good For

This photo organizer is a great fit for hobbyists looking to turn their memories into something a little more magical. The animations, editing tools and other features that come with this option are loads of fun. This one is also a great fit for photographers who regularly import from multiple devices.

The import wizard removes a lot of the headache involved with photo management.

Google Photos

google-photos-screenshot

Supported OS: Website, Android, iOS

Price: Free, Optional paid storage and direct photo printing

Link: here

We’re huge fans of Google’s online photo organizing software. Even if you’re not an Android user, the platform offers a ton of features that are just as useful to Apple users. This is a photo organizer that feels perfect for our modern smartphone-driven lives.

Create Albums, Collages and More

Photo management couldn’t be easier with Google Photos. It’s super simple to group your images in any way you’d like. The free smartphone app can automatically categorize your images based on location, date, and much more.

Users can also manually organize their shots as they see fit.

Affordable Cloud Storage

For better or worse, Google has become a cloud storage king over the past several years. The Google Photos platform is built to push their affordable online storage options. If you’re a professional with tons of footage that needs a secure home, the price plans here may appeal to you.

If you’re a Google Pixel user, you may be able to access unlimited storage for photos of a certain resolution. This offer won’t be around forever, so make sure you grab it while you can.

Gorgeous Printed Photo Books

Not everyone who uses photo organizing software will need this option, but those who do will fall in love with it. Google Photos makes it easy to create and print custom photo books of your favorite shots. They’re a fantastic way to elevate your most treasured memories.

Pros:

  • Free to use with affordable storage options
  • Excellent direct-print photo books
  • Great photo management options
  • Cross-platform availability

Cons:

  • The photo editing tools are nice but limited

Google Photos – Who It’s Good For

If you have a decent smartphone and love taking photos on-the-go, this photo organizer is definitely worth checking out. It’s designed to work around your behavior and automatically categorize your shots for you. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, don’t worry.

You’ll still have plenty of ways to organize your photos manually.

Faststone Image Viewer

fast-stone-image-viewer-google-image-search

Supported OS: Windows

Price: Basic viewer is free. Optional upgrades ranging from $20 – $40

Link: here

The intuitive suite of tools that comes with the Faststone Image Viewer makes it easy to edit, share and organize your photos. While the UI isn’t the slickest in the world, this photo organizer can achieve some excellent results in the right hands.

Fullscreen Viewer

A surprising amount of photo organizing software on the market fails to include a robust fullscreen viewer when editing or managing your photos. The Faststone Image Viewer gives you the screen real estate you need to take in your shots in all their glory.

It can be much easier to edit and make decisions about your photos when you’re not restricted to a small window view.

Great Printing Features

If you need photo organizing software that can help with your printing needs, this image viewer might just be your best option. The layouts, UI and tools geared towards printing on this photo organizer are remarkably easy to navigate.

In just a few clicks, your shots will be printed and looking their best!

Batch Processing

If you have a lot of photos to categorize, this feature will come in handy. The batch processing options that come with the Faststone Image Viewer do a great job of chewing through work quickly. Just choose the files you want to manage and let this powerful photo organizer do the rest.

Pros:

  • Accepts most file formats
  • A good option if printing matters to you
  • Convenient batch processing
  • The fullscreen image viewer works great

Cons:

  • The UI feels a little clunky

Faststone Image Viewer – Who Should Use it

If you need photo organizer software that also takes some of the hassle out of printing, this one is worth considering. The printer-friendly options, fullscreen image viewer and speedy batch processing make this a solid option for professionals and hobbyists alike.

Zoner Photo Studio X

zoner-google-image-search

Supported OS: Windows

Price: $4.99 a month or $49 a year.

Link: here

Zoner Photo Studio X is marketed as an alternative to Adobe’s Lightroom/ Photoshop suite of tools. Overall, we think this is a pretty fair assessment. This photo organizing software and editor comes with a ton of features that some people will find indispensable.

Constant Updates

With a lot of photo organizing software, consistent developer support can be hard to come by. Not so with Zoner Photo Studio X. The development team pumps out updates on a near constant basis. At the time of writing, the most recent update was March 2021.

This will no doubt be surpassed by further updates very soon.

Catalog Like a Pro

Within the context of this review, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Zoner Photo Studio makes it super easy to organize your photos. Images can be “cataloged” and viewed by date, keyword, folder, and more.

If you have hundreds, or even thousands, of images, this organizing software can make them much easier to navigate.

Image Editor With Layer Support

Photo editing is another thing that this organizing software does very well. The number of filters, presets and retouching tools available caught our eye almost immediately. As if that wasn’t enough, the Zoner editor comes with built-in layer support.

This makes it possible to handle masking, clones and similar tasks all in one place.

Pros:

  • Killer photo editing features
  • The catalog options make this a great photo organizer
  • The dev team seems dedicated to near constant updates
  • Seems very well optimized

Cons:

  • Only available for Windows
  • The subscription model will turn some people off

Adobe Bridge

adobe-bridge-from-adobes-blog

Supported OS: Windows, Mac

Price: Free trial. Adobe Creative Cloud License required thereafter.

Link: here

If you already subscribe to some of Adobe’s other services, it’s worth considering Adobe Bridge. While Adobe’s paid subscription model can be a tough pill to swallow, bridge is a fantastic piece of photo organizing software that comes with a robust set of pro-level photo management tools.

Excellent Adobe Integration

Adobe Bridge serves as an excellent “spring board” into the company’s other services. Need to edit an image in more detail? Jump into Photoshop with one click. Looking for enhanced video support? Bridge lets users rely on Adobe’s stellar video solutions.

If you’re already paying for an app like Photoshop, you’ll be able to access Bridge for free. Considering how well Adobe Bridge integrates with this other software, it’s probably worth checking out.

In-Depth Photo Management

Adobe Bridge can make other photo organizing software look like toys. You’ll be able to label files with ratings, keywords, advanced metadata and much more. The batch renaming options stand out to us in particular as head and shoulders above much of the competition.

If you’re a professional with more in-depth requirements, Adobe Bridge is probably the best photo organizing software out there in our opinion.

Easy Exporting

The new “export panel” used by Bridge makes it much easier to work with your files. For example, presets can now be rearranged with a simple “drag and drop” action. This kind of intuitive UI consideration can be found throughout Adobe Bridge.

This option gets top marks from us for ease of use.

Pros:

  • Integrates very well with Adobe’s other software
  • Easy to use
  • Does a fantastic job of photo management
  • Batch renaming is super handy

Cons:

  • The subscription model stings a little

Adobe’s Photo Management Software – Who Should Use it?

If you’re already an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, this option is a no-brainer. The suite of organizational tools on offer here is seriously impressive, and they’ll be free if you’re already subscribed.

Studioline Photo Basic

studioline-photo-basic_20

Supported OS: Windows, Mac

Price: Free. This is a basic version of the developer’s premium photo organizer software.

Link: here

If you’re looking for free photo management options, you might want to pay attention to this one. Studioline basic is a “stripped back” version of the more premium Studioline Classic. While you do miss out on some deeper editing options with the free version, there’s still plenty to sink your teeth into.

Simple Sorting and Searching

This is a refreshingly simple piece of photo organizing software. Photos can be arranged automatically using a number of built-in filters. Alternatively, users can simply drag and drop their photos to organize them in whatever way they see fit.

Simplicity is the name of the game with this free photo organizer and we’re big fans.

Convenient Load Assistant

Plug a camera or SD card into your computer and this software’s handy load assistant will be ready and waiting. It immediately presents the user with options for how they’d like their images to be imported. This is also a great opportunity to start organizing your snaps from step one.

The process of plugging in a device and importing your pictures is made very simple by this photo management software.

Geo Tagging

If you take pictures while you travel, Studioline Basic might just be for you. This organizing software comes with a convenient geotagging feature. Quickly categorize your images by location and visualize them on an interactive world map.

Pros:

  • Free photo organizing software
  • Simple tagging and search features
  • Convenient geotagging with interactive map
  • Basic video and image editing available

Cons:

  • The free version doesn’t let you export your image keywords

Studioline Free Photo Organizing Software – Who’s it For?

If your primary concern is photo archiving and management, this is a brilliant free solution. What it lacks in deep editing and export options, it makes up for with a simple UI that’s refreshingly easy to navigate and an ever-appealing price point of $0.

Movavi Photo Manager

movavi-photo-youtube-screenshot

Supported OS: Windows, Mac

Price: $35 for the basic organizer. Up to $70 for added photo editing and slideshow maker.

Link: here

Next up is the slick, memory-focused Movavi Photo Manager. Available for both Mac and Windows PCs, this is photo management software with a touch of style. Effortlessly tag, organize and improve your images with just a few clicks.

Organize Your Images With Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is hardly a new concept, but it’s surprisingly absent in lots of photo organizing software. With Movavi, it’s super simple to categorize your images by face. Just click on the “People” tag on the left panel to see an overview of your automatically categorized faces.

All you have to do is name a given face once, and Movavi does the rest. You’ll be able to search your images just by using the names of the people in them!

Bulk Categorize Similar Images

This clever piece of photo organizing software does a great job of analyzing the photos you import. Movavi can recognize images that are visually similar and recommend that they be categorized together.

If identical images are recognized, Movavi can automatically delete them for you, saving precious time when importing in bulk.

Back Up Your Files

The recently added backup feature on this photo management software is great to see. It keeps your photos and video safe from accidental loss. If you accidentally delete your work or want to get set up on a new machine, Movavi can easily recover or transfer your files for you.

Pros:

  • Organize your images with facial recognition
  • Automatically ignore or delete duplicate files
  • Photo organization with style
  • Great backup feature

Cons:

  • It’s a little pricey, with more in-depth features hidden behind higher price points

DigiKam Photo Manager

digikam-wesbite-image

Supported OS: Windows, Mac, Linux

Price: Free and open source.

Link: here

This is another fantastic way to organize photos, especially if you need a free option. DigiKam is an open source organizer that can handle a ton of different image formats. If you’re organizing your photos on a budget, give this one a try.

The Transparency of Open Source Software

As open source software, DigiKam Photo Manager can’t hide its secrets from you. As long as you’re technically minded, or know someone who is, you can read through its code and check exactly how it works. If you have privacy or security concerns, you may consider this to be a benefit of using this option.

What’s more, the community behind this organizer is surprisingly active. New features, bug fixes and suggestions are being made all the time.

Built for Huge Collections

One thing that makes DigiKam a contender for best free photo manager is how well it handles larger collections. Even with tens of thousands of images, this program runs smoothly. The handy filter and search options also make it trivial to navigate your mountains of files.

Efficiency-Focused

Several aspects of your editing workflow can be improved with DigiKam. The software makes it easy to process RAW files, edit JPEGS and publish to social media all from within the program. It takes surprisingly few clicks to get things done with this organizer.

Pros:

  • Completely free and updated regularly
  • Can handle huge collections
  • Tools to help you improve your workflow
  • You can check the source code if you have the knowhow

Cons:

  • While open source software has loads of perks, there are some inherent security concerns too.

Who Should Organize Photos With DigiKam?

If you’re technically minded and understand the basics of open source software, you might want to give DigiKam a try. It’s feature set and performance can even outpace some premium apps!

Corel PaintShop Pro

paintshop-pro-google-search

Supported OS: Windows

Price: $70

Link: here

If you’re sick of paid monthly subscriptions, PaintShop Pro might be for you. While it isn’t as fully fledged as competitors like Lightroom, it’s significantly cheaper and offers some killer management tools to boot.

Sleek UI for Navigating Your Photos

PaintShop Pro has most of the photo organization tools you’d expect from a paid product. It’s very easy to categorize, search and manage your library. The UI for all of these actions feels well polished and is a breath of fresh air to navigate. We’re big fans of how this software looks and runs.

AI-Powered Editing Tools

We know that “AI innovations” are beginning to feel a little old hat, but hear us out. PaintShop Pro also comes with a slew of very competent editing features that don’t rely on AI. It’s just that the AI tools impressed us more than we anticipated.

Things like upsampling, removing artifacts and improving image noise are all handled very well by this software.

PlugIn Support

This is usually a benefit that people talk about when discussing Adobe’s Lightroom. PaintShop Pro plays very nicely with 64-bit plugins originally built to run with Lightroom. This dramatically improves the versatility of the software, opening it up to a ton of optional features and power improvements.

Pros:

  • Surprisingly useful AI features
  • Works with Adobe Lightroom plugins
  • Great for digital asset management
  • Sleek UI

Cons:

  • It’s a shame there’s no Mac version

Who Should Use it

In our opinion, this is perhaps the best photo organizing software for those who prefer not to tie themselves into a paid subscription. PaintShop Pro comes with almost the same level of in-depth editing as Adobe Lightroom.

The gap between the two apps shrinks even further when you consider PainShop’s compatibility with Lightroom plugins.

ACDSee Photo Studio

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Supported OS: Windows (Sync app available for iPhone and Android)

Price: Starting at $8.90 a month. “Value Packs” available.

Link: here

Digital asset management doesn’t get much better than this. ACDSee Photo Studio comes packed full to the brim with features that make organizing your photos a breeze. With intelligent categorization options, powerful editing tools and a ton of online tutorials for beginners, this is an excellent option.

Loads of Photo Organization Options

When it comes to different ways to organize your shots, this program completely destroys a lot of the competition. Just some of your options include facial recognition, keyword tagging, ratings and location filtering.

If you have lots of digital photos and need choice when it comes to how you organize them, give ACDSee a go.

Sync Photos With Your Smartphone

In today’s modern smartphone world, a huge amount of photography on the go happens with a smartphone. For this reason, it’s great to see the inclusion of an optional syncing app that works for both Android and iOS.

Users can effortlessly sync their shots between devices using ACDSee’s “Mobile Sync” feature.

Built for Performance

One thing we love about this option is how much the dev team seems to care about optimizing their software. ACDSee is constantly receiving updates with increasingly fast, keyword indexing, decode speeds and database performance.

In fact, the 2021 version of the software is up to 100% faster than its predecessor at working with keywords and categories.

Pros:

  • Fantastic options for digital asset management
  • Constant updates that improve performance
  • Sync photos from your smartphone
  • Strong editing tools

Cons:

  • We found the price plans a little confusing
  • No cloud storage

Who Should Use It?

We see this software being most useful in a professional setting that involves high volumes of digital photos and videos. The slew of management features that come with ACDSee make it a powerful tool in the right pair of hands.

Picture Organizing Software – Things to Look Out for

We believe the options listed above are some of the best programs available in 2021. That said, we understand that you’ll likely want to do your own research too. This section will run through some of the main things to think about when looking for picture organizing software that’s right for you.

File Formats

A decent photo organizer will be able to handle practically any file you throw at it. Occasionally, however, even a good program can fall short when it comes to certain file types. Think closely about the type of photos you take and the formats that come with them.

Make sure any piece of photo organizing software you consider can handle your formats. .TIFF files are a common format that can be missing with some options, for example.

Price

We strongly recommend trying out a free version from this page first if you have the time, especially if your requirements are more casual in nature. It’s only worth paying for software if it offers extra features that you genuinely need.

Good picture organizing software that also includes editing features can easily run you $80, so it’s worth checking whether you actually need the extra bells and whistles by testing a free option first.

Subscription VS One-Time Payment

Several options on the market, Adobe’s suite of software being one of them, offer a subscription-based payment model for their organizers. This usually amounts to a significantly smaller initial cost that grows steadily the longer you use it.

If you want to go with a paid option, we recommend choosing software that offers a one-off payment, especially if you plan to use it for years to come.

Editing

Editing options can be one of the most expensive “add ons” when it comes to organizing software. If you don’t need them, definitely consider one of the options from this list that either omits them completely or only offers a limited array of editing tools.

If you do need professional editing features, our suggestion is to subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and take advantage of Lightroom, Bridge and Photoshop all at once.

Ease of Use

This one is of course relative to your experience as an editor and photo organizer, but remember that if you find a UI intimidating at first glance, you don’t have to put up with its learning curve unless you want to.

There are plenty of options out there that are remarkably easy to use. Only deal with more complex interfaces if they offer unique tools that you really need.

Your Machine

This one is easy to overlook, but it can lead to disappointment very quickly. Double-check the GPU and CPU requirements of any software you consider. Reference these requirements against the performance of your machine to make sure everything runs as smoothly as you need it to.

Backup and Sync Options

If your main reason for investing in photo organizing software is to protect your files from accidental loss, double-check the feature list of any program you’re thinking of paying for. In our opinion, Google Photos is a fantastic “cheap and cheerful” route for those who care about backing up their shots.

Remember that cloud storage is just one part of the backup picture. Saving a physical copy to an external SSD is also worth considering, especially if you take photos in a professional environment.

More software

Final Thoughts

As this page has demonstrated, there’s a fair bit of choice out there when it comes to organizing your photos digitally. We hope our recommendations have helped to narrow down your search. We suggest trying out one of the free solutions on this page first.

Only opt for a premium program if you can’t find the features you need for free. If you’re looking for software that you can use for years into the future, think twice about signing up for subscription services that can cost you much more in the long run.

Whichever option you choose, we hope it serves you well in your quest of digital asset management!

Best Camera Settings for Indoor Photography

Indoor photography can take many forms, but your approach to adjusting your setup can remain fairly consistent. This page will explore shooting in manual mode for your indoor projects.

We’ll run through some of the best camera settings for indoor photography and how to get the most out of your shots.

Whether you’re new to the world of photography or just looking for a refresh, read on to learn more. Also be sure to check out the rest of our site for more photography insights.

The Best Camera Settings for Indoor Photography

Now that you’ve got a general idea of how to set up for shooting indoors, lets explore the settings of your camera and how best to use them for indoor shoots.

Wide Aperture

As a general rule, your aperture setting should be wide to let in as much light as possible. The more your camera is able to take advantage of your lighting, the better. Try out F/4 or F/ 2.8 and see how you like the results.

Keep in mind that the wider your aperture setting, the shallower your depth of field will become. Lots of indoor photography tends to use a shallow depth of field, but make sure you’re using a distance that feels comfortable for your work.

Remember that using aperture priority can take the headache out of setting the right shutter speed. You’ll need to get both settings right if you want a pleasing exposure for your photos.

Shutter Speed

A good rule of thumb is to select a shutter speed that’s slow enough to let in adequate light, but fast enough to avoid motion blur.

If using full manual mode, we recommend setting your shutter speed to around 1/60. Just make sure you don’t go down to 1/50 or even lower. This will mess with your white balance and exposure. When setting shutter speed manually, it can be useful to lean on the shutter priority mode of your camera.

This automatically selects an appropriate aperture to compliment your chosen shutter speed.

ISO Settings

In short, you should choose the highest ISO setting you can get away with. It’s best to squeeze every last drop out of your available light. Making sure your camera is sensitive enough to your light source is critical for this.

Of course, the specific ISO setting you choose will depend on the amount of light you have available. If you have plenty of light in your space and are shooting with a tripod, an ISO of 100 or 200 might be enough.

Otherwise, 800 or higher is probably your best bet. The trick is to experiment with different levels until you find a value that works for you.

White Balance

Getting the right color temperature for your shots can be tricky if you’re new to shooting indoors. The more you know about the type of light you’re using, the easier it will be to help you camera achieve the right white balance.

Within the white balance settings of your camera, you’ll typically see the following:

  • A sun (use if shooting in mostly natural light)
  • A lightbulb (use if shooting under incandescent lighting)
  • A zig zagging arrow (use if shooting with your flash enabled)
  • A building with a darker side (use if shooting in the shade)
  • A tube with lines radiating outward (use if shooting under fluorescent bulbs)

Picking the right white balance setting is important as it helps the colors in your photography stay “true to life.”

Quick Indoor Photography Steps

This section will briefly outline a good set of habits to practice whenever setting up for an indoor shoot. Remember that your specific circumstances and preferences will influence the steps you take. In general, try the following:

  1. Assess your available light.
  2. Decide how much artificial light you’ll need. Set up your soft boxes and reflectors accordingly.
  3. Adjust your settings using our guidelines above. As a rule of thumb, aim for a slow shutter speed, wide aperture and high ISO.
  4. Take stock of your chosen subject.
  5. Are they lit adequately? How would you like to frame them within your composition?
  6. Shoot!

Equipment Checklist

Depending on the type of photographer you are and the specific work you’re doing, you won’t need everything on the list below. That said, think about how many of the following you might need:

  • Use a tripod to dramatically improve stability and reduce image noise
  • Consider soft boxes to take control over your lighting situation
  • Use a reflective umbrella flash for portraits or other scenarios where diffused light is helpful
  • Remember that window light can be your best friend when taking photos indoors
  • Make sure you have the right lenses with you for your shoot. Consider depth of field, light sensitivity and overall performance.

Indoor Photography Tips

Before we get into specific camera settings, it’s worth exploring a few general tips that can help dramatically improve your indoor photography skills.

Lighting

Taking stock of your available light should be the starting point for all your photos. Nothing determines the outcome of a shoot more significantly.

For indoor photography, you’ll likely be working with both artificial and natural light. Think closely about the type of work you’re about to do and plan around your available light accordingly. For more information about the types of lighting and how to use natural light, check out our guide here.

In general, soft, diffused light is very forgiving. Hard, direct lighting can be powerful when used correctly, but make sure to assess what your subject needs closely.

Use Reflectors to Maximize Your Light

Reflectors are your best friend, especially when it comes to indoor photography. Use them to your advantage and direct your available light more specifically. If you’re new to shooting indoors, you might be surprised by how much difference a good reflector can make.

Make the Most of Window Light if You Can

A large window can be an absolute Godsend for photography indoors. They can let in wonderful amounts of soft, diffused light for you to take advantage of. Your specific use case will of course vary, but make sure you’re using your windows and other light sources to their full potential.

Consider an Umbrella Flash

It’s especially worthwhile to consider this option if you’re doing modeling photography or similar work. Not only does the diffused light that comes with this kind of accessory work wonders in many environments, but it also gives you much more control over how much light hits your subject.

Using a Tripod Helps

Another close companion of any good photographer is the trusty tripod. Nothing works better for reducing camera shake and image noise. Make sure you’re using a tripod that’s compatible with your devices.

Soft Boxes

If you can afford the initial investment, a good soft box can make it much easier to get the light you need for your work. They can be positioned wherever they’re most useful and provide an endless supply of warm, flattering light for your subjects.

If you’re on the fence about picking one up, we recommend it — they’re useful for so many different kinds of photography.

Get Familiar With Manual Mode

Mastering indoor photography means getting comfortable with using the manual mode on your camera. While automatic settings can work great, you’ll need far more granular control over your camera to get the results you need.

If you’ve never used manual mode before, we recommend trying out some shots using the “aperture priority” setting. It’s a great way to dip your toe in the water.

Play Around With Manual Focus

While it can feel tedious, switching to manual focus mode can work wonders for your indoor photography. With a little practice, you’ll be able to focus in with a level of precision that autofocus will find far harder to achieve.

Remember That Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t be disheartened if your shots don’t look the way you want right away. Indoor photography is a huge exercise in trial and error. The more you practice adjusting your camera settings, the easier it will be to get the right shot.

Examples of Indoor Photography

Now that we’ve covered the best camera settings for indoor photography, it’s worth exploring some specific examples of the type of shooting you might do indoors. If you’re new to photography, be sure to experiment with at least some of these genres to get to grips with the fundamentals.

Modeling

This is perhaps the most common form of photography that takes place indoors. Remember that each model you work with will have a unique set of characteristics that will be flattered by slightly different approaches to lighting.

Play around with where you position your soft box and reflector and create the best possible environment for each person you’re shooting.

model-indoors

Food Photography

This is a great one for beginners, especially if you’re looking to up your Instagram game! As a general rule, food photography benefits from a depth of field that’s fairly shallow. You may also like to switch to manual focus to better capture the food you’re shooting.

indoor-photography-food

Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography can be a huge earner for photographers, so it might be worth exploring this genre. Expect to use lenses with wide angles and environments that use plenty of natural light. If you’re looking for the best lenses for property photos, check out our guide here.

living-room-photo

Pet Photography

Another one that’s a great fit for Instagram, pet photography can produce some gorgeous shots. While not always taken indoors, it’s an environment that’s worth getting comfortable with if you’re to take excellent pooch photos.

Remember that animals tend to be very dynamic subjects that move around far more than you might like. Tweak your camera settings accordingly to make sure you can keep a moving subject in focus.

indoor-pet-photography

Final Thoughts

We hope this page has helped to clear up some confusion. While there are myriad ways to take photos indoors, your approach to finding the right settings can remain quite consistent. As with most forms of photography, your priority should be to make sure you’re making the most of your available light.

Use what you know about the exposure triangle to adjust your camera settings accordingly.

If you’re new to taking photos, we recommend getting started with one of the genre examples we laid out towards the end of this article. Whatever subject you’re shooting, we hope you get the photos you’re looking for!

Best Light Meter App For iOS and Android

Many photographers swear by using a good light meter app, but how can you know which one’s best to use? What are these apps for anyway? Are they actually worth using? This light meter page is designed to demystify the world of light meter apps.

We’ll explain their purpose, describe some common use cases and explore some of the best options out there in 2021.

What is a Light Meter?

In short, a light meter is a tool that photographers and cinematographers use to measure the amount of light in an environment. If you’re using a more modern high-end camera, you’ll likely have access to a built-in light meter.

Older models of DSLRs are less well equipped. If you’re still using an older camera, a light meter application might be for you. Light meter apps are designed to bring this functionality right to your smartphone.

Why is a Light Meter App important?

Light is one of the most fundamental aspects of photography. Knowing how much light you have available tells you how to approach the rest of your shoot. It makes it much easier to set the right aperture, shutter speed and much more.

Do Light Meter Apps Really Work?

Absolutely! Modern smartphones are more than capable of accurately taking light readings for a given space. That said, there are a few things to keep in might when using light meters on your phone:

  • Your app will only be as effective as your phone’s hardware
  • Accuracy can vary depending on the specific app you choose
  • An “incident light” meter refers to an app that uses your phone’s light sensor
  • A “spot meter” means that the app is using your phone’s camera lens
  • Some apps offer both of these features, some don’t

Best Light Meter Apps: Our Picks

This section will run through our favorite options for light meters in 2021. We’ve weighed their feature sets and performance against their pricing structures and other offerings.

1. Lux Light Meter Pro

lux-light-meter-pro-light-meter-app-interface

Available for iOS on iPhones and iPads, Lux Light Meter Pro makes it easy to get quick, accurate light readings wherever you are. With nearly 4K user reviews, the app has maintained a rating of 4.2. Overall, it appears to run very smoothly and gets accurate results when compared to a traditional meter.

Dual Camera Use

A great feature of this light meter app is its ability to use both the front and rear-facing cameras on your phone. This gives Lux Meter users increased flexibility when setting up their shot.

Measurement Options

It’s easy to taking readings with Lux. Users have two options:

  1. A one-time reading
  2. Real-time measurements

One-time readings take a single measurement of a given environment. Real-time readings adapt live to any environment you point your phone at.

Perfect for Private Use

The developers of Lux describe it as well-suited for personal use at home. The UI, features and functionality are designed to be easy to use and simple to understand. If you’re new to using an app like this, Lux is definitely worth checking out.

2. Pocket Light Meter

pocket-light-meter

This light meter app is a paid option for iOS devices. It’s designed to bring the power of a professional light meter to your smartphone. At nearly $11, it’s far from the cheapest option around. What it does offer, though, is a level of accuracy that surpasses some of the free options available.

Kelvin Readings

Pocket Light Meter gives readings in kelvin. This results in measurements that are far more granular and robust than other methods. Provided you’re familiar with readings in kelvin, this can add a new level of accuracy to your exposures.

Simple Interface

We’ll level with you — this app doesn’t use the slickest UI around. That said, it probably doesn’t need to. The interface is remarkably easy to navigate and, perhaps more importantly, it gets the job done quickly.

Log Notes

This one won’t be useful for everyone, but it can come in handy in more situations than you might expect. This light meter app lets users add field notes to their recordings as they work. This can make it much easier to pick back up where you left off if your focus is needed elsewhere for a while.

3. Light Meter Free

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This Android app is a great choice if you’re not on iOS. It crams a fair amount of punch into a simple, free package. While the UI is fairly bare-bones, there are plenty of tools available that make this a great choice.

Varied Readings

Light Meter Free offers an incident light meter (using the phone’s light sensor) and a spot meter (using the phone’s camera lens). This provides more metering options than some free apps out there and can make it much easier to get the exposure you’re looking for.

Color Temperature and More

This is a great option if you’re looking for an Android meter app that can do more than one job for you. Light Meter Free can also measure color temperature, help calculate your reciprocity, and give accurate depth of field readings too.

4. Lux for Android

lux-meter-light-meter-app-interface

This free app for Android has a better looking UI than some of the options out there. What’s more, it still manages to function very well as an accurate smartphone reader.

Options for Photographers

This app measures the lowest, average and highest possible brightness levels for a given environment. This data can make it much easier for film photographers and videographers to get the lighting setups they need.

Great Log Functions

One thing that really stands out about this option is how easy it is to record and store notes for a given reading. If you regularly flit between a handful of different studio environments, this feature will come in handy. You can quickly check your data from last time without having to re-record.

5. LightMeter (David Quiles)

mylightmeter-davidquiles

Now for something a little different. Developer David Quiles built this $2 smartphone app with old school photographers in mind. Even the UI is made to resemble an old-fashioned meter device.

Excellent Reflected Light Measuring

From reading the reviews and results of this app online, the reflected light measurements appear to be your best bet if you want the most accurate reading possible. If you’re working in a professional setting but are without your dedicated device, this app will serve you well.

Low Light Alerts

Inexperienced photographers may struggle to know when they’re working in an environment that simply doesn’t have enough light to get the result they’re looking for. Apps like this one come with built-in low light alerts that let the user know when more light is probably needed.

Why Use Light Meter Apps?

There’s a long list of potential use cases for apps like these. Many of them, predictably, are related to photography. You might be surprised to learn, however, that some people use their smartphone meters in other ways too.

The Primary use – Exposure

If you know a little about photography, you’ll understand the importance of the exposure triangle for getting accurate, effective shots. This triangle consists of three camera settings: the ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

A good light meter app will tell you the right values to use for these settings in a given environment. This makes it much easier to choose the right settings quickly and accurately.

Other Use Cases

While not everyone will download a meter app for the use cases below, we’ve seen plenty of people discussing them online. Some people use these apps for the following:

  • Checking sunlight levels for plants when gardening
  • Checking the brightness of light bulbs at home
  • Testing the effectiveness of lighting electronics
  • Checking light levels for lessons on photosynthesis
  • Comparing the brightness levels of different rooms in a house

Final Thoughts

While limited by the hardware of your specific smartphone, light meter apps are more than capable of delivering the accurate reflected light measurements you need. We hope the list above will make it easier for you to find an app that works for you!

How to Know What Aperture to Use: A Guide and A Cheat Sheet

A first step for any budding photographer is getting to grips with the manual settings on their camera. Learning how to properly adjust your lens and gear is the only way to take your shooting to the next level.

Aperture, depth of field, and the shutter speed are all closely related. Changing one can often mean changing the other. While this fact alone can prove overwhelming to many newbies, help is at hand.

This page will dive into the details of how to know what aperture to use, and we’ll talk about depth of field and lens work in photography. From f stops to shutter speed, we’ve got you covered.

What Is Aperture?

In short, the aperture setting you choose determines the amount of light that enters your lens. A small aperture lets in less light, while a larger aperture makes for much brighter photos. The amount of light you let in when shooting determines how ‘sharp’ your final image will look.

The term ‘f stops’, or f number, refers to the number given by your camera when you adjust the aperture.

You might set your aperture to an f stop of f/4.0, for example. There are more complex, accurate definitions of what ‘f stop’ means but as a beginner, the important thing to remember is that when you’re adjusting aperture, you’re changing to a different f stop.

Aperture is directly related to two other photography terms – depth of field and shutter speed.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the area in which your subject will remain sharp. Once your subject has left this area, it will lose focus and become blurry. A shallow depth of field gives photographers a much smaller area to work with when shooting. The converse is true with a deep depth of field.

As aperture determines the inflow of light, changing it also changes the depth of field you have available. A large aperture creates a shallow depth of field and a small aperture makes your available depth of field deeper.

The image below is a shallow depth of field, as the area in focus is quite narrow, and the background is blurry.

shallow-depth-of-field

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is another camera setting that affects the amount of light that enters your lens. The longer your shutter remains open, the more light that enters your system when shooting.

In order to make sure you’re using a setup that’s right for your subject, it’s important to make sure that both your shutter speed and aperture are working together in the way you want them to. They both influence your available light when shooting, so you’ll need to get to grips with both.

One great way to do this, is to use aperture priority mode.

Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority mode is a setting on most digital cameras that keeps your aperture and shutter speed settings in sync. Users choose the aperture setting they want and let their camera automatically set an appropriate shutter speed and ISO.

Aperture priority mode is great as it stops the speed of your shutter from interfering with your desired outcome for your shot. Use this mode whenever you want more control over the depth of field for your image.

Shutter Priority Mode

While we’re on the subject, another camera setting that’s worth diving into is shutter priority mode. As the name suggests, this setting gives users control over their shutter settings. In this mode, users choose a speed for their shutter that works for them and their camera automatically picks an aperture that matches.

Shutter priority mode comes in handy when working with moving subjects, as it makes it easier to freeze subjects or slow movement down in an image.

Is Aperture the Same as ISO?

This is a very common question for newbie photographers and it’s important to clear things up. While ISO and aperture are both related to light in photography, they’re not the same thing.

Your chosen aperture literally determines the size of the opening that lets light into your lens. ISO, on the other hand, determines how sensitive your sensor is to light in the first place. In darker environments, a higher ISO makes your lens more sensitive to light, making it easier to get a photo that’s bright enough.

Aperture is about how much light gets in, ISO is about how much light is even needed.

How to Know What Aperture to Use

We’ve now established the relationship between aperture and depth of field. As a general rule, a large aperture creates a shallow depth of field and vice versa. This means that figuring out the right aperture when shooting means knowing the depth of field you want for your shot.

Depth of field is the amount of ‘wiggle room’ you have for keeping subjects in focus. A shallow depth of field doesn’t give you much room at all, while a deeper depth of field gives considerably more room to play with. Different shooting scenarios call for different amounts of ‘wiggle room’.

This means asking questions about your chosen subject. Knowing how much space you need for your subject to stay in focus gets you much closer to an appropriate aperture.

Aperture Settings Cheat Sheet

The section below outlines a number of photography scenarios and the aperture to use alongside them. It’s worth noting that these should be used as a general guide only; circumstances vary from lens to lens and camera to camera.

Landscape Photography

When taking wider shots, it’s typically more appropriate to use a deeper depth of field. This keeps your entire subject nice and sharp. In this case a small aperture, or higher f stop, is what you’ll need.

This type of photography usually calls for an aperture range between f/8 and f/11 with a maximum aperture of around f/16. It goes without saying that each specific set of circumstances is different, so take some time to experiment with your settings and find a setup that works for you.

landscape

Portrait Photography

For portrait photography, things are a little different. Keeping a nice blurred background with your model still in focus calls for a shallow depth of field. This means keeping your aperture nice and wide. Use f stops between f/2 and f/6 for a better chance of success.

portrait

Macro Photography

When it comes to macro photography, it’s worth being clear on the specific type of photo you’re taking. What many people call macro photography is actually just a close-up shot.

‘True’ macro photography uses a reproduction ratio of 1:1, meaning a subject that appears 10mm across on the camera sensor will appear 10mm in the final image. We’re not saying this to be pedants, the f stop you use will change if you’re taking a ‘true’ macro shot or a close-up photo.

For true macro shots, use an aperture somewhere between f/8 and f/20. For more general close-ups, somewhere between f/3 and f/16 works best.

Check out our in depth guide to macro photography here.

Night Sky Photography

When shooting at night, you’ll want to let as much light as possible into your lens. When it comes to astrophotography, a large aperture is the way to go. Anything past f/2.8 is considered large. Tweak your settings as you go to figure out what works for your setup.

Remember that a much slower speed is best for your shutter in these environments. Your goal should be to maximize what little light you have available. This means using a higher ISO than usual too.

Looking for a recommendation for a great night sky camera? Check out out guide here.

When You Don’t Know What Aperture to Use

A great setting to choose if you’re completely unsure is somewhere between f/6 and f/8. The resulting depth of field pretty much guarantees that anything you point your camera at will be in focus. When snapping quick holiday photos, for example, this makes things much easier.

Things That Can Influence The Right Aperture

When dealing with things like depth of field and aperture, it’s worth keeping in mind that different camera setups can vary wildly. The lens and camera you use can change things quite a bit.

While the figures given in the ‘cheat sheet’ above are great for a general rule of thumb, mastering photography means learning what to look out for.

Available Light

Changing your aperture and shutter speed means changing the amount of light that comes into your system. For this reason, you should pay close attention to the amount of light that’s available in your scene. An incredibly sunny day or bright studio will need different settings to a darker environment.

The Size of Your Sensor

Each camera sensor comes with its own idiosyncrasies. A setting that gets a certain depth of field with one sensor can produce wildly different results with another. Mastering how to know what aperture to use means learning what works best for your sensor.

Your Camera

Different brands have their own approach to processing images on the fly. Canon in particular stands out in some macro environments, for example. Getting to know your camera is an important part of taking great photos with it.

Questions to Ask When Setting Up

Figuring out the right depth of field and aperture means asking yourself some questions about your scene. Read on for a brief guide to preparing your lens and gear.

What’s My Subject?

What is it that you’re shooting? Considering your chosen subject will make it much easier to make decisions about depth of field and camera settings. How large is your subject? Is it moving, or still? The list goes on. Pay close attention to the subject you’ve chosen and your life as a photographer will become much easier.

How’s My Environment?

Take stock of your scene and its environment. How much natural or artificial light will you have available when shooting? Are you outdoors or indoors? How much space do you have to work with? Questions like these will help you master your environment and pick settings that get the results you need.

How do I Want to Compose My Shot?

Are there particular elements of your scene that you’d to draw focus to? How much of your fore and background do you want to be in focus? Do you think a brighter or darker image would work best for your chosen subject?

The answers to all of these questions will tell you which depth of field you need and therefore which aperture you should use. Remember that a shallow depth of field works well for things like macro photography but will fall short with other subjects.

How Close do I Need to Be?

Maybe you’re capturing the intricate details of an insect’s eye. Perhaps you’re getting photos of a glorious landscape. Your optimal shooting distance will change depending on the photo you’re trying to produce.

Having a good general idea of how close you need your subject to be to your lens will make it easier to find the right aperture.

What Works Best for My Lens?

Your camera sensor and lens also play a big role in which aperture will work best. Getting familiar with your camera setup makes choosing the right settings second nature over time. While this obviously includes quite a bit of trial and error, you’ll get there in the end!

Conclusion

We hope this guide has demystified the process of choosing the right aperture settings for your lens. Remember that aperture priority can be an absolute godsend, especially when you’re first getting to grips with this aspect of taking photos.

Remember that while ISO and aperture are related, they’re not the same thing. Aperture determines how much light gets in, while ISO concerns how much light is even needed in the first place.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is the relationship between depth of field and aperture. You can’t change your aperture without influencing the amount of your scene that will stay in focus.

Remembering this relationship and experimenting with it will help you become a better photographer.

Standard Photo Sizes & Understanding Aspect Ratio: The Complete Guide

Photo sizes! They’re hardly the most riveting topic, but understanding which standard photo sizes you have to choose from will come in handy when you next want to print an image. Getting to grips with frame sizes, aspect ratio and what all these measurements mean can save you a lot of headache down the line.

It’s not the first thing most newbie photographers think of, but understanding how to print your work is a hallmark of someone who takes their photography seriously.

This page is designed to demystify the process of printing photos. We’ll run through the standard photo sizes, the ratios they’re associated with and how to choose the right print sizes for you.

Standard Photo Sizes & Aspect Ratio Explained

When it comes to standard photo sizes, it’s much easier for most people to understand measurements like 6×4″ or 8×8″ when visualizing how a print might look in their home. An area where people tend to get confused is aspect ratio.

So what is aspect ratio and why does it matter? Put simply, the aspect ratio of a photo print is a comparison of its width to its height. For example, if a print has an aspect ratio of 3:2, that means its width is 1.5x more than its height.

Aspect Ratio – Who Cares?

When working with your photos, it’s important to understand the relationship between aspect ratios and photo sizes. We know that long lists of numbers can be overwhelming, but once you know the basics it’s actually deceptively simple. Understanding aspect ratios is important for two main reasons.

1. Image Cropping

One reason it’s worth getting to grips with both image size and aspect ratio is it will make it much easier to know how your chosen size will crop your image. Some aspect ratios result in a square image, while others lead to a wider, more rectangular end result.

If you don’t understand the aspect ratio you’ve chosen, you risk cropping out elements of your image that you didn’t intend to.

Take this image for example. The square aspect ratio of this photo means that a print aspect ratio of 3:2 wouldn’t be appropriate.

square-aspect-ratio

As you can see in this cropped image, 3:2 means we lose elements of the subject. Understanding this fact of photography will go a long way when you come to printing your images. There’s no point getting a perfect image if you’re going to undermine your work when you print.

32-cropped

2. Aspect Ratios and Distortion

Choosing the wrong ratio when printing can result in a distorted, odd-looking end result. Photograph sizes are only half the battle; using the right ratio is just as important.

A good example would be when printing a landscape photograph using a square ratio. This would result in a ‘squashed’, distorted print that simply wouldn’t work for display purposes.

Screen Resolution

A fringe benefit of understanding these ratios can be found when displaying images on a screen. Understanding the relationship between the width and height of a photo will make it easier to make decisions about which screen settings and resolutions to use.

Common Ratios and Standard Photo Sizes

Below are some common aspect ratios and related photo sizes. Learning these figures together will help your photography game long term.

1:1 (8×8″) – A Perfect Square

A 1:1 photo has the same width and height, resulting in a perfect square. Some common photo sizes at 1:1 include 8×8 inches or a 1080×1080 image. 1:1 shots work well for the square format of social media sites like Instagram.

3:2 (6×4″) – Common for Home Prints

3:2 is a very common standard photo format that first started in the age of film photography. 6×4 inches is a common image size with this aspect ratio.

4:3 (8×6″) – Rectangular

Photograph sizes in 4:3 include 8×6 inches or 1024×768 pixels. Think standard TV dimensions and rectangular photo prints. This is a great option for landscape and some wildlife photography.

16:9 – PC Screens

This ratio may sound familiar if you’ve ever tinkered with PC building. It’s the common ratio used by most modern computer monitors and is a wider, rectangular format. This is a great choice for smaller landscape panoramas. You may need to source a custom build if you’re looking to frame your image.

5:4 (10×8″) – Almost Square

5:4 is a nearly square aspect ratio that’s also great for Instagram and other social media shots. 10×8″ is one of the common photo print sizes that has a 5:4 aspect ratio.

Photo Print Sizes – Standard Photo Size List

This section will run through the most common sizes for prints and what they’re commonly used for.

4×6″ – The Standard

The most common size for home photo prints is probably 4×6″. It’s the format that most people are already familiar with. Most digital cameras already take great shots for this size.

Related: How many pixels in 4 x 6

8×10″ – A Step Up

This is a slightly larger size for images with bigger subjects. Think group photos or family portraits. Many photography studios prefer 8×10 for their prints.

16×10″ – Smaller Poster

With 16×10, we’re approaching poster territory. Consider this size for bold prints and photos of special occasions. The rectangular aspect ratio makes this size great for decorating a bedroom.

20×30″ – Poster

This is a common choice for a more standard poster size. If you have a statement piece that you want to show off, this is probably the size to go for.

How to Choose the Right Size for You

Hopefully the sections above have demystified some elements of photo printing and its most standard sizes. The question remains, how do you know which size you should print in? This section will outline our process for picking a size that works for you.

Consider the Purpose

What are you printing the image for? Are you decorating your house with your work? Perhaps you’re sending the images to a loved one or printing out memories to keep for later. Your reason for printing will determine the size you choose.

As a general rule, smaller prints are usually best for sending via mail or pinning up near a desk. For bigger display purposes though, you may want to consider one of the larger poster sizes we discussed above.

Image Composition

The standard photo size you choose for your photo print will also be influenced by the original image’s composition. If you originally shot in a square ratio, it’s probably best to avoid print sizes that are better suited to landscape images.

If your photo is a stunning landscape shot, smaller print sizes might not do the image justice. Consider the image you’ve taken and find a print size that works for you.

Measure the Space you Have

If you’re printing to decorate your home, it’s worth taking stock of your available room. While larger photo sizes can be tempting, they just won’t work if you don’t have the room. Spend the time getting to grips with the space you have available before deciding on image or frame sizes.

Conclusion

One of the greatest joys of photography is seeing your work physically in front of you. If you want to make sure you’re on top of you’re game, it’s worth taking the time to understand photo print sizes and their related aspect ratios.

While it’s far from the most exciting topic, it’s important if you want to take your photography seriously. Displaying your work for others means getting your head wrapped around the basics.

Grayscale vs Black and White vs Monochromatic: Explained

If you’re new to photography, you’ve probably heard the terms “black and white”, “monochrome” and “grayscale” thrown around while wondering what they all meant. Is there actually a difference? If so, does it matter?

This page will run through each term and clear up any confusion you might have about grayscale images, black and white images and everything in between. We’ll also discuss setting up the perfect black and white shot.

The difference between grayscale vs black and white

When photography was a new, exclusively film-based technology, color wasn’t an option yet for images. As the artform progressed, color photography emerged and the term “black and white” was coined, referring to images that didn’t use color.

These days, “black and white” is a catch-all phrase used to describe colorless images. If we’re getting technical, though, black and white images aren’t black and white at all: they’re grayscale.

What Does Grayscale Mean?

The color spectrum for black and white images is composed of varying shades of gray.

Take this image, for example. While it’s perfectly true that this is a black and white image, what we’re really looking at here is an image made up of different shades of gray, hence – “grayscale”.

Practically speaking, there’s no real-world difference when it comes to black and white or grayscale images if you’re a layperson. It’s just that “grayscale” as a term more accurately describes the spectrum of color these images use.

Now you know what’s being discussed when you read “grayscale photography”. Understanding terms like this is the first step in taking a stunning black and white image.

grayscale-example

What About Monochromatic?

A black and white, or grayscale, image is also monochromatic. A mono (one) chromatic (color) image is composed exclusively of shades of one color. As a grayscale image uses only shades of gray, it can also be described as monochromatic.

It’s worth noting, though, that monochromatic images aren’t exclusively black and white.

Take this image, for example. The bear and landscape above are all different shades of pink, but the image is still monochromatic.

monochromatic-exampl

How to Shoot Black and White Photos

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably fairly interested in photography. Understanding how to take stunning monochrome or black and white images is a hallmark of a good photographer. It’s important to get to grips with the fact that there’s more than one way to produce great grayscale photography.

Black and White Image Method – Post Editing

Taking a high-resolution image in color and saving it in a RAW format is a great way of producing a gorgeous grayscale photo. The reason for this is that it gives you more flexibility when editing later.

Retaining things like color data, lighting, contrast and resolution make it much easier to produce the effect you want later on. Using apps like Lightroom can really up your game and take your images to the next level. This is only made easier by a higher quality initial image.

Grayscale Images – In-Camera Method

Most modern digital cameras include options to shoot an image “directly” in black and white. The specific functionality varies wildly from camera to camera, but in general this in-camera method involves the following:

  1. The camera captures a color photo
  2. The camera’s onboard processor does its best to remove unwanted color from the photo
  3. The image is compressed down into a low-resolution format like JPEG

While this method can work very well if you need a black and white photo now, it sacrifices a fair bit of flexibility for post processing.

Monochrome and Shooting in RAW

If you have a camera that allows you to shoot monochrome images in a RAW format, this is probably the best way to go. The RAW format retains a ton of information, including color data.

The image you shoot will look black and white on your camera’s LCD, but you’ll have the flexibility to edit colors and tweak the black and white image to your heart’s content. In short, monochrome settings that allow users to save in RAW provide the best of both worlds.

Black and White Subject Ideas

So you’ve been dazzled by images with a million shades of grey, but you’re not sure where to start for yourself. This section will outline some subjects that work really well for grayscale images.

Trees

black-and-white-tree

A black and white image piles emphasis on dark, formidable shapes. Nature in general is packed full of unique patterns, lines and shapes. Trees embody these elements perfectly. Experiment with shooting one tree like this, and then try wider shots that contain a whole forest.

Grayscale photography works excellently with long, unique shadows. Look for interesting shadows that come through the trees for a stunning end result.

Weather

While it can be useful to fight against the form, it’s important to remember the symbolism that black and white photography brings with it. Grayscale images have become synonymous with emotional, heavy or dramatic subjects.

Extreme weather, crashing waves and desolate scenes all lend themselves very well to this genre of digital photography.

Embrace Your Subject’s Color Palette

If the dominant colors in your chosen scene are black and white anyway, why not embrace the situation and shoot in single color grayscale? Zebras, pianos, Dalmatians, soccer balls, the list goes on. Good photography is about clearing any unnecessary distractions from your scene.

Sometimes, these distractions are color. This same approach also works for other kinds of monochrome photography. Photos dominated by varying shades of one color can make a lasting impression when done correctly.

More photography guides

Final Thoughts

The transition from film photography into the world of color left overlapping terms that continue to confuse new photographers to this day. We hope this page has helped to clear things up.

To conclude, “black and white” photography produces images that exclusively use shades of gray. “Grayscale photography” is a more accurate term that refers to this same process.

Monochrome (one color) images consist of varying shades of any one color. This includes grayscale images but refers to any other colors on the spectrum too.

For more photography insights, check out the other posts on this page.