Shooting in Ambient Light

In photography, we cannot present an image without the use of light. The type of light we decide to use is what makes the process an exercise in creativity as much as skill. There is lighting which we deliberately set up to illuminate the subject, mainly flash units and light kits. Then there is ambient light, also known as available light, which already exists in the scene.

natural ambient Shooting in Ambient LightExamples of ambient light sources are sunlight, moonlight, candles, lamplights, incandescent lights and streetlights. One of the main advantages of ambient lighting is that it is often free and readily available since it is already found in the environment where you will shoot. The trick is to familiarize yourself its properties and the various ways they can light up the subject matter. Sunlight, for example, can illuminate the same subject in hundreds of ways depending on the time and the weather. Its intensity can vary from the harsh light on a cloudless noon hour to the very soft and diffused light on a misty morning.

 There are limitations to ambient lighting since it can be difficult to control. These light sources may be immovable, unpredictable, or out of reach. You might encounter low light conditions, especially at night or indoors. To compensate, set your camera at a low light setting such as slower shutter speeds or larger aperture. A tripod would come in handy, or at least place the camera on a steady surface when making the shots. There are times when you will have only one light source. If you want more light to fall on your subject, try using a reflector to bounce back some of the light. These can be mirrors, aluminum foil, white cardboard, and the like. These reflectors have different effects and the light from a mirror will not be the indoor ambient 300x228 Shooting in Ambient Lightsame as the light when using a white cardboard. Why not have one of each and experiment with what works best for you for that particular shot. 

Ambient light can create a strong mood in the shot since it is a natural element of the scene. Aside from providing illumination, it can also help tell the story or drive home the concept you want to present. By including the light source, for instance, you are introducing a prop which can support the emotional impact of the subject. The ambient light source can even be the subject itself. Certain ambient light sources, such as indoor incandescent light bulbs, leave a strong color cast that, if presented well, can further impact the mood of the shot. The more you practice using ambient lighting in your shots, the more aware you will become of its versatility and can then make full use of this fact.


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Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

One of the simplest yet most useful adjustment tools in photo editing is levels. Using levels to adjust the tonal range of an image will give you much more control compared to using the brightness/contrast adjustment. To be honest, I used brightness/contrast for years, totally ignorant of the existence of levels. When I discovered the dramatic impact of levels adjustment, I wanted to re-edit every single picture I had post-processed. What really gets to me is that it only takes a few seconds to change a dull and drab photo into a more attractive image. 

boat levels2 Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

We have discussed the histogram in a previous article and here we will apply what we’ve learned.

 Open the image.

  1. Open the levels screen. The location varies depending on what photo editing program you use. For Adobe Photoshop, it can be found under Image, then Adjustments.
  2. The levels screen will show the histogram, which is a graph that shows the brightness of an image.
  3. Using the histogram as a guide, you can gauge whether the image is evenly lighted or over or underexposed.
  4. To adjust the levels, slide the triangles toward the center, the distance depending on how dark or light you want the image to become. The left black slider will darken the overall image while the right white slider will brighten it. Usually the sliders are moved to the edges of the histogram. The closer the sliders are moved to the center, the more severe the contrast.  
  5. The middle gray slider adjusts the level of brightness or darkness of the midtones of the image.

 boat comparison Using Levels in Photo Editing to Adjust Tonal Contrast

The photo comparison above shows the difference in tonal contrast between the original image and the edited copy using the levels adjustment tool. The reds have become more vivid and bright and the reflection of the trees in the water appears darker.

The levels adjustment can also be used to lessen contrast in case your image appears to have too much. This is done by tweaking the output levels (that bar below the histogram). 


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How to Shoot Halloween Jack-o’-Lantern Photos

Jack-o’-lanterns are one of the most recognized objects that best represents the concept of Halloween. Once a year, pumpkins are not only eaten but are also hollowed out, carved and turned into spooky décor. Carving jack-o’-lanterns can be great fun for the family to do together and the finished product is often proudly photographed in various ways. The following are some proven techniques to shoot jack-o’-lanterns in the most attractive way:

pumpkin1 How to Shoot Halloween Jack o’ Lantern PhotosAvoid using a built-in flash – using your camera’s built-in flash is a no-no because it will make the pumpkin appear flat with large areas of burned out highlights. If you want to show what the jack-o’-lantern looks like as a whole, not just the lit up face, you can use available light instead such as sunlight or a porch light. Off-camera flash can also be used and bouncing the light off a screen or a wall can make the intensity softer and more diffused.

Use a tripod – since the shutter is left open for a few seconds, there is great risk of camera shake and the shot might end up blurry if you don’t use a tripod. If you don’t have one with you, you can place the camera on a flat steady surface such as a stack of books or a short table.

Use a long exposure – jack-o’-lanterns look like glowing heads in the dark and to capture the look, the camera shutter speed has to be quite slow. Since the light source is just a few candles and located inside the hollow of the pumpkin, the shutter might have to stay open for more than half a second to capture the carved features and shape. Standard digital point and shoots nowadays have a shutter priority mode which you can use.

pumpkin3 How to Shoot Halloween Jack o’ Lantern PhotosBe aware of the background – if you are doing long exposure shots, the background is usually pure black so that all the attention is focused on the lighted pumpkin face. Check the background and see if there are any incidental light such as those coming from the window or nearby appliances that might appear in the shot. If ever you do notice some unwanted light in the background after the shot has been taken, you can remove them in post processing using the healing or dodge tool.

Have sufficient candles – to get adequate light for picture taking, place two or three candles in the pumpkin, not just one. Be sure to place them in spots that are hidden from the carved spaces of the pumpkin face so that there won’t be overexposed areas in the image. These candles will provide backlighting by illuminating the pumpkin head from the inside. With this lighting technique, shapes and edge details are accentuated pumpkin2 How to Shoot Halloween Jack o’ Lantern Photoswhile the rest of the object is in silhouette.

Play with the scene – you can focus on the carved face by taking close up shots but you can also place the jack-o’-lantern in context with its surroundings. Step back a bit and include the nearby scene such as the steps where the pumpkin is resting or the bucket of candies beside it. You can get great shots by taking pictures at dusk, when the sky still has a hint of light to help illuminate the scene.

Now that you have great looking jack-o’-lantern photos, you might wonder what you can do with them. Aside from being keepsakes to remind you of when you carved some awesomely scary pumpkin faces, you can use these pictures as the cover image of your Halloween cards, or even make money out of them by selling them in photo stock sites. Stock photo buyers are on the lookout for fantastic Halloween pumpkin images and yours may just be what they are looking for.

 


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How to Shoot BOOtiful Halloween Photos

halloween1 How to Shoot BOOtiful Halloween PhotosHalloween is almost here and one can feel the excitement in the air! Houses will soon be covered in spooky décor and children and adults alike anticipate a fun-filled night of trick or treating. This is a holiday that is so visually enticing and you can see photo opportunities everywhere you look. Whether you are taking pictures to capture your children’s nighttime jaunt or to cover a Halloween costume party or to get images for your stock photo portfolio, here are several tips to get those eerily fantastic photos:

Have people pose in character – wearing a Halloween costume is a great reason for people, adults and children alike, to act like the character they are portraying. Whether it is as a scary looking zombie or a dainty princess, playing the part is a major part of the fun. This is also a great opportunity to get fun playful poses in your shots. Children usually don’t need to be asked twice to strike a pose in their costumes. Adults might be more shy and hesitant but being in a costume can bring out their inner childlike excitement and will get in on the fun with just a little coaxing from you.

halloween3 How to Shoot BOOtiful Halloween PhotosChoose your image orientation –the horizontal orientation or landscape format is most often used, probably because of the camera’s orientation when you hold it. Horizontal is used when your subject is on the wider side such as if you want to include a lot of people in the frame. Don’t forget that you can also shoot in vertical orientation or portrait format. This is great when the subject is on the taller side, such as when taking full body shots to show off a person’s costume in full.

Prepare for low-light conditions – most Halloween shots are taken in the evening and it is always good to be prepared to address this issue. You can take advantage of the ambient or available light in the scene, such as street lights or candle lights from jack o’lanterns, to provide illumination. You can also get more light by adjusting your camera settings. A slower shutter speed or a bigger aperture would let in more light. Another great tip would be to shoot during dusk when there is still a bit of light in the sky. This gives your scene more illumination without it being awash in bright daylight or underexposed in the night sky.

halloween2 How to Shoot BOOtiful Halloween PhotosCapture special moments – during Halloween, people bond together to celebrate the occasion. Parents go trick or treating with their children and neighbors interact with other neighbors even if they don’t for the other days in the year. It is an evening of great excitement for everyone so keep your camera at the ready to catch special moments of interaction and connection between people.

Take pictures of the person behind the mask – when taking photos of your child or friend in a Halloween mask, also include shots of them not wearing it. Having their faces visible in some shots makes it easy to identify them in the costumes in later years.

Capture the mood – Halloween evokes mixed emotions in people, from excitement to fearfulness, and sometimes both at the same time.  This is one holiday when it is fun to be scared so try to reflect the mood in your images. Aside from your subject, use elements in the scene such as colors and shadows to help add to the ominous or spooky atmosphere.


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How to Use Props in Composition

When composing, the subject can present a strong image by itself, or it can be enhanced through the use of props. Props are secondary elements that are included in the shot to support the point of interest, not to detract from it. Therefore, much care is taken when introducing props to the scene. There are some questions to ponder on when using props:

prop How to Use Props in CompositionWhat is it for?

Props can help tell the story. They give the viewer information as to what the scene is all about as well as draw attention to the subject. You can also use props to frame the subject or to show scale. A puppy curled up inside a cup will show the viewer just how small the pup is.

Where do I put it? 

Props can be added to create background, foreground or middle ground interest. Certain empty parts of the frame can come to life with the strategic placement of a prop. Props can supply leading lines for the viewer’s eyes to travel and ultimately rest on the subject.

What features does it have?

The subject might be the main point of interest in the shot but that doesn’t mean to disregard the visual appeal of secondary subjects or props. The colors, shapes, lines and textures of props can enhance the overall look of the composition. Just bear in mind that no matter how attractive they look, they still shouldn’t steal the limelight from the main subject.

Can it help with the subject’s pose?

Your dilemma on how to make humans or animals pose more naturally can be eased with the help of props. Certain props may have meaning to the subject and these may act as a security blanket. Children, for instance, may behave better during the photo shoot if given their favorite toy to hold. Animals may be more still if given a prop that holds their interest. Chairs, benches, and other similar types of props may be obviously intended to help the subject pose. But more than that, the right kind of chair or bench can go beyond just merely literally supporting the subject to becoming an element that adds meaning and context to the image.

How else can I use it?

If you use your props in unusual or uncommon ways, they can place your image in a different level entirely. Veer away from the ordinary by making your subject relate to the prop in the strangest ways you can think of. For example, instead of showing the subject sitting on a chair, make the chair lie down sideways and have the subject sit on a leg instead. Strange images can be less commercially appealing but they can catch attention more than the ordinary ones. Also, this flexes your imagination when composing the image, and also the viewer’s when looking at it.  


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4 More Quick Photoshop Tips That Can Dramatically Improve Your Shots

We have previously discussed five Photoshop tools that can quickly improve your shots and here are four more to include in your arsenal of fast editing tactics. Please note that all these tools can further be explored and controlled by making full use of their capabilities.

crop 4 More Quick Photoshop Tips That Can Dramatically Improve Your Shots1.  Crop – strategic cropping can do wonders for the final image. If your original has some undesirable elements at the edges that you would rather remove, then a simple crop can be the solution. Cropping can also help accentuate the composition you are striving to present. The subject can be placed in a particular area in the frame compared to where it was to start with. In this photo example, the yellow pistils were right at the center of the frame and there were blurry green stems below the flower that I wanted to discard. By cutting them out, the sharp 4 More Quick Photoshop Tips That Can Dramatically Improve Your Shotspistils moved to the bottom third of the frame which then showed a stronger composition.

2.  Sharpen – images straight from the camera may not be tack sharp and if you want the edges of lines in the image to appear more defined, sharpening might do the trick. Be very careful, though, because too much sharpening can worsen the image. A blurry shot will not magically become focused with the sharpen filter.  The colorburn 300x300 4 More Quick Photoshop Tips That Can Dramatically Improve Your Shotsunsharp mask isoften used if you want more control but for a quick fix, click on ‘sharpen’ in case the result is satisfactory.

3. Color burn – this tool can make colors more vivid although too much of it can also burn out details and make the colors appear oversaturated. Color burn is ideal if you want certain areas in the shot to have a more intense shade of color or to show more contrast. I’ve discovered that it’s also great for lessening the appearance of smoke or fog.

4. Hue – this adjustment option allows you to change the color hues in an image. If you were to slide the hue arrow left or right, you will see the color or colors change based on where they are located in the color wheel (which in this case will look like a strip of colors). Images that show only one color can benefit the most from this speedy color change. If there are two or more colors, they will also be changed to two different hues and you might not like the new combination.

hue 4 More Quick Photoshop Tips That Can Dramatically Improve Your Shots


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Shooting Fireworks

There is something about fireworks displays that can totally mesmerize us. They can be so beautiful yet they last for only a few seconds before they vanish into the night sky. Fireworks also mark special occasions which give them added meaning. They offer photo opportunities for anyone who wants to take pictures of the pretty fireworks, regardless of photography skill.

castle fireworks Shooting FireworksIf you have never shot fireworks before in your life, you might find that is easier than you think to capture them in their glory. As always, it’s best to be prepared even before the first of the fireworks bursts into a million points of light high in the sky.

Use a tripod – this will certainly come in handy since your exposure settings will need a slow shutter speed to capture the light trails of the fireworks. Some fireworks shows can also last for thirty minutes to an hour and holding up a camera can be tiring after a while. A tripod will get rid of chances of camera shake and it will also support the camera so you won’t have to keep holding it. If you don’t have a tripod, you can try to keep the camera as steady as possible by other means such as by leaning against a wall while you’re taking the shot or by placing the camera on a steady and secure surface.

Check your camera’s capabilities – find out if your camera can accommodate slow shutter speeds. This should not be an issue for DSLRs and advanced point-and-shoots but regular point-and-shoots may have limited settings. However, most of them have presets such as fireworks mode or low light mode, and you can try using this to see if the fireworks can be captured by your camera.

Adjust the exposure settings – you’ll be dealing with low light situations where your subject matter is far away. A slow shutter speed is needed to capture the movement of the fireworks from the moment it explodes to when it dissipates. This will generally take a few seconds. If your camera has a bulb setting, you can use that since you will have total control over when you want the shutter to close. Although, the sky might be dark, fireworks can be really bright and there is a big chance of overexposure if the shutter is left open for too long. My advice is to take a few test shots before settling on the shutter speed setting. As for the aperture, a small aperture such as f/8 will be sufficient. A small aperture means a larger depth of field and it also lessens the amount of light that enters the sensor which can again cause overexposure. The lower the ISO settings the better since there will be less grain and noise. ISO 100 should do the trick in this case.

crooked fireworks 300x225 Shooting FireworksExperiment – the usual fireworks shot is, of course, the fireworks. However, that is not the only thing that can provide spectacular shots. Look at your surroundings and you might discover that there is potential subject matter that can be just as interesting. Take a picture of the crowd, for example, with their features all aglow with fireworks light. Shoot a specific person’s expression as he or she gazes up in wonder. Remove your camera from the tripod and shoot some fireworks. Most likely the light trails will end up squiggly rather than in neat lines but that might just add to the appeal.

Check your shooting area – Stake out your shooting area and check to make sure you have an unobstructed view of where the fireworks will generally explode. Take note that fireworks shows are very popular and can amass a large crowd of people. A lot of them might stand or hold up their cameras high over the heads of other people. The bright LCDs of their cameras or the silhouette of their heads can show up in your frame and seriously mess up your shot. Pick a spot away from the crowd, or at least make sure your lens will not be blocked.

Frame your shot – Consider how you will frame your shot when shooting fireworks. Choose whether to go with vertical or horizontal (portrait or landscape) framing and this is usually decided by knowing which would better suit the image. Horizontal framing takes notice of the horizon, the landscape or scenery while vertical framing accentuates height.  You can shoot the fireworks by themselves or add the surroundings to place them in context.

 


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Essential Tips in Sports Photography

Sports photography is one of the most challenging fields in events photography. It has to capture the pure essence of victory and defeat among the athletes chosen as a subject. The image should be able to reflect the time spent in practice to the actual performance and the glory of winning sports3 by oziris Essential Tips in Sports Photography and the bitterness of losing. The events in sports photography are not random occurrences and a sports photographer should always be at the right place, at the right time and ready to capture a rare moment that can happen in an instant. It takes more than just being present with a camera at any major sports event. You’ll need cunning and a practiced eye as well.

Here are a few helpful tips in getting you started on your way to becoming an accomplished sports photographer:

Know your sport -you have to literally be familiar with the sport you plan on covering. It is necessary that you know more than just the basics of the sport. It’s helpful to know the strategy and the rules of the game to know when athletes are performing considerably well. Knowing the sport you are covering means you are familiar with the structure of the game .It helps to sports1 by vinnyprime Essential Tips in Sports Photography be able to be in the athletes’ shoes and predict what next move is coming. As the saying goes, sports is not just about being physical, it’s a mind game as well. You constantly have to be at the edge of your seat anticipating every move to capture that one in a lifetime moment that could be in the annals of the game’s history.

Keep an eye out for the player that offers more potential to give you the perfect photograph – with everything happening so fast in every sports event, it’s difficult to keep abreast of everything that’s happening around sports2 by carlosan cpyryt Essential Tips in Sports Photography you. Focus on specific players such as the crowd favorites to get some key shots, but don’t forget the rest of the team. Try to capture images periodically in between stretches of a given time. Don’t dwell on the good shots you missed, instead focus on what’s happening at the moment.

Get into the rhythm of the game – learn to switch your attention from one player to the other. Keep to where the action is. Usually the best photos are captured during these moments. Once you fall into the rhythm, opportunities will just fall into your lap.

Know your equipment – whether it’s a professional sport event you're watching or your child’s karate match, make sure you come already acquainted with your camera. Practice makes perfect. You can learn valuable tidbits by volunteering your services at any relative or friends sporting event. So when the time comes that you’re going to start using your skills, you’ve got a lot packing.

Be in position – be strategic with your location when taking shots. Pick a spot that offers an interesting or uncluttered background and where there is less chance of being blocked by the onlookers or other photographers. Know the angle where the light source will shine on the players and situate yourself in the side where they will be best illuminated. 

Take shots for stock photos – if you are out on assignment or are simply covering your child's game, don't forget to also shoot images to be uploaded in your stock sites. These can give you opportunities to earn extra income. Don't just shoot the players but also the field, the goal, the scoreboard, the audience, the decor, anything you can find that might be salable as a stock image.


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Notification – Improved Featured Product Display on Galleries Live Tomorrow

The featured products feature had always been a popular marketing tool for our members. For those a little unfamiliar with the tool, within the pricing section of your account, you have the ability to assign up to 6 featured products for each of your custom pricing groups (which you then apply to any album you wish). When featured products are assigned, while a customer is visiting your online gallery, these featured products are displayed above the image to entice clients to purchase these products. Think of it as planting a sales seed, or making your clients aware of a product or products that they may not have otherwise thought of purchasing.

You have the ability to choose up to 6 different products; image downloads, memory mates, custom posters, museum prints, you name it. As a customer, these displayed featured products can then be added to their shopping cart in one click. In this respect, there will be no change in the marketing tool. Where the improvemnet comes in is how these featured products will be displayed as of tomorrow. Take a look …

 

Original – Text only

PSP Blog FtrProd1 Notification   Improved Featured Product Display on Galleries Live Tomorrow

 

New – Including Thumbnails

PSP Blog FtrProd2 Notification   Improved Featured Product Display on Galleries Live Tomorrow

 

Originally, featured products were displayed on your gallery above the image using text only. Though the area these featured products occupied was minimal, globally, photographers who used this marketing feature next to those who did not showed a higher average client order.

Taking the above into consideration, we will be increasing the visibilty of featured products by providing thumbnail images of the products you are featuring in addition to the regular text. This area will be more than twice as large, visually more appealing, and as many online marketing studies have proven time and time again, the more visual space you devote to a product, the more awareness a client will have of the available product resulting in an increase of sales.

This change will be automatic and will take place tomorrow. You do not need to opt in or change any settings through your account.

If you prefer the original text only version of the featured product display, an option will be available through the featured product section of your account where you may switch between the 2 display modes at anytime.

For comeplete details on how to assign or remove featured products from your galleries, or how to switch back from the new display to the original text version, please visit our Featured Products tutorial page.

As always, to recieve these updates as they are available, the best way is to follow us through Twitter or Facebook.

Enjoy the new feature and stay tuned for a lot more goodies and developments in the next little bit.

Ilan Artzy
President


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iPhoneography, The Fresh Medium of Expression

 

When the iPhone came out in 2007, most people ignored its camera feature in favor of tinkering with the more exciting capabilities such as podcasts and internet surfing through Wi-Fi. It was difficult to get animated over a 2MP camera that hardly had any adjustment settings. Then along came the camera apps which opened up a world of potential and the new hobby dubbed as ‘iPhoneography’ was born.

house1 iPhoneography, The Fresh Medium of ExpressionThe concept is very simple. iPhoneography is taking pictures using your iPhone. Some people choose to also post process the image in the iPhone using photo apps while others prefer to upload the image files in their PC or laptop and post process using photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. The rest don’t bother post processing at all and just upload them directly into the internet. Purists believe that once the image has been processed outside of the iPhone, that it can no longer be considered iPhoneography. Others maintain that one should strive for image quality and intended result which may need to be achieved using PC programs instead of iPhone apps. It all boils down to personal preference and I say just do whatever works for you.

One major appeal of taking pictures with the iPhone is that as long as you have Wi-Fi connection, you can upload your images straight into the internet (right after you take them!) without having to pass through a computer. You can add them to your online photo album or share them in your social networking site with a few flicks of the finger. How much more convenient or quicker can it get? Another asset is being able to edit those pictures straight from the iPhone through the use of photo editing apps. Also, since the phone camera is very limited in its built-in adjustment settings, it forces you to become more imaginative in creating the image to make it look more than just a regular snapshot. Add all these to the attraction of cellular photography in general, which are portability of device, discreet and unobtrusive capturing of everyday life, and easy access, and you get a very powerful photographic tool.

With all these advantages, it is easy to ignore the fact that these cameras have a low megapixel count. The 2G and 3G iPhones have 2MP cameras while the 3GS has a 3MP camera. The latest version, the iPhone 4, has a camera with 5MP. The difference in quality between 2MP and 5MP is astounding but that doesn’t mean you can’t create great photos with an iPhone 2G.

Of course, a major part of the fun for iPhoneography is to take advantage of the many photo apps that are available in the App Store. A lot of them could be improved, but there are also apps which can inject a good dose of WOW! into a dull shot with just a flick of your index finger.  If, like me, you are just discovering the world of iPhone camera apps and what they can do for your shots, you might find out there are so many of them! You might feel overwhelmed with the number of apps that you might get confused as to which to choose. There are free apps and usually the paid ones range from 99 cents to $4.99. A lot of the camera apps have very similar functions. My advice is to read the reviews first before buying the app.There are sites devoted to iPhoneography. Flickr, for example has huge groups at http://www.flickr.com/groups/takenwithiphone/ and http://www.flickr.com/groups/iphoneography/. They have group pools where members share their photos and also discussions where members can share their latest app finds or tips. One of the leading blog sites is http://www.iphoneography.com/ which is a treasure trove of informative reviews about the latest apps. Time to time, it also includes write ups about people who have become dedicated to this medium (called ‘iPhoneographers’).

If you have an iPhone and haven’t yet experimented with its camera capabilities, try doing so now and don’t be surprised if you get hooked faster than your finger can tap on the upload button.


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