Quick Yet Effective Tips for Better Photography

The art of photography is loaded with thousands of tips to help you make your images look more appealing. Here are several suggestions you can follow to capture great looking shots:quick2 Quick Yet Effective Tips for Better PhotographyDo not forget you can also shoot in vertical format – the most common way to hold a camera is right side up which would mean a horizontal framing when taking a shot. But by turning the camera on its side, you shift the framing into a vertical format which can greatly affect the visual presentation of the scene. When shooting your subject, remember to try using the vertical framing to produce more composition options.

Move your camera angle to not include distracting background elements – when not in a studio setting, you may not have complete control over your surroundings. Certain background elements might appear distracting but cannot be removed from the setting. A trick to eliminate it from showing up in your frame is to angle your camera in such a way that the distraction is not within the lens’ line of vision. 

Be aware of shutter lag – shutter lag is the delayed recording of the image after clicking the shutter release button. This is a common issue with digital cameras compared to film although in the recent years, changes have been made to lessen this lag especially with high-end cameras. Be aware that when you press that shutter button, the response of the camera to take the shot may not be immediate. This could pose a problem for scenes with fast quick3 Quick Yet Effective Tips for Better Photographyaction such as sports photography since by the time the camera records the image, the moment most likely would have already slipped away. You can attempt to avoid this issue by anticipating the action in the scene so you can time yourself as to when to click the shutter button.

Do not be afraid to use creative blur – by default, compact cameras are designed to have as much of the scene in clear focus. This is great for regular snapshots where you would normally want the overall image to be sharp. There are times, however, when blurriness can make a photo more attractive and interesting. You can blur parts of an image by either usingquick1 Quick Yet Effective Tips for Better Photography a big aperture size to create a shallow depth of field (if your camera allows exposure adjustments), or by using motion blur such as panning. Creative blur also makes fantastic abstract images.

Push yourself to be more unique – with the boom of digital photography is the thousands of people suddenly making photography a hobby or a business and multiply that with the thousands of images being made everyday and you get millions of photos being uploaded online or printed. Due to this sheer number of shots, it is very easy for many of them to come out looking very similar to each other. Cliché shots are overwhelming and the last thing you need is to shoot like the rest. Constantly strive to make your shots more creative, give them your special flair.


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Shooting in Winter

During winter, the world is blanketed in white and entire landscapes change appearance. The temperature of the air also drops to the point where you have to take certain measures to keep warm. Shooting in winter can be challenging especially because you have to make sure your camera equipment is well protected. Not only must you concentrate on getting a great shot, but you must also be aware of how the winter conditions are affecting your gear during the shoot. The following are some tips on how to make use of this magical season to create breathtaking shots:

2winter Shooting in WinterTake advantage of the winter sunrise/sunset – it is not only during the summers at the beach that you can capture great sunsets. Winter sunsets can be equally magnificent. Make sure you have spare batteries that are fully charged. Take a tripod along with you to avoid camera shake. Make sure you set up as early as possible because the winter sun can set earlier than usual.

3winter Shooting in WinterUnderstand the properties of snow- natural lighting can add a magical touch to the beauty of snow. Snow can bounce light into every possible corner, like a giant light reflector. Aside from its reflective properties, it can also melt, clump up into formations, it can be shaped into snowmen or snowballs, and it is very cold. There are many ways of shooting snow as the subject, from capturing tiny snowflakes in mid-air, to frost formations on glass panes, to a soft snowy hillside. 

Have fun – snow can help you to loosen up your subjects who are camera shy. Have them play in the snow and take this opportunity to take great candid shots. This will also make them more relaxed. You can move away from them and zoom in on your subjects to give them more space, and try to capture them doing an activity such as having a snowball fight, making snow angels or building a snowman.

1winter Shooting in WinterMake use of colors- the dramatic change snow brings to a scene can be used to your advantage. For example, bright clothes will stand out against the pristine white snow. Actually, any color would be accentuated since snow will act like a blank canvas. Unlike the colors of other seasons such as spring and autumn, be extra careful with your white balance because winter snow is predominantly white.

Shoot the trees – lush, green trees can turn barren in winter and branches there were once full of leaves are now stark and empty against the sky. Trees can be successfully used to enhance a landscape shot, whether it is a lonely looking tree against a vast expanse of white or a row of evergreens heavy with snow. 

Capture the atmosphere – winter shots can be very atmospheric since the environment can sometimes be unrecognizable when covered with a layer of snow. Fog can add to the misty soft look and an ordinary setting can suddenly be transformed into a fairytale scene. Photos that capture this winter atmosphere can trigger an emotional response from the viewer. 


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The Don’ts of Photography

There are a lot of do’s and don’ts in the art and craft of photography. In other articles, we had given lots of tips on the ‘do’s’, or what you can do to further improve your skills. In this particular article, we will focus on what NOT to do when practicing the craft:

Do not get stuck with shooting the same kind of images – part of polishing your photographic skills is to shoot images that take you out of your comfort zone. This allows you to discover new ways to shoot your subject, dont1 The Don’ts of Photographyfrom the lighting to how to compose it. It also gives you the chance to see your subject differently and with a creative eye. If you always take landscape shots but rarely use your camera for macro or close up shots, why not try switching styles for a change and see what lessons you can teach yourself. 

Do not ignore the manual mode – if you always use the auto mode, you would know that it can be quite convenient and easy to use since the camera decides the ‘appropriate’ settings needed. However, it can also be limited and the result may not be exactly what you would have wanted the picture to turn out. Using the manual mode would give you much more control over the camera settings and thus, the outcome of the shot. 

dont3 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not wipe the dust off the lens with the edge of your shirt or a paper napkin – please resist the temptation to use your shirt, a piece of tissue, a table napkin or anything else that is not meant for cleaning lenses. They may look clean and spotless but their very fibers could be rough enough to leave scratches on your sensitive glass. 

Do not cover the flash with a finger – this is a common error with compact cameras where the flash is located at the corner of the camera and very close to where you would normally grip the camera when taking a shot. Always be aware of anything that might block the flash as you are taking your photo. 

Do not place a person right in front of a pole, a light post or a thin tree – doing this would give the illusion that the person in the picture has some unattractive appendage growing out of his or her head. Always be aware of your background and how you are positioning your subject in relation to it. 

dont2 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not forget to charge your camera’s batteries – have you ever experienced a situation where you are about to shoot a once in a lifetime moment when your camera’s battery suddenly dies? Or a time when you go to an event and turn on your camera to take pictures and your camera will not even start? It can be frustrating to say the least and unless you have a spare battery on hand. 

Don’t leave home without a camera – a lot of great photo opportunities could be missed for the simple reason that you did not have your camera with you at the time. Try to have a camera with you when you go out, you never know what rare photographic moments you may encounter and want to take a picture of. A phone camera or a simple point and shoot is sufficient for the job. 


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More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips

Shooting group portraits, especially those of your family, can be challenging since you are dealing not just with a single model, but several of them. Each member would be different in height, looks and personality and not only will you be focusing on how to create the shot but also how to successfully direct the family to pose. We previously explained some tried and tested family portraiture tips, and here are some effective suggestions you can use as to how to take great family portraits:

presto44 P1050391BW More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips1. Vary the eye levels of your subjects – visually pleasing group shots usually have the subjects at different heights. Have some people sit while others stand. This will lessen the sense of monotony in the shot.

2. Make subjects interact – have the subjects in your family photographs get closer together. Minimizing the gaps between the subjects provides a sense of closeness. A family setting should connote a sense of intimacy and love. Ideally have each member hug, hold hands, or touch the person closest to them. Body language links people together and this is the perfect example to relay feelings or emotional impact when looking at the photograph. When your subjects are lined up for a photograph, position them at slight angles to each other and make sure that their shoulders overlap so that they will not look awkward. When dealing with large groups in a single shot, break them down into smaller groups to make it easier for you to coordinate the shot. You can arrange them in a diamond, zigzag or triangular formation.

family6 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips3. Make sure your subjects do not blink during the shot – when shooting group photographs, the hardest part is not having at least one of them blink. It is easy to reshoot for small groups but for larger groups, it is next to impossible. It does not help to shoot in continuous mode because one is bound to blink. Do a countdown to make sure that everyone is aware that you will be clicking the shutter button any moment so that they will be conscious and will not blink. A really useful tip is to tell all your subjects to close their eyes at the same time and do a countdown, then open their eyes all at once. This will surely guarantee that they will all have their eyes open at the same time without needing to blink.

4. Choose a lens that has the right focal length – the most eye-catching portrait images are created using lenses without zoom, known as prime lenses. Some zoom lenses can also give you great close-up shots. Wide-angle lenses can make subjects wider than they actually are while telephoto lenses have the reverse effect and can make your subjects appear flat. Beautiful portrait images can be captured using lenses with focal range of 50mm-100mm. Having a shallow depth of field blurs the background and brings the focus to the subject. 

family2 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips5. Get your subjects’ attention – when you are dealing with grown-ups and teenagers, getting their attention for a few seconds will not be as difficult compared to when you are dealing with babies, toddlers and older children. You will need to capture the attention of younger subjects to get a good shot. You may have to try hard to make them laugh, to the point of being silly. You can ask a whole group of children to do something fun together. This will give you a candid as well as a fun image. Best of all, this can make the children comfortable for the next shot. 

On a final note, remember to include yourself in your shots because you are also a part of the family. Use your tripod, a cable release or a camera with a shutter timer. While composing the group position, leave a space for you to fit in before the timer starts counting down. 



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Importance of Digital Post Processing

In the good old days of only film, most people who took photographs usually went to a photo store to have the negatives developed and the pictures printed. After clicking the shutter release button, they had no way of previewing the image, or further improving it in post processing.  Darkrooms were accessed usually by photography class students, professional photographers and serious hobbyists who had space in their house to maintain one.  Darkroom equipment was also expensive, which was another reason why photo editing was not very widespread among regular folks who just wanted to see what their photos looked like.

With the arrival of digital photography came the boom of digital post processing. Suddenly, the ‘darkroom’ could be accessed with the use of a computer and a photo editing software. With digital, one could now preview the image right after taking the shot and edit it in the convenience of a personal computer. The easy access to the digital darkroom and its cost effective effects on images spawned a massive wave of interest in post processing and people who used to get their prints in the camera shop could now dabble in photo editing and even printing. 

Digital post processing has given us the capability and the opportunity to take control of our images and how they can look from the time the shutter button is pressed to the final printed hard copy. If you like taking photos but haven’t tried your hand at digital post processing yet, here are some very valid reasons why you would want to:

editcomp Importance of Digital Post Processing

1. You can remove photographic imperfections – scratches, sensor dust, little dark spots and other blemishes can be eliminated in a few short minutes. You can straighten your image’s horizon, fix its exposure, and remove background clutter.

2. You can enhance your images to make them more appealing – photo editing programs have loads of tools and filters to help you make your shot more attractive. Some programs such as Photoshop can even imitate the effects of expensive lenses and filters. You can brighten colors, add creative blur, sharpen edges, and do countless of other editing adjustments.

3. You can crop your photos – cropping allows you to play with the position of your subject in the frame. It also gives you an effective way to cut out unwanted sections at the sides of the frame. Do keep in mind to compose the shot as you would want it in-camera so that there is less need to crop off unnecessary elements. Cropping can be good for your image but it will also cut image pixels, thus making its size smaller with less room to work with when editing.

4. You can resize photos for faster online upload – sharing your images with loved ones and the rest of the world has significantly become easier with digital photography. Since the digital image size can be quite large with the higher megapixels your camera has, uploading to your email or a website can be a slow process. Not only that, if you send an image at full resolution, someone can copy it and then use it for their own gain without your permission. In Photoshop, you can resize your photo to a much smaller size such as 75kb, while maintaining good visual quality. The results are faster uploading and downloading in the internet. The smaller file size will also make photo thieves want it less since they will not be able to do much w a photo that has been resized to a much smaller scale. Whether you use digital post processing for basic and minor corrections, or you use it to make wonderful works of creative goodness, the choice is up to you.       


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How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect

Photography is a craft that makes use of various ‘rules’, which are actually simply guidelines to help provide a pleasing composition. It can also be an art form, and as ‘art’ is not meant to be controlled and restrained. The following are various photo ‘rules’ which every photographer understand before they are attempted to be broken:

break1 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect1. Always use The Rule of Thirds – this states that the subject should be placed on one third of the frame, either vertically or horizontally, to create a sense of balance and visual appeal. If you were to place the subject smack dab in the center of a rectangular crop, or if you place it at the very edge of the frame, you are breaking this rule and your image stands the chance of being unbalanced or off-putting. Yet, you can break this rule and still have an interesting image. More visual tension occurs and you can take advantage of this in your shot.

2. The scene must be adequately lit – under or overexposure can mess up a shot and turn a good composition into something you want to discard. However, careful use of lighting can make very dark or bright images striking to look at. Also known as low key and high key, these techniques make use of a lot of shadows or highlights in creating an artistic effect.

break2 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect3. Remove noise – apparent image noise or grain in a shot are often fixed as soon as they are discovered. We strive to keep our images clear and fine, with no trace of digital noise that can mar our shot. Yet, we can make use of noise to enhance certain images. When used effectively, digital noise can dramatically add to the mood of the shot and evoke an emotional response. For instance, a grainy image of a row of street lamps at night could benefit from some noise.

4. Keep it simple – uncluttered and clean looking images are usually best in presenting the subject to avoid any unnecessary distractions. Breaking this would mean adding a lot of extra elements that could potentially break the shot. Again, control is the key here when setting up the scene. Although it may look busy at first glance, each element can actually support the main subject and the message the photographer is trying to convey.

break3 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect5. Keep the subject sharp – the general rule is that subjects should remain sharp in the image so they can be easily recognized and appreciated. And yet, images that are completely out of focus can be quite interesting especially if you are trying to invoke a certain mood or design. As long as the out of focus or blur is obviously intentional and positively impact the shot, out of focus images can be a resounding success. However, do not pass off blurry snapshots as being artistic and attractive. Most viewers are discerning and know whether the out of focus is intentional or by accident.

6. Make the subject clearly visible – when taking images, the subject is usually in a prominent place in the frame and is obviously the center of attention. You can also create interesting and provoking photos by placing the subject in a more subtle position, thus creating a need in the viewer to see more of it. For instance, partial portraits are quite popular although you cannot see the entire subject. 


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Architecture Photography for Editorial Use

Stock agencies will almost always ask you for a release for you images most especially when you are dealing with models and property rights. This, however , doesn’t mean your image cannot be licensed. In most cases, the jeopardy is shouldered by the publisher. But never pretend you have obtained a release when in fact you do not.

archi3 Architecture Photography for Editorial UseIt’s always better to be safe by acquiring a release for your images, but when using them for editorial purposes, it will hardly ever have a need for one. There may be numerous stories claiming to have gone through hell and high waters with this type of problem but it is a rare scenario.

Wide angle lenses are quite pricey and a common thought among photography enthusiasts is if it is possible to photograph buildings without it. It’s always fun discovering different angles that would allow you to capture buildings and other types of structures with a telephoto lens. Distant viewpoints can give out of the ordinary perspective of a well known architectural landmark, this allows you to focus on architectural detail and patterns in a selective way.

archi2 Architecture Photography for Editorial UseBut because buildings are tall and as well as being surrounded by other buildings, the most extreme wide angle lenses are useful for architecture than other subjects and become even more so when shooting indoors where possible viewpoints are a lot more restricted.

One particular drawback in using a wide angle for large structures is that to get the whole building’s image from top to bottom in the whole shot, you have to tilt the camera. This can cause parallel vertical lines to meet in the actual image. This type of result can be unique when it creates noticeable diagonal lines. 

When shooting from a farther distance with a longer lens can help get the whole architectural structure in your shot and you don’t have to tilt your camera as much. Another technique you can use is to look for a high vantage point such as another building from across the street will give you a better view and allow you to keep the camera at a vertical position. Furthermore, you can utilize a perspective control lens which is an expensive accessory for some DSLR cameras. This allows you to shift the camera’s lens up to be able to include the upper portion of a building without having to tilt the camera.

Converging verticals can easily be corrected by using any standard image manipulation software which is essential for every aspiring photographer. By stretching the building from the top archi1 Architecture Photography for Editorial Useportion will align the vertical lines. This will however make you lose some of the picture area. It’s best to study the image and imaging how you can use the software to your advantage to enhance your image while still I the scene and remember to frame the subject loosely to make sure you capture all the important elements for your final image.

The ideal equipment for architectural photography are:

  • A super wide angle zoom that can cover focal lengths effectively in the 15-30mm range. A wide angle or semi fish eye converter may also be used.

  • A standard zoom with a 35-200mm focal length can be very effective. This enables you to shoot from varying distances as well as effectively crop your images to enhance details.

  • A tripod is very important when shooting indoors but is also important for outdoors. A tripod allows you to make full use of the fixed nature of architectural structures as well as image quality ad depth of field.

 


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How to Minimize Digital Image Noise

Even though camera technology has advanced tremendously over the past decade, it still has not totally eradicated the presence of image noise. This usually appear as little dots or speckles over an image area that should be clear and smooth. For example, graininess might be evident in dark areas or tiny dots of pink and purple might show up across a clear sky.

noise How to Minimize Digital Image Noise

Noise can appear in your photo for different reasons. One would be when you use high ISO settings on your camera. Noise signal increases with the light signal when high ISO is used, therefore your camera will capture more light to illuminate the scene, but graininess will also be more apparent. Another cause of image noise is heat. When an image sensor heats up, photons separate from the photosites and taint other photosites. Long exposures also give your image greater risk of showing image noise, since the sensor is left open to gather more image data and this includes electrical noise.

What can we do to combat image noise? One of the most commonly used methods is to use Photoshop or another photo editing program where we can remove noise and other imperfections in post-processing. However, we can lessen the possibility of noise in-camera as well, and as they say ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!’

Try to shoot in the lowest possible ISO without compromising loss of adequate light. This will reduce the possibility of the appearance of image noise. Camera companies have acknowledged the issue and most of the recent camera models can accommodate high ISO settings, as high as 6400, without very obvious image noise. This is a far cry from cameras which captured unsightly image noise at ISO 800, and this was only a few years ago.

Protect your camera sensor from high heat. As mentioned earlier, heat can create havoc with photons and the sensor’s photosites. As the sensor works longer, such as with long exposures, constantly using live view, or during burst mode, it heats up and your shots will most likely include those tiny speckles you so want to avoid. Leaving the camera in the car on a hot day or under the sun will also cause the sensor to heat up and capture image noise.

If you have dark images and want to lighten them in post-processing, you might notice that doing so will increase the appearance of image noise, especially in the shadowy areas. To avoid this, try to shoot to the right side of your exposure meter instead to slightly overexpose the shot. You can darken certain over-exposed areas in the image in post-processing rather than lighten the shadowy areas. Fixing a shot in this manner will give you a clearer, noise-free image.

It may not be long until image noise will turn out a thing of the past. But until then, practice these in-camera tips to prevent, or at least reduce, image noise dotting and speckling your otherwise perfect shot.


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How to Create HDR images

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a method that allows you to take a picture of a subject with a brightness range that your camera’s sensor normally cannot capture.  This is done by shooting identical images that have been taken at several different exposures.  These are then blended together with the use of a photo editing program.

hdr31 How to Create HDR imagesAlthough two separate exposures can be used to produce an HDR image, three exposures are generally recommended to achieve quality results. The objective is to have one exposure that captures highlight detail, another that has shadow detail and a third that covers the midtones. The easy way to take these exposures is to use the auto-bracketing feature of the camera. This will capture what the camera considers as the regular exposure, another that is underexposed to a degree and still another that is overexposed. 

Auto-bracketing can often do the work for you but there are instances when you have to take manual control of the settings. An instance is when the multi-pattern metering systems of some cameras may detect the shadows of backlit subjects and compensate by overexposing the shots.  In this case,  you can make use of the spot metering mode or check the histogram  for more information.

Most current digital cameras allow you to adjust exposure bracket intervals and exposure compensation, but usually up to +/-2 EV (exposure value).  This may sound like a lot but you may need differences of 3EV or more.

hdr21 How to Create HDR imagesIf you want a quick way to take an HDR image, auto-bracketing could be sufficient. However,  you might benefit more by using manual exposure since you have control over the adjustments. Needless to say your camera should have the manual mode option.

Spot metering is often used to precisely measure exposure. To do this, take a spot reading from the darkest shadow portion of the scene, then another from the brightest portion. You can then use these readings to measure the average of the two for the midtone exposure value. 

Today’s cameras are equipped with features that can help provide exposure readings and the simplest is the histogram. If you have a compact or DSLR camera with Live View, turn on the histogram display. If your DSLR has no Live View, use the Playback Mode after you have taken your shot. 

First, choose your lens aperture and keep it the same with all your bracketed shots.  Let us say you are using an aperture of f/8. Only change the shutter speed when bracketing. For the ‘shadows’ exposure, adjust the shutter speed setting so that the left end of the histogram meets the left edge of the scale. The speed here could be slow such as 1/30sec. For the second exposure, set the shutter speed so that the right end of the histogram just meets the right edge of the scale. This will take care of the highlights and you might use a much faster shutter speed such as 1/500s. To get the midtones in the third hdr11 How to Create HDR imagesexposure, adjust the shutter speed midway between the previous two you used. You do not have to be exactly in the middle and in this example,  a shutter speed of 1/125sec would adequately capture the midtones. 

Since we have kept the aperture size the same and changed shutter speed settings, these speed variations increase the chances of camera shake. A tripod will take care of this issue and will be most helpful in other ways as well. Good HDR images have merged exposures that are perfectly aligned and although HDR merging tools do a decent job of automatic alignment, it is preferable to get it right in-camera. With a tripod, you can change your shutter speed settings while the camera remains completely immobile. 

Aside from camera movement, another thing to worry about is subject movement. There is a possibility that something in your scene might move or be moving, however slightly, and this can cause portions of your HDR image to come out looking blurry. People walking in and out of the scene or trees and bushes swaying in the wind can be problematic but there is not much you can do except to wait for the right moment or shoot duplicates of the three exposures. You can then choose which ones would be the best matches. If you are adept in using a photo editing program such as Photoshop, you could edit the bracketed shots to make them blend better into one quality HDR image.


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Using Tonal Contrast to Boost Your Image

 

An image can be greatly enhanced by knowing how to implement tonal contrasts. A washed out photo can be made more vibrant or more striking. Used often in black and white photography, tonal contrast is the arrangement of black, white, and all the various shades of gray in between. 

High tonal contrast is when the blacks and whites are very pronounced, with hardly any shades of gray visible in the image. Low tonal contrast is when the image is mostly shades of gray with no pure blacks or whites. Medium tonal contrast would be a mixture of whites, blacks and grays. Bear in mind that in our mind’s eye, the light shades in an image will appear to move forward while dark shades retreat in the background. 

Tonal contrast can be adjusted in post processing. I am currently using Adobe Photoshop CS2 as my photo editing software but whatever you’ve got, there should be tools similar to curves, channels or the gradient map to adjust image contrast. 

roostercontrast Using Tonal Contrast to Boost Your Image

The photo on the left is the original image in color. It was taken during an overcast afternoon. The towel is white but in the shot, it is almost as gray as the concrete wall behind it. There are no blacks or whites that are obvious so we can say this is a low contrast image. Since there isn’t much contrast, the image looks very flat and two dimensional. To get a high tonal contrast, I used a simple curves adjustment. The grays dramatically lessened and the towel became whiter while the background wall darkened. Going a step further, I used the gradient map to change the image from colored to black and white. Now the towel appears to have moved to the foreground with lots of dark empty space in the back.

Tonal contrast can also be applied to colored photos with fantastic results. The original image on the left looks dull and bland. After applying tonal contrast, the darker and lighter areas are more exaggerated and the result (right photo) is a more vibrant looking rooster. 

It is easy to overdo tonal contrast and there is the danger that the dark and light areas might become too amplified that the fine details found in medium tones will no longer be visible. A light hand is often enough to show your image at its best.  


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